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Signs of Vision Problems in Your Cat - What to Look For

by Dr Sara Ochoa DVM, Dec 03, 20
Table Of Contents

Looking out for vision problems in kitty


Cats see very well — “I see you trying to swap out my premium favorite food for the supermarket brand” kind of well.

A big part of why kitty can get around furniture at night without problems, or focus a little too intently on the item you specifically told them not to play with, is thanks to a solid eye structure that’s as fragile as it’s unique.

Human and cat eyes share basic features: the cornea, iris, pupil, and retina (they all work together to control and focus the amount of light getting into the eye), but cone cells and rod cells inside cats eyes help them see in dim light as well as calculate distance and speed.


Picture yourself running through an obstacle course at night, relying just on moonlight to see where you’re going... your cat can do that no problem!

Like all things health-related, the better the body is taken care of and the sooner problems are treated is the longer we get to enjoy its capabilities, especially kitty! But how can you tell if something’s going on with kitty’s eye(s)? Take a look (#sorrynotsorry) at some of the signs below:

Blinking or Squinting

Blinking or squinting a lot can move from cute to worrisome if the reason behind the blinking and squinting is an infection, a particle in their eye, or a scratch on the cornea.

Even a tiny scratch on the cornea hurts and can lead to serious eye problems if the scratch isn’t taken care of. Some cats have longer hair that bends towards the eyes (hence the scratched corneas), which means those hairs need to be trimmed. Your vet can take care of this if you have no confidence in keeping your hands and kitty still.


Eye Discharge

Discharge color and texture can range from clear and watery to thick and yellow - even greenish! If kitty happens to have a chronic viral infection, occasional or permanent eye discharge is something you’ll have to help them deal with.

Naturally, when the discharge dries it forms a crust in the corner of kitty’s eyes. Cats are master groomers and usually don’t have a problem keeping their eyes clean, but if the eye discharge builds up faster than they can get rid of it, a soft tissue moistened with warm water will do the trick. 

eye discharge within cats

Photo by Mario A.P. via Flickr.

Visible Third Eyelid

We’re not getting all woo-woo on you here, cats have an extra eyelid at the inner corner of each eye. It looks like a translucent film that moves over the surface of the eyeball. If you can see it, it’s because of pain or an infection.


Redness or Swelling

Redness and/or swelling in one or both eyes could be a sign of pink eye (makeup lovers know all too well the pain of throwing out an expensive mascara, just in case the wand is contaminated). For kitty, the causes for pink eye (properly known as conjunctivitis) include a virus, exposure to chemicals, allergies, or trauma.

redness or swelling cat's eyes

Photo by Stuart Richards via Flickr.

Cloudiness or Change in Eye Color

A sudden change in kitty’s eye color — and they’re a kitty adult or senior — is the most serious sign for eye problems. If the eye looks cloudy, there might be an inner eye or corneal problem, cataracts are also a possibility.

All of these signs are reason enough to get in touch with your vet as soon as you can to set up an appointment. Like we said, the faster and sooner you solve a problem, the longer kitty gets to gaze lovingly at your face — while knowing full well they messed with the thing you told them not to touch. You can also check out our Scruffy Paws Daily Multi Health Bites, if you want to get the proactive/solution ball rolling. 

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  • Marianne, I have the exact same thing. My 15 year old cat has one pupil that stays large and has tiny black shapes on the edges of that pupil. Her eyes also used to be a clear gorgeous green. Now they are amber brown. I asked a vet and she said sometimes they just change color. I think there is more to it. Anyone know?

    Kathryn Donatelli
  • Hello, I have an older cat female who is 15 she has one eye who’s pupil that stays large and disfigured , the other eye seems normal. I did ask my vet but we’re unsure of what was. causing the disfigurement. Any idea ?

    Marianne Meyer

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