Brandi has been a content writer for the past 10 years. After owning several cats, she has become knowledgeable about their care.
Can I Treat My Cat's Eye Infection at Home?
It is not uncommon for cats and kittens to suffer from eye problems. Many cats and kittens catch "the common cold"—otherwise known as an upper respiratory infection—especially if they have been in and out of shelters or interact with other cats. Cats are also prone to eye ulcers, systemic viruses, and breed-specific issues like cherry eye (especially brachycephalic cat breeds). Sometimes, cats simply have allergies, endure an injury, or get debris in their eyes.
With these conditions, a cat's eye may look weepy or leaky. Eye infections may resemble pink eye or cause redness, inflammation, sneezing, pus around the nose and eyes, and "eye boogers." Let's take a look at some proposed herbal home remedies for cat and kitten eye problems like homemade eyewash and tea bags, as well as tried-and-true methods for symptom relief.
Untreated Infections and Blindness
Eye problems that go untreated are not only painful for your cat, but put your cat is at risk of damaging or losing their vision entirely. If your "home remedies" stop working after a couple days or your cat is injured, see a veterinarian.
Cat Eye Infection Signs and Symptoms
- Inflammation of the eye or third eyelid
- Clear, green, yellow, or brown nasal discharge
- Red mucous membranes
- Rubbing, itching, winking, squinting
- Clear, green, yellow, or brown eye discharge
- Crusting or pus collected near the tear ducts
- Excessive tear drop production or dry eyes
- Eye eruption and herpes-like lesions
- Lethargy, inappetence, and weight loss
Home Remedies for Cat Eye Infections
Whereas serious matters should be handled by a veterinarian, minor irritation—like having something stuck in the eye—can be resolved with a general rinse. The below remedies will help with eye discharge, eyes that are matted shut, swollen eyes, and other signs of an eye infection in cats.
Over-the-Counter Solutions for Cat Eye Problems
- L-Lysine: This is one of the most commonly prescribed supplements in shelter medicine and works well for cats with eye issues related to the feline herpes virus. Although some sources refute the usefulness of lysine for herpes-related issues, many anecdotal accounts confirm the effectiveness of this supplement.
- Cat Eye Rinse: Nutri-Vet Cat Eye Rinse Liquid, for example, is a solution of boric acid, filtered water, sodium borate, and sodium chloride. It is a sterile, non-irritating ophthalmic solution that may be used to remove allergens and foreign material from the eye. Commercial cat eyewashes may be purchased online or at your local store.
- Distilled Water Rinse: This is helpful if your cat's eyes are red or beginning to leak. You can gently wipe your cat's eyes with soft and clean cotton balls and sterile or distilled water. It may be a struggle to hold the cotton balls in place, but do your best to help break up the debris. Be sure to use a separate cotton ball for each eye to avoid spreading the infection.
How to Clean Your Cat's Eyes at Home
If you are caring for a kitten, it is extremely important that you address their respiratory issues, eye issues, and nasal discharge right away. You can gently clean your kitten's eyes even if they are matted shut by following the techniques mentioned below:
How to Clean Kitten Eyes
- Make sure your kitten is supported; wrap it in a light blanket or hand towel if they are particularly mobile.
- Wet several soft cotton balls in room temperature or lukewarm water (do not use tap water—purchase distilled water).
- Squeeze the cotton balls out gently to release any extra water.
- Hold the cotton ball over the kitten's eye. Do not press or apply pressure.
- Gently wipe the cotton ball in the direction of the kitten's fur—from tear duct to outer eye.
- Repeat this several times a day.
Tips to Prevent the Spread of Infection
- Switch cotton balls between eyes as not to spread potential infection.
- Use different cotton balls between littermates.
- Consider wearing gloves between littermates.
- Kittens are susceptible to cold, so do not soak your kitten's face with water and fail to provide them with passive warming (blankets; a warm environment).
Do Not Spread the Infection
Administer medication to your cat's good eye first before working on the irritated eye. Avoid touching the irritated eye with the dropper or bottle as this could spread the infection. Wash your hands in between applications.
