Cat having a check up for conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis in cats: symptoms and treatment of feline conjunctivitis

What is feline conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the eye, usually caused by a viral infection such as feline herpes, or a bacterial infection such as chlamydia. Conjunctivitis can also be caused by an injury to the eye or eyeball, like a scratch or a chemical irritant.

Feline conjunctivitis is the most common eye infection in cats.

The technical bit…

The suffix ‘itis’ means inflammation, and conjunctivitis is simply inflammation of the eye – more specifically, the mucous surface of the eye that surrounds the eyeball, which is known as the conjunctiva.

When the conjunctiva is healthy it’s pale pink, which is why you don’t usually notice it in your cat. When a cat has conjunctivitis, the conjunctiva becomes swollen and red. This redness is often one of the first signs that your cat has an eye infection.

“Conjunctivitis can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, or as a result of injury to the eye.”

Signs and symptoms of conjunctivitis in cats

  • Red eyes
  • Sticky eyes
  • Squinting
  • Excessive blinking
  • A watery, wet eye

Diagnosing feline conjunctivitis

While conjunctivitis in cats isn’t life threatening, it can be contagious – and unpleasant for your cat. If left untreated, the infection may spread and cause damage to other parts of the eye, and ultimately your cat’s eyesight.

If your cat shows any of the signs or symptoms listed above, make an appointment with your vet for an expert diagnosis and treatment.

Cat conjunctivitis treatments

Your vet will examine the eye carefully and might take a culture sample of the fluid around of your cat’s eye to establish whether the cause of the conjunctivitis is viral or bacterial, so that they can recommend the most effective treatment.  Your vet may also put a drop of green dye in the eye to check for scratches.

Treatment is often in the form of anti-inflammatory or antibiotic eye drops or ointment, and your cat should start to show signs of improvement within just a couple of days of starting treatment.

As with any medication, it’s important to finish the course prescribed by your vet – even when you notice your cat start to improve – to reduce the chances of the infection re-occurring.

Need advice on preventing conjunctivitis in cats?

For expert advice on the prevention and treatment of conjunctivitis in your cat, contact your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.