cats and kittens with eye and vision problems

Eye and Vision Problems in Cats & Kittens

Cats and Kittens can suffer from a variety of ailments affecting their eyes. These range from watery eyes, the inability to focus, uneven pupils and Horner's Syndrome. Persians are often succeptible to specific eye problems.

Cat with Watery Eyes

Dear Simba,
We recently adopted a 14-week-old kitten, Aggie, from the Humane Society.
She has been treated for ear mites, fleas and a watery eye problem that was accompanied by swollen cheeks right below the eyes. The vet told us her eye-gook was not a cold, that it was more like pink eye. I have recently noticed that the place she urinates from has some cloudy mucous discharge, just like what might come out of her nose. What could it be? Thanks! Kristin, Aggie
P.S. Aggie has shown no other signs of urinary tract problems, she eats, plays, sleeps, grows and cuddles lustily. K&A

Dear Kristin & Aggie,
Looks like Aggie is in good hands! Given what you've described there is a good chance her 'pinkeye' is actually conjunctivitis, which often results from chlamydia (Click at the link for the Chlamydia section).

One thing to consider if Aggie has nasal or eye discharge is that the mucus discharge may originate in her nose and simply drips down when she covers her stools.

As for Urinary Tract problems, these are present when a cat or kitten has to strain to urinate, makes frequent attempts to urinate, and produces little, if any, urine. To the extent that Aggie does not display these symptoms she may be in the clear of Urinary Tract Disease. At the same time, I would be concerned if the mucus comes not from urine but from feces. If the latter is true, there may be inflammatory bowel disease present. Monitor the bowel disease by watching out for tarry stools and other digestive problems and if you observe any of these symptoms or the urinary tract disease's symptoms, take Aggie to the vet. Simba

Hello, Our cat is 6-month-old and he has 'watery' eyes and a crusty nose that is always dry and warm. He also has trouble breathing, like he has to try twice as hard to get a full breath. One more thing, he snores is this normal? He does not seem to be to affected by this (he is very frisky) we would just like to know if this is cause for alarm? Chandra & David

Dear Chandra & David,
It is important that you take your little guy to the vet since he may be suffering from a variety of ailments, though most likely this is the cat flu (do not worry the flu though serious is not usually life threatening!). However, given what you have described bronchitis, asthma and/or other conditions cannot be ruled out. As for the snoring, in it of itself it is no problem. Let me know how things go. Simba

Eye Problems in Persians

I acquired 2 Persian kittens recently, they are 20-weeks-old. Is it normal for their eyes to be weeping? The discharge from the eyes is a kind of brown color, their eyes seem to water a lot also. We need to wipe their eyes 3 to 4 times a day. Could this be related to teething? Is this normal with the breed? Apart from this, they are very healthy and do not exhibit symptoms of the Cat Flu or anything else. Steven S

Dear Steven S,
Because of their flat faces and the shape of their heads Persians often experience eye drainage and sometimes develop respiratory problems. The drainage you describe (especially after having ruled out Chlamydia) is an annoyance and not usually indicative of health problems. As the kittens grow they may learn to better clean themselves, but in the meantime they will need your help in keeping their eyes clean. Keep me posted. Simba

Cat's Eye Focus Problems

Dear Simba,
I adopted a toothless kitten 2 weeks ago (his teeth are now appearing). He has no problem feeding from the bottle and he is sleeping well (and he is very "regular"). I think he is adapted well to his new home, but I wonder about his eyes.

His eyes seem to be pointed slightly outwards, although they seem to be getting better (focused straight ahead). Is this typical? I have noticed that he seems to take an interest in various items on the floor and he often play fights with them. But he does not seem to focus on items that would normally attract a kitten (such as a "twitching" blade of grass or a ball on a string). Will he develop a focus as he grows older? Novice

Dear Novice,
I am glad that your new friend is adapting well. Your kitten's eye focus resembles Strabismus, which describes the abnormal positioning of the eyes. The abnormal positioning can affect one or both eyes and can occur in such a way that the kitten's eyes focus away from, or towards the nose. This can be caused by genetics, injury or by vestibular system problems.

  • Genetics
    When caused by genetics it is usually more of a cosmetic problem. What happens is that one of the muscles in your kitten's eyes is longer/shorter or weaker/stronger than the other. This causes the eyeball to focus in odd directions. It is possible that as your kitten grows the offending eye muscle may strengthen and will in the process alleviate the condition.
  • Injury
    For obvious reasons, this affects older and outside cats more than it does recently born kittens. Strabismus occurs when the nerves affecting the eye muscles are injured, which can then cause problems in the focus and movement of the eyes. Again, the cat may heal on his own.
  • Vestibular System Problems
    The vestibular system refers to the parts of the inner ear, nerves and brain that help maintain balance. A problem here can cause nausea, walking and coordination problems along with poor vision. Possible causes include tumors, aneurysms among others.

