Eye Discharge in Cats


In this Article

  • Eye Discharge Causes
  • Eye Discharge Treatments
  • When to See a Vet
  • Cat Weepy Eye Home Remedies
  • At-Home Eye Exams to Identify Problems
  • Home Care: Tips for Keeping Your Cat’s Eyes Healthy

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

Anything from a simple cold to a serious illness could be causing your cat’s eye discharge. 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 and clear.

Eye problems can bring out another cat entirely, one who paws at their eyes, squints, or blinks too much. 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 be caused by viruses such as feline calicivirus, a contagious respiratory disease; pneumonitis or rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus); bacteria; and protozoa. Symptoms can be mild or become very serious and may include a sticky, pus-like eye discharge.

Conjunctivitis (pinkeye). 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 mucus eye discharge. Conjunctivitis with fever, diarrhea, and trouble breathing can point to potentially fatal feline infectious peritonitis, though this isn’t common.

Corneal disorders. A cat’s cornea, the dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye, can become inflamed, injured, or ulcerated. The result may be cloudiness, lots of 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). Caused by 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 allergies, something lodged in the eye, or third eyelid problems.

Eye Discharge Treatments

Because so many conditions can lead to eye discharge in cats, you should talk to your veterinarian before trying any eye discharge treatments on your cat.

Treatment for your cat’s eye discharge depends on the cause:

Feline upper respiratory infection. Specific treatments depend on the cause of the infection as well as how serious it is and may include eye medications, antibiotics, decongestants, and fluids.

Conjunctivitis. Pollen, dust, weeds, or other irritants can cause conjunctivitis, which may be treated with a steroid ointment. If it’s caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotic ointments may be used.

Corneal disorders. Treatment depends on what’s troubling your cat’s cornea, but may include keeping your cat’s eyes clean, antibiotic eye ointment or drops, drops that promote healing, removing loose corneal tissue, cauterization, or surgery.

Watery, tearing eyes. Under general anesthesia, your vet may use plain water or saline to flush your cat’s blocked tear duct. If there’s an infection, antibiotic eye ointment or drops may be needed.

Uveitis. The right treatment depends on what’s causing your cat’s uveitis, though that’s often hard to diagnose. Care may include eye ointment or drops to control inflammation and pain.

Dry eye. Many things can cause dry eye, from diseases involving the immune system to the herpes virus. Treatment can include eyedrops or ointments, immune-suppressing drugs, antibiotics, or artificial tears.

Feline calicivirus. Secondary bacterial infections, which can cause pneumonia and other serious issues, are common with calicivirus, so always call your vet if you suspect your cat has this disease. Treatment may include symptom control, antibiotics for secondary infections, and supportive care.

When to See a Vet

Your cat’s eyes are as delicate as they are beautiful. Small problems can quickly turn into serious conditions. If your cat’s eye discharge symptoms don’t clear up within 24 hours or if your cat is squinting, talk to your veterinarian right away.

If you have medications left over from a previous eye problem, don’t use them on your cat’s eyes. Different eye issues call for different medications, and you can end up causing serious injury by using the wrong one.

Cat Weepy Eye Home Remedies

Lysine Supplements

Lysine is an essential amino acid – an organic compound that helps to form proteins – that can help both cats and humans who have herpes viruses to avoid outbreaks and heal from them faster. Use lysine supplements as a treatment for outbreak prevention and outbreak management in cats. Lysine is available for cats in the following forms:

  • Oral gel
  • Cat treats
  • Powder
  • Liquid tincture

At-Home Eye Exams to Identify Problems

Looking at your cat’s eyes regularly can help you identify problems before they become serious

To give your cat an exam, look at their face in a brightly lit room. Roll down your cat’s eyelid with your fingers. Make sure the lining is pink and healthy-looking. It should not be swollen. A red or white color is a sign of a problem.

Make sure the eyeballs themselves look healthy. Look for any murkiness or cloudiness in the eyeball, which could be a sign of infection. Make sure your cat’s pupils are equal sizes and the area right around the eyeball itself is white.

Home Care: Tips for Keeping Your Cat’s Eyes Healthy

You can help avoid eye problems in your cat by keeping up with yearly vaccinations, avoiding kitty overcrowding, and checking your cat’s eyes frequently for redness, cloudiness, a change in color or shape, discharge, or sensitivity to light.

To safely remove your cat’s eye discharge and make them more comfortable while waiting for their vet appointment, arm yourself with a bag of cotton balls and these simple tips from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:

  • Dip a cotton ball in water. Wipe away the eye discharge, always from the corner of the eye outward. Use a fresh cotton ball for each eye.
  • Steer clear of any over-the-counter drops or washes unless your vet has prescribed them.

Because correct treatment can be so critical to the health and well-being of your cat, always talk to a veterinarian to be sure Kitty is getting just the right care needed.

Show Sources


American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: “Top Tips for Keeping Kitty’s Eyes Healthy,” “Cat Grooming Tips.” “Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca).”

North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine: “Ophthalmology – Special Services, Technology, & Information: Feline Herpes Virus.”

Cat Fanciers’ Association: “Feline Upper Respiratory Viruses – Part Two: Calici Virus.”

Eric Barchas, DVM: “Squinting, Tearing, or Discharge from the Eyes in Cats and Dogs.”

Saulding, C.E., and Clay, J. Veterinary Guide for Animal Owners, Rodale, 1998.

Carlson, D.G., and Griffin, J.M. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, Howell Book House, 1983.

McGinnis, T. The Well Cat Book, Random House, 1975.

Evans, M. Cat Doctor: A Guide to Common Ailments and Treatments, Howell Book House/Reed International Books Limited, 1996.

American Journal of Veterinary Research: “Effect of oral administration of L-lysine on conjunctivitis caused by feline herpesvirus in cats.”

Mayo Clinic: “Pink eye (conjunctivitis).”

Mount Sinai: “Lysine.”

People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals: “Conjunctivitis in cats.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Amino acids.”

Veterinary Centers of America: “Conjunctivitis in Cats.”

© 2023 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info

search close