Cat Eye Discharge - How to Treat Different Types of Feline Eye Issues Does Your Cat Have Significant Eye Discharge? It May Be Time for a Trip to the Vet.

Cat Eye Discharge - How to Treat Different Types of Feline Eye Issues

It’s not uncommon for cats to have to occasional “gunky” eye. However, there are situations where you might have to treat your cat’s symptoms or make a quick trip to your veterinarian.It’s not uncommon for cats to have to occasional “gunky” eye. However, there are situations where you might have to treat your cat’s symptoms or make a quick trip to your veterinarian.

It’s not uncommon for cats to have to occasional “gunky” eye. However, there are situations where you might have to treat your cat’s symptoms or make a quick trip to your veterinarian. It’s not uncommon for cats to have to occasional “gunky” eye. However, there are situations where you might have to treat your cat’s symptoms or make a quick trip to your veterinarian.

Your cat’s eyes are usually beautiful, sparkling, and clear. However, there are moments when your feline friend’s eyes may not be so clear. Eye gunk, or discharge, is a common ailment that often is no cause for alarm. But when, exactly, can eye goo become a serious problem?

 Let’s take a look at what causes eye discharge, what health problems eye discharge can mean, and how to treat your furbaby when their eyes are bothering them significantly.

 Causes of Eye Discharge

 There are several different causes of eye discharge in felines. 

  • Epiphora, also known as watery eyes, this type of clear watery discharge is the result of excessive tear production. This can be caused by anything from allergies to blocked tear ducts to allergies.

  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, also known as dry eyes, this type of eye condition can result in inflamed corneas and redness in the whites of the eyes. Because tears aren’t being produced properly, the discharge can appear yellow and goopy. If left untreated, this disease can cause blindness.

  • Uveitis - This condition is an inflammation of the inner parts of the eye. This can be caused by trauma, such as a scratch or animal attack, or something more serious such as cancer or immune system deficiencies.

  • Upper respiratory infections. This is a common cause of eye problems in cats. Viruses and bacteria can cause this type of infection. Eye discharge often includes both eyes and appears white, yellow, or green with a sticky consistency.

  • Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, this condition can cause inflammation around the eyelids and cause your cat’s eyes to appear puffy and pink. Much of the time, pink eye can make your cat light sensitive and result in clear or thick mucus-like eye discharge. One or both eyes can be affected. Conjunctivitis often clears up on its own, but keep your eyes open for more serious symptoms. Fever, watery stool, and breathing problems may be the result of feline infectious peritonitis, which can be deadly. However, this condition is not common.

  • Corneal diseases. The cornea is a half-moon-shaped part of the eye that protrudes from the front of the eye. Sometimes it can become inflamed or injured as a result of scratching. The symptoms of corneal diseases or injuries include cloudiness in appearance, inflammation, constant blinking, and thin watery discharge.

  • Allergies. Allergies can definitely be a major cause of eye discharge in cats, especially if your cat already has allergy problems that result in sneezing and itchiness. 

Many of these causes of eye discharge are relatively benign, but some of them can be serious problems. Let’s look at when you should worry about feline eye discharge. 

When to Worry About Cat Eye Discharge and Make a Vet Appointment 

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, uveitis, advanced conjunctivitis, or corneal diseases and injuries are all dangerous problems that should warrant a vet visit as soon as possible. 

If your cat is exhibiting any of these diseases’ accompanying symptoms, or if your cat’s eye problems have not cleared up within three or four days, contact your vet right away. 

Your vet will treat your cat’s eye discharge problems easily. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eyes, can be treated by using ophthalmic medicine to stimulate tear production and are extremely safe to use. Most cats recover fully after being treated for dry eye. 

For uveitis, your doctor will run a number of tests to determine if the underlying cause is immune system or cancer-related. For advanced or serious conjunctivitis, your vet will likely prescribe an intensive but short-term antibiotic which can be taken orally or through an eye dropper. Corneal diseases or injuries are usually treated through the use of antibiotic ointments or drops or surgery. The appropriate treatment depends on the nature of the injury and how intense the injury or disease is. 

How to Treat Cat Eye Discharge at Home 

Epiphora can be treated by flushing the eyes with water. See our tips and tricks below for instructions. However, if the problem persists for longer than a few days, the underlying cause could be more serious than light debris or a minor injury. Larger foreign objects or deep scratches can lead to more dangerous problems. Be sure to visit your vet if flushing with water does not work. 

Conjunctivitis usually does not require treatment and will clear up on its own. Keep up gently wiping discharge from your cat’s eyes daily, and do not let them outside until the puffiness and discharge have cleared up. 