Video: How Do I Clean My Cat's Eyes?
Why Are My Cat's Eyes Irritated?
It is not uncommon for cats to present with eye issues, but injuries and issues of the eye can also be seriously problematic and even require surgery. Kittens, especially in crowded litters or stressful environments like shelters, are particularly prone to upper respiratory infections (URIs), sticky, pus-like discharge, and eyes that are swollen or stuck shut.
Adult cats, too, may have picked up feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) before being vaccinated and present with symptoms like conjunctivitis, sneezing, and eye ulcers. Let's took a look at the numerous causes of eye problems.
Common Causes of Cat Eye Problems
Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)
Viruses and bacteria
Sneezing, coughing, clear discharge, lethargy, and inappetence
Direct contact with secretions
Viruses and bacteria
Redness, swollen mucous membranes, lethargy
Direct contact with secretions
Tender to touch, swollen
Feline Herpes Infection or Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis
Feline Herpesvirus 1
Coughing, sneezing, discharge, fever, conjunctivitis, and corneal ulceration
Direct contact with secretions; can be prevented with early vaccination
Weakness of the surrounding tissue; sometimes linked to Persian and Burmese breeds
Swelling, irritation, eye redness, prolapse
Chlamydia psittaci bacterium
Runny eyes, watery nose, difficulty breathing
Direct contact with secretions
Chemical burn, laceration, rubbing, allergies
Excessive squinting and tearing
None OR herpetic ulcers
Feline Calicivirus (FCV) Infection or "Cat Flu"
URI, lameness, gingivitis, pneumonia; can be vaccinated against
Direct contact with secretions
Environmental or dietary
Redness of the eyes; may be accompanied by digestive and skin issues
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
Feline coronavirus exposure and mutation of the disease
Runny eyes, sneezing, fever, bloated abdomen
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) or Dry Eye
Autoimmune; side effect of medication
Mechanical; eyelashes scraping inner eye
Redness, dryness, blinking
Read More From Pethelpful
What About Herbal Remedies for Cat Eye Infections?
Unfortunately, you will read a great deal of information about DIY home remedies for cat eye infections. Eye infections are no joking matter. Permanent damage and vision loss can occur if treatment is delayed. In addition, scar tissue may develop and clog tear ducts or scar mucous membranes. That's why it is important to do your research.
Some of these remedies have been misapplied and are extremely dangerous. In the rare instance that such a remedy is recommended, only follow the advice of a veterinarian. DO NOT use the following unless advised otherwise:
- Apple cider vinegar (ACV): Apple cider vinegar can cause severe chemical burns to the cornea. If the vinegar penetrates deeper into the eye, it may cause cataracts and glaucoma. Do not use ACV on your cat's eye!
- Manuka honey: Manuka honey is sometimes used to dress wounds in veterinary medicine by a veterinarian, but it is not a recommended remedy for cat eyes. Honey has been used for eye infections in Ayurvedic medicine for many years, but this is a remedy you will want to skip.
- Colloidal silver: Colloidal silver is a water-based, anti-bacterial suspension with microscopic particles of silver. Often use in alternative veterinary medicine, some sources may recommend wiping your cat's eyes with undiluted colloidal silver and a cotton ball. Unless your veterinarian has approved this remedy, do not attempt it.
- Human ointments and eye drops: Do not attempt to treat your cat at home with pink eye ointments (containing erythromycin) or those designed to treat human eye allergy symptoms. An incorrect choice here could result in irreversible eye damage.
- Brewer's yeast: Brewer's yeast that is sold specifically for pets may help with eye health when provided as an oral supplement due to its B-vitamin component, but it certainly won't reverse a severe infection.
Can I Use Green Tea and Chamomile Tea to Treat Cat Eye Infections?
Some individuals have tried home remedies using chamomile tea or green tea for eye infections because tea contains catechins. Although catechins may help reduce redness, swelling, and irritation in Ayurvedic medicine for humans, these remedies should not be used on cats.
