Why Do Cats Rub Their Eyes – Infections, Irritation, & More


You might notice that your usually healthy cat is pawing and rubbing its eye. You keep an eye on your cat, but you see that your cat’s eye is becoming red and watery. It keeps up for a few days too! What happened to your cat, and did you miss any of the warning signs of the impending eye infection? So, why do cats rub their eyes? 

Most cats paw their eyes suddenly because it is suffering from an eye infection, which is otherwise known as cat conjunctivitis. Irritated eyes, redness, and discharge can cause cats to paw their eye. 

Eye infections in cats aren’t uncommon, but they can become severe if left untreated. Your cat won’t go blind or die from an eye infection, but it will be an uncomfortable experience for them. So, let’s talk a little bit more about eye infections in cats and what you and your vet can do to help clean your cat’s eye infection. 

How Do You Know If Your Cat Has An Eye Infection

If your cat has an eye infection, you will be able to see it because the eye will be red and swollen and may water.

Much like an eye infection in a human, you’ll notice some of the same warning signs of an eye infection in a cat. The infected eye will be red and swollen. The eye might also water and have discharge that gathers in the corner of your cat’s eye. 

When my cats have an eye infection, the redness is the first warning sign for me. I’ve noticed the eye is light pink, then becomes redder and redder. 

How Long Do Cat Eye Infections Last

Cat eye infections can last anywhere from a few days to consistent flare-ups.

How long the eye infection lasts depends on how severe the eye infection is. In most cases, your cat’s eye infection will last a few days or a week or two.

Two of my cats have recurring flare-ups with their eye infections, though. They will go for a few weeks with clear eyes; then, a flare-up will cause them to become red and swollen for a week or two. 

If you treat a cat’s eye infection quickly, it will clear up faster. 

How Do I Treat My Cat’s Irritated Eyes

Your cat’s eye infection is best treated with eye drops that can be prescribed by your vet.

In all cases that my cats had eye infections, a quick trip to the vet got you eyedrops. These eye drops can have an antibiotic in them if the eye infection is viral. If the vet believes an irritant like dust or mold causes the eye infection, you’ll get a different kind of eye drop that doesn’t have antibiotics in it. 

Regardless of the type of eyedrop, you’ll have to give your cat the drops a few times a day for a few days or weeks. 

Can A Cat’s Eye Infection Go Away On Its Own

It is possible that a cat’s eye infection can go away on its own, but it is not recommended to leave your cat’s eye infection untreated.

If dust or mold led to your cat’s eye infection, your cat’s eye infection might clear up with time.

Even an eye infection caused by a viral infection may clear up, though you will notice that your cat is stuffy and potentially in pain. 

If you notice that your cat is suffering from an eye infection, it is best to do what you can to help your cat clear its infection. 

What Antibiotic Is Used For Cat Eye Infections

If your cat is prescribed an antibiotic by your vet, the antibiotic will come in a few different forms depending on the type of infection. 

The most common type of antibiotic for your cat’s eye infection will come in the form of eye drops.

If your vet thinks the infection is respiratory, you may also be prescribed an antibiotic in the form of a pill or liquid.

If your cat, like mine, hates getting eyedrops, you may also be able to get an antibiotic eye ointment that you can rub onto your cat’s eye. 

Can I Use Neosporin On My Cat’s Eye Infection

You should not use Neosporin on your cat’s eye infection.

Although Neosporin is an excellent treatment for humans, it is not so great for cats. It might seem like a great alternative to a potentially expensive vet visit for a simple eye infection, but it is not a good idea.

Ingredients in Neosporin can be deadly to cats, so it is best to avoid the risk of using it for your cat’s eye infection.

I know none of us want to spend a ton of money at the vet, but it is the safest option for your cat in treating its eye infection. 

Can An Eye Infection Kill A Cat

Although eye infections can become severe in cats, you probably don’t need to worry about an eye infection killing your cat.

Even a severe eye infection won’t kill your cat. Rarely, an eye infection will even cause your cat to go blind so that you can breathe a sigh of relief there. 

Although an eye infection won’t end in anything serious for most cats, eye infections in cats are still extremely uncomfortable. Even if your cat may not die from an eye infection, it is still good to make sure you get it treated. 

Should I Take My Cat To The Vet For A Watery Eye

If you notice your cat has new watery eyes, a trip to the vet may be in order.

Multiple factors may cause watery eyes. If your cat does not have watery eyes for a long time, he may have just poked or got something in its eye. Its eye watered to flush out what irritated it.

However, if you notice that your cat’s eye is continually watering, you should make an appointment with the vet. It may be the beginning of an eye infection or a blocked tear duct. Your vet can treat both cases. 

Can I Clean My Cat’s Eye With Salt Water

You should not regularly clean your cat’s eye, but if there is an eye infection, a saline solution of salt and water may help flush out your cat’s eye.

A salt water solution may be a good option for flushing something out of your cat’s eye. If you make this treatment at home, make sure there is no salt left in the solution because it can scratch or irritate the eye. 

Cat Eye Infection Home Remedy With Apple Cider Vinegar

Some people think using apple cider vinegar as a home remedy is a good solution for a cat eye infection. While it is possible to use apple cider vinegar, there are risks to using it. 

Apple cider vinegar diluted with water acts the same as a salt water solution used for flushing out your cat’s eye. I would advise against using this method, though.

Apple cider vinegar can cause chemical burns on your cat’s eye and cornea. More severe risks include causing cataracts or glaucoma in your cat’s eyes. 

Home remedies might seem like the cheaper, easier solution than visiting the vet, but there can also be terrible side effects. I know the vet trip can be expensive, but it is better to be safe than sorry. 

Seeing your cat with an eye infection can be scary, especially if it’s your first time seeing your cat with an eye infection. There are easy remedies for an eye infection, though, and they can all be done in consultation with your vet. As worrisome (and gross!) as cat eye infections can be, the solutions are pretty simple and can get your cat back to its old self in no time.

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