To say the crusties on your kitten's eyes are downright icky is an understatement. The presence of this biological matter just isn't cute and cuddly, but it does give an indication of a potential infection that should be treated to prevent potential blindness later in life.
While crusties are one symptom of eye infection, they are not the only one human companions should pay attention to, according to Vetinfo. Red or watery eyes accompanied by swelling, sealed eyelids, puss and an unpleasant odor are all signals that something irritating and potentially hazardous to your kitten's long-term eyesight is present.
Sometimes referenced as ophthalmia neonatorum, this is an infection of the conjunctiva or the mucous membrane lining the inner surface of the eyelid and eyeball as described by PetMD. It is often traced back to bacteria in the vaginal discharge of the queen -- the kitten's mother -- that made its way under the kitten's eyelid during the birthing process. Other sources leading to this type of infection include an unclean environment within the nest where the mother cat cares for her kittens. The bacteria staphylococcus and streptococcus are major contributors to eye infections in kittens, according to PetMD. Keeping the nest as free from bacteria as possible will help reduce the threat.
What to Do
Pet Place advises taking the time to accurately identify the color of the discharge and build-up around your kitten's eyes. Discharge can vary from clear to cloudy, gray to yellow. Each color can represent a different form of infection. Knowing this information enables you to give accurate information to a veterinarian in determining the cause and treatment options.
In most cases, eye drops formulated especially for use in kittens are recommended by veterinarians. Vetinfo states that consistent application of the eye drops is the best way to ensure an infection is cleared. A saline solution is recommended for clearing the crusty debris from around the kitten's eye prior to applying the eye drops. Application of warm compresses and consistent removal of the crusty debris aids in preventing the kitten's eyelids from sticking together as the infection is treated.
Advice for Cleaning and Treating Kitten Eyes
Vetinfo explains that most likely a kitten is not going to cooperate with having the exterior of his eyes wiped or the eyeball flushed with a saline solution, let alone the application of medication. Kitty knows this is unpleasant: saline stings. The medications may also produce a stinging effect. The kitten will fight your efforts at sanitation by scratching and biting at you. It is advised to wrap the kitten up in a blanket like a burrito, limiting his ability to use his limbs. If you are agile enough to firmly secure the blanket around your kitten's mouth without suffocating him, this may reduce his ability to bite you. However, keeping a kitten's mouth covered while his body wiggles and thrashes is a difficult task. This may be a two-person job, with one person holding the wrapped kitten and the other administering the cleansing and treatment products.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.