Your cat's eyes capture the mystery of all that is feline. Whether gold, green or blue, those almond-shaped orbs with the vertical pupils differ so much from the eyes of humans or other domestic animals. However, many of the disorders affecting feline peepers are similar to those found in people.
One of the most common feline eye disorders, conjunctivitis, usually results from infection with the herpes or chlamydia virus or the bacteria mycoplasma. It can be the gunky discharge that closes up the eyes of affected kittens, or the chronic "pinkeye" of older cats. Because it's infectious, it's also contagious. Conjunctivitis causes the white part of the eye to redden and swell. The eye discharges either a clear or mucous material. You'll notice the cat squinting, but he could also suffer from an upper respiratory infection if herpes is the culprit. Depending on the cause, your vet might prescribe antibiotic treatment for the eye, but if it's a herpes infection, an antiviral treatment might be used. Cats with herpes infections might have flare-ups throughout their lives, especially when stressed.
If you see your cat's eye turning cloudy and white, there's a good chance he's got a cataract. Cataract formation means the lens of his eye is no longer transparent, so light can't enter. Your vet might be able to remove the cataract surgically.
Although fairly rare, corneal sequestration more often appears in purebred cats, especially the Persian, their cousins the Himalayans, the Himmie's relatives the Siamese and their kin the Burmese. This painful condition occurs when a dead piece of the cornea, the sequestra, appears on the eye. It appears as a small or large black or brown spot. Affected cats squint, rub their eyes and tear. The third eyelid become prominent. In a worse-case scenario, the eye ruptures and might require removal. Treatment involves surgery to remove the sequestra, which if done in time can mean a good outcome for Kitty.
Glaucoma results when too much fluid builds up in your cat's eye. Symptoms include swelling, constant tearing, light avoidance and squinting. One eye might look bigger than the other. If your cat displays any of these symptoms, get him to the vet at once. While glaucoma can't be cured, eye medications can help your cat's pain and might stave off vision loss, at least for a while. Left untreated, the cat will lose the eye.
The retina, the membrane lining the inside of the eyeball, receives light through the lens and send this information to the brain. Some cats are genetically predisposed to progressive retinal atrophy, which eventually destroys the retina and renders the cat blind. While there is no cure for PRA, cats with detached retinas might have vision saved through laser surgery. The retina might detach because of eye trauma or disease.
Uveitis occurs when the middle area of your cat's eye -- consisting of his iris, the fluid-producing ciliary body and the nutrient-producing choroid -- becomes inflamed. Symptoms include eye enlargement, squinting, third-eyelid swelling and obvious inflammation. Cats stricken with uveitis will eventually lose their vision.
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.
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Feline Vision Problems -- A Host of Possible Causes
- VetInfo: Cat Eye Disorders Explained
- Animal Eye Care: Feline Corneal Sequestra
- Animal Eye Care: Conjunctivitis and Corneal Disease in Cats
- Veterinary Partner: Herpes Viral Conjunctivitis -- A Feline Problem
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Glaucoma
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.