Eye infection in cats – What can you do about it?

When does your cat have an eye infection?

Cats regularly suffer from an eye infection. The mucous membranes around the eye are irritated. Mucous membranes of the eyes are on the inside of the eyelids and attach to the eyeball at the side of the eye. Normal mucous membranes have a light pink color. Just look at your own eyelids. When there is an eye infection, they swell and usually become more darkred.

So check the color of your cat’s mucous membranes and whether they appear to be a bit swollen. When only one eye is affected, you can see the difference between the normal eye and the affected eye. You can assess the mucous membranes by sliding the lower eyelid down with your thumb. Then you see the inside of the eyelid appear.

It is also important to take a good look at your cat’s eyeball. There should be no abnormalities be visible on the eyeball itself. So no whitish, blue or red spot on the eye or a deviating pupil. The whites of the eyes may be slightly darker red than normal. As a veterinarian, we also call this a conjunctivitis in the cat.

Clean the eye that is inflamed with water and a cotton ball.

Causes of an eye infection in your cat.

In most cases, there is a bacterial or viral infection. An object can also inflame an eye, for example a small piece of grass.


If your cat has contracted a virus, this can be a reason to get an eye infection. Usually this is in both eyes. This occurs, for example, especially in cats that have contracted cat flu. This can be the Herpes virus or the Calicivirus. Both viruses that cause cat flu can cause inflammation the mucous membranes of the eyes, resulting in an eye infection.


A bacterial infection occurs when the resistance of the eye is not sufficiently able to prevent bacterial growth. This usually occurs as a result of another problem with the eye. Very often there first is a viral infection that affects the resistance of the eye. Bacteria can then benefit from this and will multiply strongly, resulting in an eye infection in your cat.


We use the word “foreign” here because it does not concern the body’s own objects. For example, sometimes there are grains of sand or small pieces of grass in a cat’s eye that irritate the mucous membranes. And very often we also find a piece of nail from another cat. Do you see a foreign object in your cat’s eye? Then take a cotton swab and wet it under the tap. With this you can gently remove the object from the eye. After that, the eye infection should clearly improve within days.

eye infection in a young cat

Symptoms of an eye infection in cats

What symptoms can you see in a cat with an eye infection?

      • red swollen eyelids
      • A wet eye or excessive tearing
      • Closes his eyes or blink more often
      • Pull his third eyelid over the eye
      • Outflow from the eye (usually white, yellow or green)
      • Hypersensitivity to light
      • Rubbing the eye with a paw or rubbing the eyes on the ground (not to be confused with washing or rubbing!)
Eye infection in the right eye of a cat

Cleaning your cat's eye when he has an infection

When a lot of discharge comes out of the eye, it often dries up in the form of crusts. Viruses and bacteria can remain in these crusts and maintain the problem. That is why it is wise to carefully clean your cat’s inflamed eye. You can do this by wetting a piece of gauze with clean tap water.

You can first boil this water and let it cool down so that it no longer contains bacteria and viruses. If you have it at home, you can also use chamomile tea to clean the eye. Chamomile has an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect. Always use fresh tea.

When you have cleaned your cat’s eye infection it is wise to check again whether there are any foreign objects or other eye abnormalities. Also try to rinse the eye a little so that foreign objects that you have overlooked will come out anyway.

eye infection in a cat. He is showing his third eyelid.

Treating an eye infection in your cat yourself

An eye infection in your cat is best examined by a veterinarian. The vet can check if there are any serious problems that need immediate treatment. If you decide not to go to a vet, it is best to treat the eye infection with eye drops. These have an anti-bacterial effect, which prevents an eye infection in your cat.

You then put these drops in the affected eye 3 times a day. First clean the eye before you put the drops in the eye (see above). You have to do this for 5 days. Click on this link to see how to give an eye drop to your cat. You should see a marked improvement in your cat’s eye infection after just a day or two. If this is not the case or if it clearly gets worse, it is better to go to your vet. The vet will examine your cat’s eye. If there are no other problems, your vet will prescribe an antibiotic eye ointment.

Hopefully your cat’s eye will be as good as new within a few days!

Eye examination of a cat by a veterinarian.