Eye Discharge in Cats

Your cat's eyes, usually clear and bright, are looking a little gooey. She might be pawing at them, or rubbing her face against the sofa or on the rug. Clearly, something's wrong.

A dozen things could be behind your cat's eye discharge, from a simple cold to serious illness. It's best to be prepared. Learn a few of the more common causes of eye discharge, when to see a vet, and what you can do at home to help your feline friend.

Eye Discharge Causes

A healthy cat's eyes should be bright, white, and clear.

Eye problems can bring out another cat entirely, one who paws at his eyes, squints, or blinks excessively. Because eye problems can lead to devastating consequences -- including surgery or blindness -- always talk to your vet when you notice your cat has irritated eyes. A few common reasons for cat eye discharge include:

  • Feline upper respiratory infections. A frequent cause of eye discharge in cats, these can include viruses such as feline calcivirus, a contagious respiratory disease, pneumonitis or rhinotracheitis,bacteria, and protozoa. Symptoms can be mild or progress to something very serious and may include a sticky, pus-like eye discharge.
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye). An inflammation of the light pink lining around your cat's eye, conjunctivitis can cause one or both of your cat's eyes to look red and swollen, be light-sensitive, and have clear, teary or thick, mucuous eye discharge.
  • Corneal disorders. A cat's cornea can become inflamed, injured, or ulcerated. The result may be cloudiness, excessive blinking, inflammation, and increased tear production.
  • Watery, tearing eyes (epiphora). Blocked tear ducts, an overproduction of tears, allergies, viral conjunctivitis, and more can be behind your cat's abnormal tearing.
  • Uveitis. An inflammation of the internal structures of the eye, trauma, cancer, immune problems or infections can cause the serious, often painful inflammation of uveitis.
  • Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca). A chronic lack of tear production, dry eye can lead to an inflamed cornea, red eyes, and if left untreated, blindness. Because the watery portion of tears is missing, a yellow, gooey eye discharge can result.
  • Other eye discharge causes include feline infectious peritonitis, allergies, something lodged in the eye, or third eyelid problems.