Allergies can be treated by eliminating the source, such as dust mites, dusty air, cigarette smoke, and other allergens. You can use an antihistamine such as Benadryl to treat your cat’s symptoms, but this is not often recommended as it can be difficult to get your cat to consume the medication, and it can be hard to dose properly. 

Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Cat’s Eyes Clear 

There are a handful of ways you can keep your kitty’s eyes healthy through preventative measures. 

  • Keep up with annual vaccinations.

  • Don’t take on too many cats in a small space.

  • Check your cat’s eyes frequently for discharge.

  • Clear discharge by using a warm damp washcloth or cotton ball. Wipe from the corner of the eye out towards the edge, and always use a different rag or cotton ball for each eye.

  • Gently flush irritated eyes by dropping warm distilled clean water into each eye until your cat blinks them out. Only use medical-grade eye or ear syringes that are clear. Wipe, then do this once more. Do not overflush your cat’s eyes.

  • Don’t use human eye drops or medications unless recommended by a vet.

What do you think about our guide on cat eye problems? Tell us your treatment success story in the comments section below!

How to Treat Eye Infection in Newborn Kittens?

Two of the most common infections that can infect newborn kittens are conjunctivitis, an infection in the mucous membrane that is responsible for lining the inner surface of the eyeball and the eyelids, or an infection of the cornea, the transparent coating on the surface of the eyeball. The infections tend to occur after the bottom and top eyelids separate and open, which is usually around the two-week mark. The most common source of the infection is infectious discharge from the vagina at the time of birth. An unhygienic environment is just as likely to be the cause. Streptococcus or Staphylococcus bacteria are the most common culprits of eye infection in a kitten. If you leave the condition untreated, it can cause permanent blindness.


  • The eye might develop conjunctivitis, with redness, inflammation, and discharge from the conjunctiva

  • Lower and upper eyelids get stuck together due to crusted and dried discharge

  • Eyelids stick to the eye’s front

  • Pus-like or mucous-like discharge from the eye

  • Lower or upper eyelids bulge outward because of fluid build-up and swelling within the orb or the socket

  • Ulcerated cornea (sores on the eyeball surface where bacteria have made holes through the coating)

  • Collapsed cornea


  • Infectious vaginal discharge from the mother during the time of birth

  • Unclean environment for newborns


The vet will perform a thorough physical exam on the infected newborn. You will be asked to provide a complete history of the mother’s pregnancy, as well as background medical information on the mother. If the mother has infections or diseases that you are personally aware of, share the necessary information about the symptoms, the onset time, and the duration with your vet. 

Even if there are no signs of an infection in the mother and the newborn kitten shows signs of an infection transmitted through the birth canal, your vet will take a culture of the vaginal discharge from the mother. The eye discharge will also be taken for testing. 

To examine the eye properly, the doctor might stain the cornea of the kitten with fluorescein, an orange-yellow die that will illuminate the surface of the cornea, making foreign objects and minute scratches visible under the light. The doctor might also order a CBC, chemical blood profile, an electrolyte panel, and urinalysis to see if the newborn kitten suffers from a systemic disease that needs immediate treatment.


Your vet will separate the eyelids of the kitten by moistening them and gently pulling them apart. Once the eyes open, he will wash the eye and the lids to get rid of the infected cellular matter. To ensure that they do not stick together again, he will apply warm compresses and most likely recommend you do the same once you get back home. He might also prescribe an antibiotic ointment that you will have to apply to the eye at regular intervals. Oftentimes vets prescribe Vetropolycin to treat eye infections in pets.


Frequently Asked Questions

When should I worry about a cat's eye discharge?

Dr. Andrea Lam, DVM, DACVD, says that you should worry about your cat's eye discharge if it is accompanied by symptoms like squinting, excessive blinking, face pawing repeatedly, gooey or crusty buildup around the tear ducts, or constant face rubbing against surfaces. These symptoms often suggest an underlying illness and should be checked by a vet. Feline calicivirus, pneumonitis, or rhinotracheitis can cause sticky, pus-like eye discharge from the eyes. Inflamed, injured, or ulcerated cornea can lead to excessive tear discharge. Conjunctivitis, Blepharitis, Uveitis, or blocked tear ducts can also cause excessive eye discharge and require veterinary attention. If the area around the eye is swollen or red, this may be a sign of infection or injury. If the eye appears cloudy or the color has changed, this could indicate a serious problem. If the discharge is excessive, is accompanied by other symptoms, or has lasted for more than a day or two, it is best to consult with a veterinarian. If the discharge is green or yellow or has a strong odor, this may indicate a bacterial or fungal infection. If you observe any of these symptoms, it's best to take your cat to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Early treatment is important in order to prevent any further damage to your cat's eye or vision.

