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What is Red Eye?

If you notice redness of the feline’s orbit, she might have experienced trauma to the eye, an allergy or irritant, a viral infection such as distemper, a bacterial infection, glaucoma, cherry eye or cancer. Red eye in cats could be a serious medical problem that could worsen over time, causing blindness and further destruction of the orbital structure.

Red eye in cats is a symptom of an underlying disease, ocular irritation, or injury to a feline’s eyes. A red coloration of one or both eyes is an indication that a feline is suffering from an unknown health condition that should be addressed by a licensed veterinary professional.

Symptoms of Red Eye in Cats

The rather obvious symptom of red eye in cats is, in fact, a red coloration of the eye. Depending on the source of the red eye condition, your feline may or may not experience the following additional associated symptoms: 

  • The whites of the eyes become reddened 
  • Swollen eyes
  • Swollen eyelids 
  • Eye discharge (clear, white, yellow or green in coloration) 
  • Tearing of the eyes
  • A protruded third eyelid (cherry eye)
  • Rubbing the eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Inability to open the eye
  • Loss of sight 
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes 
  • Coughing 
  • Painful eyes

Causes of Red Eye in Cats

A feline’s eyes can become red for a number of reasons. Trauma, allergies, obstructions, structural changes of the eye, disease, viral infections, bacterial infections, and irritants can all cause the eye of a cat to become red. The most common causes of red eye in cat include: 


  • Scratches
  • Bites
  • Pokes
  • Allergens
  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Bee stings


  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfumes
  • Air fresheners 


  • Seedling
  • Grass seeds
  • Dirt 

Structural Changes

  • Entropion (eyelid protrudes inward) 
  • Ectropion (eyelid protrudes outward)
  • Distichiasis (abnormal eyelash growth)


  • Cancer 
  • Autoimmune disease

Bacterial Infection

  • Chlamydia
  • Mycoplasma

Viral Infections

  • Feline herpesvirus type 1
  • Calicivirus
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) 
  • Feline leukemia (FeLV)

Diagnosis of Red Eye in Cats

It is highly important for pet owners to relay all the clinical signs and symptoms they noted at home as they bring the cat experiencing red eye to see the veterinarian. Since red eye in cats can be caused by a long list of potential causes, any information you can give the veterinarian to help create a diagnostic differential would be helpful. The doctor will begin by reviewing the cat’s medical record, playing close attention to past illnesses, medications, and vaccinations. He or she may ask to know about your cat’s living environment, including any possible allergens, irritants, or potential trauma tools in the feline’s surroundings. 

An Ophthalmic Exam

A physical exam of the eye will be the next step in the veterinarian’s diagnostic plan, as the examination will evaluate the eye and all the ocular structures. The animal doctor will likely use a tool called an ophthalmoscope, which is a light reflecting tool that will allow the vet to see the interior structures of the eye. 

Fluorescent Stain Test

An ophthalmic examination tool that uses blue light and orange-colored dye may be used to detect abnormalities within the eye. 

Schirmer Tear Test

An ophthalmic tests uses tear strips that are placed in the lower eyelid to evaluate a feline’s tear production levels. 


An ophthalmic test used to evaluate intraocular pressure of the eye. 

Lab Tests

The veterinarian may also collection a swab of cells or discharge from the eye for microscopic examination. The collected cells could reveal structural abnormalities or an infection from a bacteria. Blood work, a urinalysis and specialized testing for FeLV, or FIV will likely be a part of your cat’s differential diagnostic procedure. 

Treatment of Red Eye in Cats

The treatment of red eye in cats depends on the condition that is causing your cat’s eye to turn a reddish color. If allergies or irritants are to blame for your cat’s red eye, the doctor may advise a few simple changes at home and prescribe an antihistamine. However, if the cause of your cat’s red eye is caused by a structural abnormality, foreign obstruction, trauma or growth, a surgical procedure may need to be completed to restore your feline’s eyes to their original state. Chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy could also be a part of your cat’s treatment plan if cancer is the source of your cat’s red eyes. 

Recovery of Red Eye in Cats

The prognosis for red eye in cats depends on the dominant cause of the ocular reddening in your cat. Your cat may need to wear an Elizabethan collar at home to prevent scratching the eyes and causing additional damage. The veterinarian may also ask that an air humidifier be placed in the home to remove irritants that may be affecting the feline.

Red Eye Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

2 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Redness in eyes

Cat previously was taken to a vet office and was diagnosed with having an upper respitary infection. The cat was given augment injections orally. Cat was doing better and was finally starting to eat/drink again. My cat has been doing better but now is starting to get Redding again in its eyes. It’s trying to close its eyes and looks irritated. There is some gunk coming from the inside of the corners of the eyes. Is there anything else suggested? I noticed the cat is still in a good mood and eating/drinking.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2466 Recommendations
You should flush the eyes out with sterile saline and apply an ophthalmic antibiotic ointment to the the eyes, if Ghost is still receiving treatment guided under your Veterinarian you should return to your Veterinarian for an examination. If there is no improvement with the flushing and antibiotic ointment you should return to your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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10 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


I let my sister watch my cats for a few hours and while there one of them ended up injured. My female kitten now has a completely red eye and some light sensitivity. I was wondering what I should watch for and do?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2466 Recommendations
Cats may get a red eye from some irritation, infection or trauma; a slight abrasion may cause a reddening of the eyes and the eye should be rinsed out with sterile saline and monitored. If the eye swells or produces a discharge you should visit a Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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10 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Cherry eye

My cat has had what looks like pink eye for 3 days. Started of pink and squint and watering alot, now not as much discharge but has "cherry eye" and squinting. Doesn't seem to bug him though. What is it?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1044 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Common reasons for red eyes in cats include viral diseases, bacterial infections, allergies, and trauma. Since I can't examine Titan, it would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can look at his eye and determine if any treatment might be needed.

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3 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Red eyes, scratching, pain in eyes

My cat got red and watery eyes 3 days ago it got better in these days but they're still red and the eye waste is almost white or yellow in colour. He sneezes a lot too I think he has caught cold but what should I do?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1044 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Cats are commonly affected by upper respiratory infections and irritations, especially as kittens. Without treatment, these infections can become quite severe. It would be best to see a veterinarian, have Grey examined, and get any medications that might be appropriate to help clear up the discharge and sneezing.

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Domestic longhair
2 1/2 - 3 Years
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Red Eye

The other day I noticed my cat had a reddish eye on his right side. And my first thought was the hamster scratched him but my cat was totally fine touching him he was fine the whole day, it was like he didn’t know he had a red eye. But couple of days the right eye looked like it was back to normal but with a red line. So I thought he must of damaged his blood vessel. So his eye is completely red. But he’s seems to be fine. I plan to take him in to get a check up soon. But at the moment I can’t take him in.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2466 Recommendations
If Vincent’s eye isn’t bothering him, you can just try to flush the eye with some sterile saline solution to remove any debris and then apply a topical ophthalmic ointment (Vetericyn) to see if there is any improvement. Once you are able to visit your Veterinarian you should take him in then. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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