Treating Cat Conjunctivitis

picture of cat eye

Have you noticed your cat scratching at their eyes? Maybe you’ve noticed some redness, weepy eyes, or constant blinking and squinting. So how do you know if it’s a minor eye irritation or something more serious like cat conjunctivitis? 

Firstly, you should know that cat conjunctivitis occurs frequently as a short-term condition. Secondly, it is a relatively painful condition that you’re going to want to sort out quickly. And finally, it is one of the most common eye conditions that cats are faced with. Here we look at some of the symptoms, causes, and prevention of feline conjunctivitis, as well as how to treat it. 

Cat conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva – the thin mucous membrane on the inside of the eyelids and white of the eye. This conjunctiva is not really seen in healthy cats, and the conjunctiva is pale pink in colour. However, when a cat is suffering from conjunctivitis, this membrane becomes red and swollen. You should note that this condition can affect one or both of the eyes. Similarly, you can often also pick up inflammation in your cat’s third eyelid. This membrane is found in the inner corner of the eye, between the eyeball and the lower lid.


The signs of conjunctivitis vary depending on the severity of the case. As such, there are a number of symptoms you can watch out for if you suspect feline conjunctivitis.  Other symptoms include: 

  • Constant blinking
  • Excessive tearing
  • Discharge or mucus surrounding the eye – the colour of this discharge can range from colourless to dark in colour, and can be either watery or thick.
  • Swollen eyes and third eyelid
  • Redness
  • Squinting 
  • Itchiness of the eyes and surrounding skin 
  • Rubbing or scratching at the eyes
  • Inability to properly open and close the affected eye or eyes.

You should also be on the lookout for signs of upper respiratory infection such as sneezing and discharge from the nose, lack of appetite, and lethargy. 


Feline conjunctivitis is classified as one of two types: infectious or noninfectious conjunctivitis. The cause of the conjunctivitis will determine whether it is infectious or noninfectious.

Infectious conjunctivitis:

Viruses: Many cases of feline conjunctivitis are caused by viruses.  These viruses include:

  • Feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1), also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR). This is the most common cause of viral conjunctivitis and can cause recurrent or chronic cases. While this virus does not infect humans, it is highly contagious to other cats. 
  • Calicivirus is a virus commonly found in secretions of the eyes, nose, and mouth. This virus is also contagious among cats. Many cats recover from this virus, but some may carry it for the rest of their lives.

Bacteria: Viral infections can become complicated by the presence of secondary bacterial infections. It is important to note that these bacterial infections can be passed from cat to cat. The most common of these bacterial infections include:

  • Chlamydophila felis
  • Mycoplasma
  • Streptococci
  • Staphylococci

Parasitic conjunctivitis: Cats that spend a lot of time outdoors are more likely to pick up parasitic infections. They are therefore more likely to also pick up parasitic conjunctivitis. These include Onchocerciasis, Thelaziasis, and Leishmaniasis.  

Non-infectious conjunctivitis: 

Environmental irritants: Dust, sand, pollen, spores, and poor air quality can lead to eye irritations and subsequent conjunctivitis. Even irritants like pet shampoo that gets into your cat’s eyes can lead to this condition.  

Hereditary conditions: Certain breeds may suffer from a condition known as entropion, the inward turning of the eyelids. This causes the corneas to become irritated with the constant friction of the eyelids against the eyeball. These breeds include long-haired cats like Persians and Himalayans. 

Eye and eyelid diseases: Likewise, conjunctivitis may be present as a secondary symptom of other eye diseases like ulcers, tumours, eyelid malformations, and glaucoma. Misformed eyelids can also lead to conjunctivitis because of the constant friction and potential exposure to foreign irritants and allergens.  


If you think your cat is suffering from conjunctivitis based on the symptoms above, be sure to get them to a veterinarian. Your vet will be able to conduct a proper examination of your kitty to determine what the condition is. Then, based on the diagnosis, they will be able to prescribed antibiotics or soothing eye drops based on the cause. 


Because conjunctivitis is often an indication of an underlying cause which needs to be addressed first. Simple cases can be treated in one to two weeks. However, chronic or complicated cases are usually treated over the course of weeks and months. If your cat’s conjunctivitis is not treated, the condition can progress and cause blindness.

Veterinarians usually prescribe eye drops as a conjunctivitis treatment. These eye drops may be antibiotics to fight bacterial conjunctivitis, or simply soothing to help with noninfectious conjunctivitis. Read here on how to clean cat eyes and apply eye drops. 

Additionally, other treatments include antiviral medication to help with viral conjunctivitis, steroids, anti-inflammatories, or the application of topical eye ointments. Remember to follow your veterinarian’s advice when it comes to prescribed medication. For genetic and hereditary cases, surgery may be necessary.

You can also use a clean, damp or gauze to clean your cat’s eyes and help relieve some of the pain and discomfort. VetMed Eye Wash also soothes inflammation, reduces stinging, itching and burning, and flushes away debris and discharge.


There are a number of steps you can put in place to ensure your cat heals from conjunctivitis and stops it from recurring. 

  • Ensure that your cat has a clean environment to play and sleep in. This will help prevent noninfectious conjunctivitis associated with allergies and environmental irritants. 
  • If you have a cat suffering from conjunctivitis, keep them away from the other healthy cats as this decreases the chance of spreading. 
  • Anyone that interacts with the infected cat should remember to wash their hands correctly after handling them. 
  • Provide your cats with the correct supplements and probiotics to encourage a healthy immune system. As a result, this will help their bodies fight off pathogens like bacteria and viruses that cause conjunctivitis. 
  • If you see that your cat is struggling with their eyes, be sure to manage the situation and take them to a vet if the situation does ot resolve or progresses.
  • Maintain good feline hygiene and support eye health by using VetMed Eye Wash. 
  • Keep up to date with feline vaccinations, especially those associated with feline-related viruses. 
  • Because younger cats are more prone to developing conjunctivitis than older cats, wipe their eyes gently with a gauze or clean cloth soaked in VetMed Eye Wash

The takeaway:

  • Conjunctivitis usually does not clear up by itself because the underlying issue needs to be addressed.
  • Conjunctivitis is a very painful condition, and should be treated as quickly as possible.
  • Finally, remember that feline conjunctivitis is highly contagious to other cats, even if it usually does not get carried across to humans. 

VetMed has a range of products geared to keep your feline friend happy. If you’d like to learn more about giving your kitty the best home care, you can visit our blog page