When it comes to cat health, eyes have long been of particular interest to me. Cats can develop cat eye problems not just from a direct problem with their eyes such as cat glaucoma or cat herpes, but also secondary to systemic cat diseases such as feline immunodeficiency virus or cat leukemia. I'm sure many of you have experienced a lasting interest in a condition when a cat you love has had a problem with it. That's what happened to me.
Many years ago, a kitten very dear to my heart experienced some scary kitten health problems. During that time, I learned a lot about cat symptoms of eye disease and have continued to have a great interest in the subject ever since.
It's obvious why the health of your cat's eyes is important. All you have to do is compare your cat's needs to your own and you'll understand why early attention to even minor changes in the health of your cat's eyes is necessary. You know how important vision is to you. Likewise, your cat needs his vision.
While it is true that blind cats can learn to get around very well and live comfortable lives, I'm sure you would prefer to avoid blindness developing if at all possible. In many, many cases of blindness in cats that I have seen, it was possible to avoid loss of vision if only the cat had received veterinary attention earlier.
Other than just the fact of retaining vision, another reason to be alert to changes in your cat's eyes is because problems in the eyes can reflect cat illnesses elsewhere in the body. In other words, certain eye conditions in cats are a clue that a more general problem with your cat's health exists and needs to be addressed. For example, feline conjunctivitis may be a condition of the eyes only, but when accompanied by another disorder called anterior uveitis, it can indicate a more generalized illness such as feline leukemia or feline infectious peritonitis.
Assessing the Health of Your Cat's Eyes
It is not difficult to learn what good cat health, eyes included, looks like. Take a close look at the following image.
In the photo above, you see perfectly normal cat eyes. Completely healthy, in every respect. And you know what? It doesn't take a veterinary degree to know that. It's simple to determine that your cat's eyes look healthy and something that you can do every single time you look at your cat.
What do I see in the photo?
(1) Wide, open eyes that appear similar in size
(2) No obvious redness anywhere
(3) the colored part of the eye, the iris, which is green in this photo, is uniform in color, doesn't have any discoloration, any brown splotches, and is clear and easy to see
(4) the black center, the pupil, is the same size in both eyes and is not so large that it fills the entire eye and doesn't allow you to see the color. (It can be normal to have large dilated pupils, but only in very low light or when taking certain medications, or if extremely fearful).
(5) the outermost surface of the eye, the cornea, is clear - so clear, you're looking right through it like a freshly cleaned window, and you can see all the structures mentioned above without anything getting in the way. A healthy cornea is one you don't really notice - it's not cloudy, it doesn't have blood vessels running across it - it's truly just a very clear window you're looking through to see the iris and pupil.
(6) The third eyelids are not visible in the inner corners of the eyes. If they were, you would see a whitish membrane covering part of the eye that comes up from those inner lower corners toward the nose.
(7)You don't see any discharge, any fluid, coming from either eye.
Again, the cat eyes seen above are very healthy and normal.
Concerns about Cat Health: Eye Signs and Symptoms
So what's different about the eyes to the left?
If you said, he's squinting, the eyes are not big and round, you would be correct. Is it a problem? If he's just sleepy or just had a bright light pointed in his direction, then probably not. If the eyes remain that way more than a minute or so, then possibly yes.
And what's wrong with this eye to the right? Is it healthy or there an abnormality?
If you said it is abnormal, you are correct. The third eyelid is protruding. That is the white membrane you see coming from the inner lower corner of the eye near the nose and extending over close to half of the eye.
This one to the right is a little obvious. This kitten has everything wrong with his eye. He is far from having healthy cat eyes. He is squinting, there is tremendous discharge and crustiness around the eyes, the third eyelid is up, there's a cloudiness to the cornea ....this kitten should have been to the veterinarian long ago before the eyes had a chance to progress to this stage. This kitten could easily lose his eyesight.
And let's see what you say about the eyes of the cat to the right. What do you see?
I just threw that one in to see if you were paying attention. Yes, the eyes are perfectly normal. Very healthy. So take a look again at those eyes. Big, round, clear, equal in size, equally sized pupils (black centers), no redness or discharge, no third eyelid protruding, colorful irises, uniformly colored.....all normal and healthy.
Take a minute to scroll back up to the first image I showed you. See how the black pupils of that cat are differently sized, larger, than the last picture just above? They are both normal. The top image was probably taken in slightly darker conditions. The one just above was in bright light so the pupils are smaller. The key point is that in both pictures, the cat's pupils match each other in size.
Keeping your cat's eyes healthy is a responsibility that begins with YOU. Your veterinarian can run the right tests, diagnose the correct disease, and prescribe the appropriate treatment ....but only if your cat is in his office. YOU have to make the first assessment by determining that something isn't quite right. And I hope I've helped you see now that it really isn't difficult. Normal looks very normal. Anything else deserves a call to the vet.
Again, there are so many different feline diseases that affect the health of cat's eyes. Some are secondary to another problem elsewhere in the cat's body while others involve a problem just in your cat's eyes. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that anytime you think your cat's eyes aren't normal, go straight to your veterinarian. Time is of the essence when it comes to your cat's eyes.
If you want to read more about the actual diseases that can affect your cat's eyes, you'll want to go to Cat Eye Infection and Other Problems.
My page about FELINE EYE PROBLEMS will take you to another page on cat eye problems that you may want to read.