How does a cat smile? He squints at you. A cat with his eyes half closed or a cat who flutters his eyelids is telling you he's content, he trusts you, and he feels safe. There are a few medical conditions that might cause a cat to squint as well.
If there is no other reason to suspect your cat has a medical issue, it is likely squinting eyes are your cat's way of smiling at you. If you look at your cat and he leisurely closes his eyes, blinks or squints, he is saying he trusts you and he is happy you are there. On the other hand, if your cat's eyes are wide open, he is likely ready for action, ready to pounce or ready to play.
If your cat's eye appears red, inflamed or has a clear mucus discharge, along with the squinting, your cat may have conjunctivitis. This may occur in one eye or both. Conjunctivitis is caused by a virus or bacteria, or dust or wind may have irritated the eye. Visit your veterinarian who will likely prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointments, and possibly an oral antibiotic. You may also be instructed to gently wash your cat's face and to apply compresses to your cat's eyes while he is healing.
Herpesvirus affects most cats in ways similar to the common cold in humans. Along with squinting, your cat may have discharge from his eyes and nose, sneezing and a fever. If your cat has these symptoms, take him to a veterinarian. The doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics and antiviral medications. During your cat's recovery, you may be instructed to put a humidifier in the room where he sleeps and frequently wash his face and eyes. This type of upper respiratory infection is most common in kittens. Kittens generally receive a series of vaccinations that will prevent most herpesvirus infections. Adult cats receive booster vaccinations every one to three years, depending upon your veterinarian’s vaccination protocols.
One of the more serious eye problems that squinting can indicate is glaucoma. Other symptoms include redness of the eye, the eye becoming enlarged and vision loss. If your cat has these symptoms, take him to the veterinarian. Both surgical and non-surgical methods are used to treat glaucoma in cats, depending upon the cause of the condition.
Bethney Foster is social justice coordinator for Mercy Junction ministry, where she edits the monthly publication "Holy Heretic." She is also an adoption coordinator with a pet rescue agency. Foster spent nearly two decades as a newspaper reporter/editor. She graduated from Campbellsville University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English, journalism and political science.