What should I do if my cat has eye discharge?

If your cat has eye discharge, here are some steps you can take. Gently wipe away any discharge from the corners of the eye with a clean, damp cloth. Avoid using cotton swabs or other objects that could scratch the eye. Dr. Andrea Lam says that a healthy cat will have clear and bright eyes, so if you notice any discoloration or unclear discharge, you should take your cat to a vet. Clear discharge can also indicate a viral infection, but the discharge will be sticky. Eye problems in cats can be caused by a variety of underlying issues, and a veterinarian will be able to determine the cause and recommend the best course of treatment. Over-the-counter eye drops and other treatments meant for human use are not safe for cats and can cause further harm. Only use medications or treatments recommended by your veterinarian. If your cat is prescribed medication, be sure to give it as directed and for the full course of treatment. Do not stop giving the medication early, even if the symptoms seem to have improved, as this can allow the underlying condition to worsen. Keep an eye on your cat's eye discharge and any other symptoms, and report any changes to your veterinarian.

Why does my cat have discharge from the eyes?

Dr. Brad Holmberg, DVM, DACVO, a veterinary ophthalmologist at the Animal Eye Center of New Jersey, says that there can be many reasons for eye discharge. He says that there might be a mild, graying discharge from your cat's eye after it wakes up, and it’s quite normal. However, if the discharge continues throughout the day, there can be an underlying reason, like allergy, infection, tear duct blockage, or dirt trapped in the eye. Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva (the clear tissue that covers the whites of the eyes) and is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Eye discharge can be a symptom of an upper respiratory infection, such as feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus. Eye discharge can be a symptom of allergies, such as seasonal allergies or allergies to certain substances in the environment. A piece of dust, hair, or foreign object in the eye can cause irritation and discharge. The tear ducts that drain tears from the eyes can become blocked, causing excess tearing and eye discharge. Trauma or injury to the eye can cause discharge, as well as swelling, redness, and other symptoms. Dry eye syndrome is a condition in which the eyes don't produce enough tears, causing dryness and discharge. Some systemic diseases, such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia virus (FeLV), can cause eye problems, including discharge.

Should I remove the gunk from my cat's eyes?

Yes, you can remove the gunk from your cat's eyes, but do so gently and carefully to avoid causing any further irritation or injury. Dr. Daniel Lioy-Ryan, an Animal Behaviorist, says that allergies or seasonal changes can cause eye booger or gunk in your cat’s eye in the morning when it wakes up. You should remove this gunk, or it can cause eye infections or other ocular issues. Wet a soft cloth, cotton ball, or tea bag with warm water. Gently wipe away the discharge from the corners of the eye, being careful not to touch the eye itself. Repeat as needed until the discharge has been removed. Make sure to use a clean cloth or tissue for each eye to avoid spreading any potential infections from one eye to the other. If the discharge is excessive or accompanied by other symptoms, such as swelling or redness, it's best to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, an underlying medical condition may be causing the discharge, and treating that condition will be necessary to resolve the issue.

Will conjunctivitis in cats go away by itself?

According to Thomas Kern, DVM, associate professor of ophthalmology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, conjunctivitis in cats can go away by itself without medical intervention. However, he adds that pink eye usually causes discharge, so cat parents should consult a vet to rule out other ocular diseases. Veterinarians usually prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointments that are administered 3-4 times a day. The treatment usually goes on for 2-3 weeks till the discharge and other clinical symptoms disappear. If the doctor suspects herpesvirus, a topical antiviral drug will be used with the antibiotic treatment. That might not cure the infection completely, but the treatment will remove the infection from the eye surface and heal the eye. The severity and cause of conjunctivitis can vary, and prompt treatment is important to prevent the spread of infection and protect your cat's vision. If left untreated, conjunctivitis can lead to more serious problems, such as corneal ulcers or permanent vision loss. Therefore, have your cat examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect it may have conjunctivitis. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough examination and may take a sample of the discharge for testing to determine the cause of conjunctivitis. Based on the cause, your veterinarian will recommend the appropriate treatment, including topical or oral medications or other therapies. In some cases, a secondary infection may develop due to conjunctivitis, so monitor your cat's symptoms and report any changes to your veterinarian. With prompt and appropriate treatment, most cases of conjunctivitis in cats can be effectively managed.

Was this article helpful?

You May Also Like

Image for 5 Types of Cat Viruses
5 Types of Cat Viruses

Spotting the Symptoms and Getting Treatment

Read More
Image for Treating a Low White Blood Cell Count in Cats
Treating a Low White Blood Cell Count in Cats

Identifying and Treating This Condition

Read More