A DIY home remedy with herbal tea bags poses several problems:
- No guarantee of sterility
- Undetectable debris may be left behind which can worsen the eye condition or get something stuck in your cat's eye
- No guarantee of quality (bleached tea bags or pesticides)
- No guarantee of effectiveness beyond anecdotal
- Will not be of help for viruses
A Note About Homemade Eyewash
Although you may encounter recipes for DIY or homemade eyewash for your cat on the internet, it is best to skip these recipes and go with an eyewash that is specially formulated for cats and one that is veterinarian-approved such as those that are sold online or in stores.
Most sterile saline solutions will have proper instructions detailed. It is important to follow them carefully. Some may only require you to use the drops, while others may recommend rinsing them with a gentle ophthalmic wash after. Eyewashes should always be sterile—hence, the term "sterile saline."
Which Medications Treat Eye Infections in Cats?
This depends on the diagnosis. Chlamydia and mycoplasma are two common types of bacteria that can cause eye infections in cats, but eye issues may arise from other problems like ulcers, cherry eye, tear duct blockages, foreign body, etc. Your vet may prescribe or advise that you use some of the following ointments or eye drops at home on your cat:
Terramycin Ophthalmic Ointment
Contains oxytetracycline and polymyxin B and is specifically used for issues like pink eye, corneal ulcers, and conjunctivitis. This ointment is generally administered to the eye 2-4 times throughout the day.
Neomycin-Polymyxin B Sulfates-Bacitracin Zinc Ophthalmic
This ointment contains bacitracin zinc, neomycin, and polymyxin B, which work to stop the proliferation of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. This product is only dispensed to licensed veterinarians.
Vetericyn Plus All Animal Antimicrobial Ophthalmic Gel
This gel contains the active ingredient hypochlorous acid and may help with burning, itching, and stinging. It is not recommended for use if the cornea is damaged.
- A Note About Steroids: Topical corticosteroids will not be prescribed if your cat has a corneal ulcer as this will make the eye condition worse and slow healing.
Video: How to Apply Cat Eye Drops or Ointment
How to Prevent Infections
- Vaccinate your cat from an early age (especially if indoor/outdoor)
- Keep your home environment low-stress
- Offer your cat a complete nutritional diet
- Consider incorporating vet-approved supplements for eye support
- Gently assist your cat with basic grooming (remove gunk on the eyes and brush regularly).
- Offer your cat a window to look out of with natural sunlight
As always, you should seek the advice of a veterinary professional for a proper diagnosis of your cat's eye problems. Providing your cat with the basic necessities is a sure way to keep them healthy and happy.
- Efficacy of oral supplementation with L-lysine in cats latently infected with feline herpesvirus
Maggs, D.J., Nasisse, M.P., & Kass, P.H. (2003). American Journal of Veterinary Research, Vol. 64:1. https://doi.org/10.2460/ajvr.2003.64.37
- Eye Infections in Cats – Antibiotics and Other Treatments | Memphis Emergency Vet
When it comes to treating eye infections in cats there are a number of antibiotics that your vet may prescribe based on the underlying cause of the infection.
- Cat Upper Respiratory Infection Symptoms and Treatments | WebMD
WebMD discusses upper respiratory infection in cats and includes symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Incurable and almost always fatal, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a relatively rare disease, affecting less than one percent of all cats presented to veterinarians for treatment.
- Entropion in Cats | PetMD
Lauren Jones, DVM, discusses entropion in cats, including symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.
- Cat Eye Infection: Recognize the Signs | Canna-Pet
Our feline friends can get eye infections too. Keep your cat happy and healthy by recognizing the signs of cat eye infection.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2012 Brandi Goodman
taladega on May 17, 2020:
thx for the advice
gloria on February 17, 2020:
can I use my sterile contact solution
Kasey Kreshka on January 19, 2020:
My 2/3yr.old cat.Diablo,was out overnight a lil' over a mo.ago,&come in with his left eye hurt! Puss is still coming out but not as much..ive doctored it with salt water every now&then..oh&a little red lookin puss comes out sometimes too. I have no idea what happend to him,&what to do! Any suggestions?