So what to do? If the problem is hereditary or due to injury, anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful. That is unless the kitten is getting better on its own. Best thing to do is monitor the overall condition of the kitten, which includes his ambulatory development, energy level as well as his interest in items that normally attract kittens (as you rightly mentioned). If your observation leads you to suspect neurological problems, a vet visit is in order. Keep me posted. Simba

Cat's Second Eye Lid

Dear Simba,
Two of the stray cats I have been feeding have recently developed a prominent second eyelid covering both their eyes, they are losing weight, and it appears they have had intestinal problems. What does it mean when a cat has this second eyelid covering a portion of their eyes? Dyan

Dear Dyan,
It appears that you are describing the 3rd eyelid, which is a protective lid that has tear ducts and produces the film needed to keep the eyes moist.

It is common for some cats to have this lid visible and cover 1/3 to 1/2 of the eye, with the eye appearing to be sunken into the socket. This condition is called Horner's Syndrome and it occurs due to an injury to nerves serving the eye. This syndrome also occurs in cats that have feline leukemia and many other illnesses. It is important that these cats receive medical care. Your local shelter may provide some health services to stray cats. In the meantime, keep them well fed and hydrated. Keep me posted. Simba

I took one to the vet. They tested his blood and it came out negative for Leukemia. The doctor thought he and the other cat might have serious parasite infestation (the eyelid covering is apparently an indication of that) and so I was sent home with some strong doses to be repeated in 10 days. If that does not do the trick, I was told that kidney or liver failure is a possibility. Time will tell and I am keeping an eye on both these guys. Thanks for your help and keep up the good work! Dyan ---- Thanks for the update. I hope they get well. Simba

Horner's Syndrome

Dear Simba,
I picked up a stray cat in July. In August she had 5 adorable kittens. They all seem to be fine but for one. The last born took nearly a week to open his eyes up and when he did they came out to be sunken and smaller than those of his 5 siblings. His depth perception is not good and he tends to run / jump into things. Interestingly enough, his hearing is really good and he is always twitching his ears as if he hears more things.

I thought the small eyes might mean he has Horner’s Syndrome but it has not yet gone away. I asked my vet about this and he does not think much of it, just that he has “small eyes”. Should I get a second opinion? I am very attached to him and would feel horrible if something happens to him. Thank you, Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom,
So sorry to hear of the kitten's eye problems. A second opinion might help relieve your worries and perhaps provide some treatment options. You may even have to go to a veterinary ophthalmologist or neurologist to get a definite diagnosis. However, in pursing this route you may soon find yourself spending a lot of money without finding anything to treat. It is your decision to make and you must remember that you have other animals to take care of also. Below is a quick write up of Horner's Syndrome:
Horner's Syndrome:
Caused by sympathetic nerve damage to the eye. Symptoms include sunken in eye (enophthalmia) with a small pupil (miosis), a droopy upper eyelid (ptosis) and a very prominent third eyelid. Horner's is some times related to anything from tumors and neck / spinal cord injuries that put pressure on the nerve, to middle ear infections or immune system problems among other causes. Horner's Syndrome will sometimes come and go without an identifiable cause, though it can also persist.

The important thing is that all things considered he appears to be doing ok. Keep me posted. Your Pal, Simba

Uneven Pupils

Hi Simba
my cat is shy so I am writing. My cat's left eye does not go the same size as her other eye when the light and dark thing happens (what i mean is when it is dark the right pupil gets small and when it is light her right pupil gets bigger). We are absolutely desperate and we cannot afford a vet check this month and i feel like a horrible owner that i cannot get her to the vet because money is tight this time of year. please tell me what to do and if possible what is wrong with her? Love life and laughter "CLO"

You are not a horrible owner, you care for your kitties and that makes you a good person.

There are a couple of causes for what you have described. One is Uveitis, an inflammation of the eye. It can cause the pupil in the affected eye to be smaller. Medical treatment of Uveitis must be aggressive to prevent glaucoma, the scarring of the structures inside the eye and possible blindness. Another cause is Horner's Syndrome. This is a neurological disorder that makes the pupil of the affected eye smaller. Feline leukemia can also cause a difference in size of the pupils. Watch out also for Toxoplasmosis. This parasitic protozoa can affect the eyes and the central nervous system and can produce inflammation of the retina, abnormal pupil size (and even blindness, poor coordination, personality changes, circling, head pressing, ear twitching, seizures, difficulty in chewing and swallowing food, seizures, and loss of control over urination and defecation functions, etc..).

Your best bet is to go to a vet and have your kitty checked out, even if the money is tight. Hopefully, kitty has had all of her shots, however, you need to make sure she is tested for Feline leukemia. Keep me posted. Simba

Kitten's Eyes, Once Open, Now Closed

Dear Simba,
I have 4, 16-day-old kittens, and their mother, but one of my kittens never opened it is left eye. And just this evening, I noticed that another kitten, whose eyes were open before, had one of its eyes closed. I was thinking it might be an infection, should I apply boric acid? ~Concerned

Dear Concerned,
I would recommend against your applying any boric acid to the kittens, as you could risk blindness. If you would like to clean their eyes, consider using a cotton ball, moistened with saline. With it, cleanse the outside of the eyelid very gently. Do not penetrate the eye or go behind the eye lid.

What you describe could be an infection, although only a vet can make the call. A visit may be worthwhile. Simba

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