August 2019

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Eye discharge in cats is a symptom rather than a disease itself, and has a variety of causes. Eye discharge may be clear and runny, or it may be green/yellow and thick. If your cat's symptoms are mild and he/she has a normal appetite and energy level, and does not have any other symptoms of illness, it is okay to monitor him/her for a few days.

Signs that Your Cat Needs to See a Veterinarian

  • Eye discharge persists for more than just a few days.
  • Amount of eye discharge increases.
  • Color and/or consistency of the eye discharge changes (i.e., it goes from a clear in color and a liquid consistency to yellowish/green in color and a mucous consistency).
  • Your cat is squinting, blinking excessively, and/or pawing at or rubbing his/her eyes.
  • Eye(s) become swollen, cloudy, or are unable to be opened.
  • Eye discharge accompanied by other signs of illness (e.g., sneezing, nasal discharge, decreased appetite, lethargy).

What You Can Do

  • If your cat allows it, you can try to wipe the eyes clean of the discharge with a moistened cotton ball using a fresh cotton ball for each eye.
  • Avoid using over the counter eye drops on your cat unless a veterinarian specifically instructs you to do so.
  • Observe your cat for other symptoms of illness.

Common Causes of Eye Discharge

  • Inflammation of the tissue around the inner eyelids/outer eyeball (conjunctivitis) caused by allergies, environmental irritants, or certain diseases
  • Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)
  • Ulcer on the cornea (surface of the eye)
  • Injuries or trauma to the eye
  • Abnormal eyelids or eyelashes

Treatment of Eye Discharge

  • In minor cases of infection and inflammation, the treatment may be as simple as an antibiotic ointment put into the eye or an oral antibiotic. In the more serious cases, surgical intervention may be needed.
  • If your cat's eye is swollen and painful, the following may be used: warm compresses applied over the eye, pain medications, and/or an eye medication that dilates the pupil.
  • It is important to remember that you must follow the treatment course prescribed by the veterinarian. Problems in the eye can rapidly decline, causing pain for the cat and eye damage that cannot be repaired.

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