There are numerous situations that can cause your cat’s eyes to look red and irritated, the most common being conjunctivitis, which is an inflammation of the outermost lining of the eye and/or eyelids.
Conjunctivitis happens when the protective tissue that prevents dirt and debris from getting into your cat’s eyes becomes inflamed. While your pet most likely looks as though she hasn’t slept in weeks, with swollen red eyes, once conjunctivitis is detected, it can be treated quickly with almost immediate improvement.
The most common cause of conjunctivitis in cats is viral infection, such as calicivirus and herpes virus, which can also cause cold-like symptoms. Other common causes include trauma (e.g., scratches from fighting with other cats), bacterial infections, and fungal infections. Certain chemicals, molds, foreign materials, smoke, and shampoos can also cause conjunctivitis.
There are many other conditions that may look like conjunctivitis; some of these are easy to fix while others are more serious, requiring extra attention. Consult your veterinarian, who will probe to identify what is troubling your teary-eyed friend.
If you think your cat has conjunctivitis, contact your veterinarian who will most likely perform a complete ophthalmic examination, including a few eye-specific tests to confirm the diagnosis of conjunctivitis. They may also recommend blood tests, culture tests, and some specialty tests, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
Your veterinarian will advise you regarding the best way to care for your pet’s eye(s). One of the most common treatments is to apply an eye drop or ointment to the affected eye. Having your cat sit still while you apply the medication can be extremely challenging. For helpful tips, watch an expert apply eye drops to a cat.
Because there are so many different causes of conjunctivitis, there is no single prevention that works for every situation. To help your cat reduce the risk of eye problems, check his eyes daily for any obvious signs of irritation, such as redness or tearing. Most important, contact your veterinarian if you notice your pet’s eyes look irritated or inflamed!
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.