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Q&A: Why Is My Cat's Eye Swollen and Red?

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

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Why Does My Cat Have a Red and Swollen Eye?

"My 3-year-old male kitty has had on-and-off eye irritation for the past few weeks. The rim of the eye sometimes looks red and slightly swollen, and there is sometimes a crusty discharge in the morning. He squints at times and paws at the eye, but not often. The other eye seems perfectly fine.

Is there an eye drop medicine I could try to clear up whatever is going on, or do you suggest I take him in to see a vet?" —Bethany

How to Treat Eye Infections in Cats

If you had told me that you had a kitten, I would have recommended several home remedies. Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the skin around the eye) and blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid) can often be taken care of easily at home in kittens.

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But since your cat is an adult and the irritation is only in one eye, there is a good possibility that the infection is due to a scratch or other injury on the surface of the cornea—especially if you have another cat.

If you suspect this is the case, your cat needs to go to a veterinarian and have a special dye called fluorescein applied to the surface of the eye so that the vet can determine how severe the scratch is. Depending on the severity, your vet will likely prescribe one of two common treatments:

  • Antibiotics: If there is a scratch but it is not that severe, your cat will be given antibiotics to control the secondary infection that is causing the redness.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Ointment: If the eye is not scratched, he can be given an ointment with an anti-inflammatory which will make the eye inflammation clear up much faster.

If your vet prescribes ointment, make sure that you ask the technician to show you how to apply it. It needs to be applied several times throughout the day, but the eye will probably be fine in a week or less.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Dr Mark

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