Deb on September 25, 2019:
Debra holt my kittens eyes swollen shut every time sbe gets up i been using warm water anda soft cloth and gentle rub her eyes and she can see i do it 4 or 5 times a day is distilled water good for her eyes please let me know thanks debra holt
catboots on March 29, 2019:
Cat’s eye health is an important factor to keep a cat healthy, So Thanks for the post,,Also you may read, https://catboots.us/kitten-eye-infection/
Sayed Md Majid Hussain on September 29, 2018:
My kitten is suffering from heavy eye infection and I stay in a remote desert area. No vet is available here. Could you please suggest me name of the medicine so that I can buy from market which is too far.
Deborah on June 23, 2018:
I have a kitten that it’s Eyes pasted shut What to do
apriladams on May 09, 2018:
My 1year old male cat. Runny nose and now eye is swollen shut what could this be and what can i do
Gail on April 20, 2018:
My cat has an ulcer (which is treatable and being treated)...would green tea still help or no ??
Arielle on August 28, 2017:
I have a 4 week old female kitten who wakes up with her eyes crusted shut filled with pus what can I do as a home remedy for her eyes please help I need someone to help somebody told me apple cider vinegar will help it didn't help it made it worse I don't know what else to do and I don't have money to bring him to the vet can someone please answer my question
Arielle on August 28, 2017:
My kitten is about 4 weeks old both eyes are swollen and she wakes up with them completely shut and when I open them puss pops out and when I try to open her eye it's her third eyelid that's extremely red is there any remedies that you can help me with so I can help her
Robin Hendricks on April 29, 2017:
My cat scratched his cornea help
Ashley on January 15, 2017:
In the corner of my cats eyes you can see his 3rd eyelid and they're white. It's not always showing. It seems to come and go. Any recommendations?
lina on January 09, 2017:
Can i use jasmine tea?
Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on November 16, 2016:
Not cow's milk. Probably milk from the momma cat or the kitten milk supplement you can buy at a pet store. I know breast milk is used for a lot of remedies for people, so I'd assume it would work the same for an animal.
cyndi on October 11, 2016:
someone told me that milk drops in the kittens eyes will help ...is this true
Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on September 07, 2016:
I would suggest trying the green tea or a warm compress. If that doesn't seem to help, the kitten should see a vet to determine if there are worse problems for them.
Kevin on August 24, 2016:
My kitten is 4 weeks and the eyes are swollen and red and it looks like it's crying ? Any suggestions ?
matt on August 16, 2016:
Has anyone tried warm mil?. Ive done this with a dog and it worked. Dunno if it would be different for kittens.
kk on July 31, 2016:
i wrap the kitten or cat in a towel somewhat tightly so that their legs and arms are covered (they feel secure) and i cut up a soft rag in small squares and soak the rags in warm green tea (the tea takes down swelling and also makes the mats soften and easy to remove
Jessica on May 03, 2016:
someone told me green tea bags are bleached and they can go blind from this.
Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on October 29, 2015:
Marie, it says it could also be chamomile or another natural tea option.
marie on October 27, 2015:
Does it have to be green tea? Could it be normal tea bag
Crystal Byrd on July 29, 2014:
My 3 week old kitten has an eye that is matted shut and idk y but how long will it take to heal up and go away
nick 45467 on April 26, 2013:
im gonna try this i hope my cat doesn't go blind
Dianna Mendez on March 14, 2012:
Your cats are so sweet looking! I can see where the green tea would help soothe an irritation. This is great information to keep handy in case kitty needs some first aid.
Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on March 13, 2012:
Yeah I don't think my cats would either but you can try as long as they'll let you. And if they move for a second, just re-adjust and try again for as long as you can.
FloraBreenRobison on March 13, 2012:
These are helpful suggestions, but I can't see Amy allowing me to have a cloth against her eye for as long as 2-3 minutes. Don't do it Mummy!:)