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What Your Cat’s Eyes Say About Their Health

Before we domesticated our favorite feline friends, they learned to hide their pain, discomfort, and weakness to avoid falling prey to other predators. Domestic cats still exhibit this behavior, making it incredibly difficult to assess their well-being and help them before their afflictions worsen or cause permanent damage. 
At Wapiti Labs, it’s our mission to provide pet owners across the nation with all of the tools and information they need to protect and maintain the strength and happiness of their animals. Today, we’re going to teach you how to assess your cat’s current state of health by looking into their eyes.

How Do You Prepare for Your Cat’s Eye Exam?

If you suspect your cat might be experiencing discomfort or symptoms of illness in her eyes, you can do a preliminary examination at home. First and foremost, you need to find a suitable location for your cat’s eye exam. Find a room with bright lighting where your cat is relatively comfortable—your bathroom should work perfectly fine. Depending on how receptive your cat is to being picked up and carried, you may need to tempt her into the room with a toy or a few treats. You might want to wrap a younger cat in a warm blanket before you begin to keep her calm, warm, and relatively still.
Also, bear in mind that your cat might not enjoy the process of being held or having her eyes touched. Cats that are trapped in small spaces will often bite or scratch if they become distressed or feel threatened. If you have an older cat, or you don’t want to cause excessive stress to your cat, you can give your feline an escape route by leaving the door open. 

How Can You Check Your Cat’s Eyes?

Take a look at how an experienced veterinarian gives a cat an eye examination. You’ll want to follow the same steps that Dr. Zimmerman goes through when checking your cat over. If your cat is unwilling to let you touch his face and the area around his eyes for extended periods, then call your veterinarian to arrange an eye exam if you feel like something is wrong.
Healthy feline eyes are clear and bright. Your cat’s pupils should also be equal in size and shape, and the area around his or her eyeballs should be pure white. Cats with pupils that are not the same size are suffering from anisocoria, which is a symptom and not a disease. If anisocoria occurs suddenly, it should be considered an urgent situation, and you should call your vet right away. Gently roll your cat’s eyelid down with your thumb to check the lining of the lid. It should be a healthy shade of pink, not white or red.
After that, turn down the lights to examine the size of his pupils. Pupil dilation is perfectly normal in bright environments, but it shouldn’t be occurring all the time. What does a cat’s pupil size mean? Let’s take a look.

What Do Wide Eyes in Cats Mean?

Cats will obviously have wide, dilated pupils in bright light, but other situations, such as excitement or anxiety, can also result in temporarily wide, round pupils. If your cat is anxious about storms or loud noises, you may notice large pupils when those events occur, along with other signs of anxiety, such as jumpiness and a stiff tail. 

What Do Narrow Pupils in Cats Mean?

When your cat’s eyes narrow into a slit, it can indicate several things. A cat will narrow its pupils when prowling or “hunting” a favorite toy or your tapping toe on the couch—so watch out! 
Cats will also have narrowed pupils when showing aggression. Other displays of anger, such as squinting to protect eyes, hissing, or an arched back will usually follow. On the flip side, your cat may also have narrow pupils when relaxed or happy. If your happy cat is playing with a catnip toy or sprawled out on your lap purring, you should be able to read the signs.

What Do Unhealthy Cat Eyes Look Like?

Eyes that appear sunken in could indicate that your cat is suffering from dehydration, and eyes that appear severely pushed out could mean that there’s a mass of tissue or a tumor behind your cat’s eye that is straining against it. Furthermore, a sudden change in the color of your cat’s iris could signify a medical abnormality (such as an eye infection or uveitis). 
Last but not least, if your cat is continually pawing at her eyes, blinking much more often than usual, or has a significant amount of eye discharge, then she may be suffering from an eye infection or conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye). 

What Does Eye Discharge Mean?

Many cats will experience a small amount of discharge from the eye, often first thing in the morning. It should be clear and not appear discolored or pus-like. Some breeds with flatter faces and wide eyes, such as Himalayans and Persians, are prone to a little more regular discharge from the eyes. 
The important thing to remember is that sudden changes in your cat’s amount of eye discharge may indicate an issue. You might wonder why your cat suddenly has a lot of eye boogers out of nowhere, for example. Certain types of eye discharge and any significant changes are cause for a consultation with your vet. If your cat is experiencing anything other than watery or clear eye discharge, or if you’ve noticed a sudden increase, it’s time to contact your vet. 
Remember, you don’t need to have a perfect understanding of which medical problems these abnormal eye conditions might signify! Your goal is to identify causes for concern and report them to your veterinarian. Once you’ve filled your vet in on your observations, he or she will let you know whether your cat needs to come in for a proper diagnosis and treatment or not. 

At-Home Remedies

First things first: never use human eye drops on your cat! You may be tempted to try some home remedies you’ve heard about, but it’s in your furry friend’s best interest to have the vet make a diagnosis and recommend an appropriate treatment instead. 
Some internet articles recommend using apple cider vinegar or colloidal silver to flush the eyes, but both can actually cause harm or even chemically burn your cat’s eyes and should never be used at home. There are cat-friendly eye drops you can purchase to help relieve your cat’s symptoms, but nothing else should be used—and you should wait for your vet to recommend or prescribe a specific brand of drop.
If you think something may be wrong with your cat’s eyes, always head to the vet instead of trying to fix the issue on your own. A trained veterinarian will be able to evaluate the health of your kitty’s eyes and determine whether the problem may stem from an underlying health issue.

How to Flush Your Cat’s Eyes at Home

You may be wondering how you can flush a cat’s eyes at home to provide comfort or to get a better look at your cat’s condition if you suspect something is wrong. First, wash your hands. Hold your cat gently (consider wrapping him or her in a warm blanket). Next, soak a clean cloth in distilled or sterile warm water. Wring out any excess water, then hold the cloth against the cat’s eyes, being careful not to press down. Wipe from the tear duct to the outer eye to clear away excess discharge. Depending on the root cause of the issue, your vet may give you more specific instructions or recommend a flushing routine coupled with other treatments.

When to See the Vet for Your Cat’s Eye Issues

You know your cat best, and we know you want to keep him or her healthy and happy. That’s why it’s essential to keep track of your feline’s normal behaviors and err on the side of caution when something seems off. It’s not uncommon for cats to get eye infections—both viral and bacterial—but you should still see the vet once you suspect one.
The following are just a few symptoms of eye infection in a cat:

  • An excessive amount of discharge
  • Frequent rubbing or blinking of the eyes
  • Inflamed eyelids or red eyes

Younger cats are susceptible to more frequent eye infections due to their less developed immune systems. Cats who interact with other animals, particularly outdoor pets, are also likely to develop occasional eye infections. A viral eye infection may resolve itself without medication, but it can be difficult or impossible for the average person to tell the difference. It’s always a safer bet to let your vet rule out anything serious and treat an eye infection in your cat.

Support Your Cat’s Health With Wapiti Labs Supplements

Keeping your cat healthy is the best way to ensure she lives a long, happy life. Pet supplements are an excellent way to support your cat’s immune system and overall health, particularly as they transition into the later years of life. Wapiti Labs offers a wide range of natural pet supplements, including a special herbal formula that’s specifically designed to support eye function, along with joint flexibility, liver health, and more. Be sure to visit our online store to see our full selection of cat products.
Have any questions about us or want more advice on how to keep your feline happy and healthy? Then call or message us today. We’re happy to point you in the right direction.

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