Your cat’s eyes are more than just cute and colorful—they also make it possible to see at night and express how they feel. Whether through slow blinking eyes of admiration, or thin pupil slits ready for a confrontation, their eyes make it easy to determine your kitty’s mood.
In some cases, your cat’s eyes can also indicate if a health issue afoot. A cat can’t say, “Hey, I’m not feeling so hot right now,” but red eyes are a clear sign of an issue.
Out of all the cat eye problems, red eyes are one of the more glaring and common issues. So what does it mean when a cat’s eyes are red?
There are many reasons a cat’s eyes can redden and an equal number of ways they can be treated. In this short guide, we’ll explain some of the potential reasons behind red eyes, as well as the best ways to treat them.
The Causes Behind Red and Bloodshot Eyes
First things first: if you’re asking yourself, Why are my cat’s eyes red? It’s important to make an appointment with a veterinarian who can correctly diagnose the problem and prescribe treatment.
But if you want to get prepared before your appointment, get acquainted with the most common potential causes:
- Cat Conjunctivitis – Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is the most common cause of red eyes in cats.1 Usually the result of a bacterial infection, conjunctivitis causes symptoms including excessive winking, clear or dark fluid discharge, cat’s eyes watering, and swollen eye tissue. This can be extremely irritating and itchy for the cat.
- Viral Infections – Conjunctivitis can also be the result of a virus. In addition, Feline Herpes Virus is an extremely common infection, and even more so in kittens, whose immune systems are not well equipped to ward off a feline upper respiratory infection (AKA cat flu). Runny nose, sneezing, eye inflammation, dry eye, and cat eye discharge are all potential indicators of a virus.
- Allergies – Just like humans, our furry friends can develop allergies to environmental irritants. Persistent sneezing and itchy red eyes are potential indicators.2 Dust, pollen, mold, and mildew can all affect cats just as they do their owners. Maybe you’ve wondered, “Why my cat’s eye is swollen and red?” There’s a chance it was exposed to an irritant.
- Irritants – Cigarette smoke, cleaning products, perfumes, and even onions may irritate your cat’s eyes. An owner has to be mindful if their cats are around if they smoke indoors (or really like onion soup).
Indoor Or Outdoor?
Is your feline an indoor or outdoor cat? It’s important to note that an indoor cat will not encounter the same dangers as one who ventures outside.
Cats, like many other animals, live close to the ground, which can expose them to any number of problems. Because they’re also curious, their explorations might bump into potential issues, like:
- Other animals
- Pokes or scrapes
It’s an adventure outside, but sometimes it comes at a cost. Even the most agile and healthy of cats can have an unexpected bump or encounter. If you let your cat venture outside, it may be more difficult to track the specific source of their symptoms.
Diagnosing Red Eyes
If your cat has a red eye, it’s important to consult a professional.
The symptoms for different causes are very similar, but a veterinarian can run tests to determine the eye condition.
Your vet will conduct a visual examination and may also take fluid samples to test for the presence of pathogens.
Treatment for Red Eyes
Once the cause has been determined, your veterinarian will lay out the steps to heal red eyes. These could include any of the following:
- Using medication – The vet may prescribe antibiotics or other topical ointments to help alleviate the symptoms, such as an eye drop. It’s important to follow their instructions to keep the symptoms from resurfacing or worsening.
- Cleaning the house – Cleaning up around the house is a simple and easy way to prevent a cat from coming into contact with dust or other debris while their eyes are still irritated. But try and do it when your kitty is in a different room. Otherwise, cleaning products might get on their paws.
- Clearing the eyes – Clearing out the affected eye is important. Sometimes it’s as simple as flushing whatever contaminant might be lodged in the eye. If you want to help but can’t consult the vet yet, you might wonder, “How can I treat my cat’s eye infection at home?” The nontoxic Vetericyn Plus® Antimicrobial Eye Wash is a safe option for relieving irritation and itchiness. Of course, be careful how you apply the product to avoid further eye injury.
- Quarantining – If you have a multi-cat household, isolating the symptomatic cat can keep the redness from spreading. Until the veterinarian’s tests have come back, there’s no telling if the issue is contagious.
The final step to healing? Give your cat some extra TLC. Whether your kitty is a cuddler, a loner, or a rambunctious ball of energy, they’ll always require love and attention.
Clear Eyes with Vetericyn
Observing your cat’s habits and cleaning rituals can give you some insight into the potential causes of red eye and help prevent future bouts. There’s no telling what your cat might come across, but if you’re mindful of their environment and habits, it shouldn’t be too difficult to catch the first sign of redness.
While it’s always a good idea to consult with your vet, washing your cat’s eyes with Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Eye Wash can reduce irritation and make your cat more comfortable while you wait for a diagnosis. This non-stinging solution can help you safely remove dirt and debris while giving you a head start in the fight against pathogens.
Red eyes don’t have to be a cause for concern. Simply observe your cat for cues, take action, and keep showing them your love and care.
- Cornell Feline Health Center. Conjunctivitis. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/conjunctivitis
- BondVet. Allergies in Cats: Common Allergens & Allergy Treatments https://ebusiness.avma.org/files/productdownloads/HouseholdHazards-En.pdf