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What is Pink Eye in Cats?

Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is a common disease in cats causing inflammation and pinkness of the membrane part of the eye. This disease can affect one or both eyes and can also cause intermittent or constant squinting. The inflammation can be chronic or acute, infectious or noninfectious. To learn more, read the following questions answered by Experts.


Most of the causes are infectious. The three common causes are as follows:

  • feline herpesvirus-1
  • feline chlamydia
  • feline mycoplasma

It is important to know that conjunctivitis is a species-specific virus and cannot be transmitted to humans. Also, the virus can contain one or all three of these organisms causing the problem. Noninfectious causes include the following:

  • irritation from eyelashes rubbing against the eyeball
  • small particles trapped inside the eyelids
  • exposure to irritant chemicals
  • allergies
  • eye tumors


The clinical signs of conjunctivitis include, but are not limited to:

  • excessive tearing or watering from one or both eyes
  • cloudy, yellow or green discharge
  • prominent or reddened conjunctival membrane
  • squinting or closed eye(s) caused by discomfort


Tests may be required to determine what is causing the conjunctivitis. Some or all of the following tests can be ran:

  • Conjunctival Cytology: An evaluation of the cells collected at the surface of the membrane can determine the health of the eye and conjunctiva. It will also identify whether primary or secondary infections are involved. For suspected viral infections, samples will be sent to a laboratory. Although the tests are specific, they are not completely sensitive. Repeated samples may be needed to achieve a positive result for a definitive diagnosis.
  • Cultures: A bacterial culture is often requested to confirm a suspected infection. The diagnostic laboratory will perform an antibiotic sensitivity test for the specific bacteria in order to determine the right antibiotic.
  • Blood Tests: An eye disease can be the result of an internal condition. If the animal’s immune system is not strong, infections are more likely to occur. The blood tests will rule out any internal conditions.


In order to successfully treat conjunctivitis, the root cause must be determined. Major eye issues need to be ruled out, which is why it is important to have pets with eye symptoms seen by a veterinarian within 24 hours. Any delay in treating serious disorders can result in major damage and sometimes blindness. There are not any home remedies to help your pet once the infection has set in, though you can help him/her feel more comfortable at home by doing the following:

  • Keep the outside of the eye free from discharge with a cotton ball.
  • Clean and flush the eye for a few minutes with fresh water and check it for foreign matter. If you find something, use a Q-tip to gently allow the debris to stick to the cotton.
  • Apply a warm moist tea bag (plain tea) on the eye for a few minutes if your cat has watery discharge.
  • A sterile saline solution, without disinfectants, can be helpful to clean and give the eye relief.
  • Many cat owners report improvements after using a product called Terramycin which treats mild eye infections for cats.
  • Some owners rub one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar on the cat’s neck to heal eye problems.

Antibiotics may be needed to treat infections. The antibiotics are topical in the form of eye drops or ointments. They are to be given as prescribed without stopping early even if the cat appears to be healing.


Because of the many causes of conjunctivitis, there is no set prevention that works for every situation. To reduce the risk of eye problems, check your cat’s eyes daily for obvious signs of irritation. If you notice one or both of your pet’s eyes to look irritated or inflamed, it is important to contact your veterinarian.

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