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Eye problems in cats

Cat eye problems and conditions can be concerning. Whether it’s conjunctivitis or cataracts, a cat’s eye problems can hugely affect their quality of life. Discover what signs to look out for and more with this guide to cat eye problems from Sainsbury’s Bank.



Common cat eye problems

Cats are known for their slit-irises and mystical, glowing eyes. In fact, that feline stare is one of the first things people will notice. That’s why eye problems in cats can be extra concerning. Common eye issues in cats include a range of conditions, such as cataracts and conjunctivitis to glaucoma and eye ulcers. Left unchecked, many of these can lead to different degrees of pain, blurred vision and, in some cases, blindness. Any issues that could affect sight should be dealt with swiftly and seriously.

This guide will inform you on the most common eye conditions and symptoms in cats you need to be aware of.

Cat eye problem symptoms 

Sometimes, the hardest thing about cat eye problems is knowing which symptoms to look out for. With the right know-how, it’s easy to see if your cat has any eye issues. Here are the main symptoms you should be aware of:

  • Weeping (discharge)
  • Pain
  • Cloudiness
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Vision loss
  • Bulging eyes
  • Bloody eyes
  • Eye limps
  • Lazy eyes
  • Keeping one eye closed
  • Light sensitivity (noticeable discomfort)
  • Teary eyes

Knowing the main symptoms of common eye problems in cats means you can act fast and seek advice. While it may not tell you what the problem is right away, it can help you determine when something’s not right.

Causes of eye problems in cats

There are a whole host of causes that can result in eye problems for your cat. Depending on the cause, your cat will present itself with different symptoms. By learning the causes, you may be able to narrow down what the symptoms mean. However, it’s always better to get a professional opinion. Common causes of eye problems in cats include:

  • Parasites
  • Allergies
  • Viruses
  • Bacterial infections
  • Injuries
  • Irritants
  • Cancer

Keeping a close eye on your cats’ symptoms can help you identify the causes. In some cases, you might be able to reduce the likelihood of certain problems affecting your cat – but remember, you can only do so much. 

Cat eye conditions

Cats can suffer from a range of common eye conditions. That can be scary, but it also means those problems are well-documented. Here are some of the main cat eye problems you could come across:


Conjunctivitis in cats is one of the most common eye conditions cats can get. It’s also an easy issue to spot. Symptoms include squinting, blinking, soreness and sometimes discharge. It’s caused by the inflammation of the conjunctiva. Non-infectious conjunctivitis is usually caused by irritants like dirt, plant matter, sand and chemicals. Infectious conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Cat cataracts

Cataracts in cats isn’t usually caused by outside stimuli, instead it’s often the result of internal problems. It can develop as a result of metabolic disorders, diabetes and genetics. If cataracts in felines is untreated it can lead to blindness.

Eye ulcers 

Eye ulcers in cats are a condition with a long list of potential causes. These can include,

  • An injury from fighting with another animals
  • Ingrown eyelashes
  • Debris that gets trapped under the eyelid
  • Viral infections. 

Because of the variety of causes, eye ulcers may come with other conditions.

Eyelid problems

Eyelid problems in cats can be a sign of more serious conditions. They may be muscular in origin, or could be the result of infection, pain, swelling, and disease. If your cat has eyelid problems, try to be aware of other symptoms that could narrow down the root cause.


Blindness in cats can be the result of many issues. From reactions to certain medication to damage, infection, and disease, most eye conditions in cats could lead to loss of sight if left to worsen. 


Uveitis can be an uncomfortable eye condition in cats, which can also result in a sensitivity to light. If you notice your cat avoiding light, pawing their eye, sporadically blinking, or keeping their eyelid shut and squinting, they may be suffering from Uveitis. Sometimes, there may be mucus and pus, and both the sclera and conjunctiva will be red.

Retinal detachment 

Retinal detachment is a condition often caused by fluid that builds behind the cat’s retina. This results in the retina becoming partially or fully detached. Uveitis, kidney disease, glaucoma and even eye cancers can all cause retinal detachment, among other conditions. Partial detachments can be difficult to notice, as it requires a vet to examine the back of the eye.

Tumours and masses 

One of the most common causes of tumours in cats is related to cancer, and cancers can develop for many reasons. In the eye, this is often a form of melanoma. It’s vital that a cat is seen by a vet immediately if there’s any risk of cancer.


Just like in humans, glaucoma is a condition that can impact cats too. It’s attributed to the improper draining of fluid behind the front of the eye, which then puts pressure on the optic nerve. This leads to reduced sight, pain, and discharge. Signs include dilated pupils, glassy eyes, swelling, and bloodied eyes. 

Lens luxation

Lens luxation is a fast-acting disease which rapidly deteriorates a cat’s eye health. Initially, it’s symptoms may share similarities with cat conjunctivitis. Many cases are hereditary which means your cat may have a genetic predisposition regardless of outside influences.


Keratitis is an infection that inflames the cat’s cornea. Cat’s suffering from this condition will suffer from a cloudy-looking cornea, often marbled with blood vessels. The most common cause of the infection is a virus known as feline herpesvirus. Damage can lead to blindness.

How to care for your cat’s eye problems

Regularly examining your cat’s eyes is important, as catching conditions early is essential if you want to prevent or minimise lasting damage. Not every cat will want to stand still for that long, but it’s an essential part of protecting them. If you’re ever concerned about eye issues, take them to the vets. 

To catch a cat’s eye conditions early – or to prevent them, do the following:

  • Check their eyes, looking for any abnormalities or signs of irritation
  • Clean their eyes, removing any dirt or other foreign materials from around the eye
  • Schedule and attend regular wellness examinations for your pet, to protect against issues that may not be immediately apparent
  • Keep your cat inside, if they roam, they are more likely to encounter situations that could result in eye infections or damage from exploring, foraging, or fighting

If you visit a vet, they may suggest a care routine depending on the eye condition your cat is suffering with. Solutions to eye care can include:

  • Eye drops
  • Oral medication
  • Surgery

Does pet insurance cover cat eye problems?

Eye conditions can be covered by an insurance policy, though there may be exceptions for existing conditions. This can include vet recommended treatments. Always check your policy conditions to confirm any exceptions or limitations. Find out more with Sainsbury’s Bank cat insurance. Provided by Pinnacle Insurance plc.  

Frequently asked questions 

Can a cat live with cataracts?

Yes. Cats have exceptional senses and can adapt to living with blindness. Cataracts is generally not painful. But as a cat ages and loses other senses, they may struggle to hunt as successfully without their vision being in tip-top shape.

Do older cats have eye problems?

Eye problems are incredibly common in older cats, especially issues like cataracts and hypertensive retinopathy.

What do I do if my cat goes blind?

If your cat loses its vision, you may need to adjust certain routines and behaviours. Calling to your cat when you want to pet or approach it can help to avoid startling it. Try not to carry them around so they can learn to adapt to their blindness. It may be advised to keep your cat indoors too – familiar settings are less dangerous.


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