HEALTH & CARE

How to Clean Cats Eyes: Different Methods for Different Causes

how to clean cat's eyes
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

The color, intensity, and sheer beauty of feline eyes have captivated countless people. But it is a different story when you notice discharge coming from their eyes. This can lead you to ask a question: how to clean cats eyes?

Cat eye discharge ruins the cat’s good looks. Apart from being watery and crusty, eye discharge can be indicative of cat eye problems. This needs to be nipped in the bud. We will help you understand how to clean your pet’s eyes. It’s not as simple as it sounds. The cleaning method depends on the underlying condition.

In this article, we will look at the possible reasons behind cat eye discharge: eye booger, flu, dry eye syndrome, and blocked tear ducts. At the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of cat eye discharge—its causes, symptoms and more importantly, knowledge on how to safely and effectively get rid of it.

Why It’s Important to Clean Cat Eye Discharge

cat's eye boogers

Cat eyes should be bright and clear of any ocular discharge. It’s one sign of a healthy feline.

In most cats, a small amount of discharge in their eyes is normal. Called eye booger, this discharge is most noticeable when a cat has woken up. It is a bit crusty or soft.

But there are instances when a cat noticeably has too much discharge in his eyes. It could be clear and watery. It may also be thick and purulent. Should you be worried when you notice your pet having eye discharge?

Well, it depends. Keep in mind that eye discharge is not a condition or ailment in cats. It is a symptom of an underlying health problem. The amount and appearance of the discharge may be indicative of the seriousness or the gravity of the underlying disease.

How to Clean Cat Eye Booger

Now you may be wondering—how do I clean my cat’s eye booger?

Just like us humans, cats can develop eye boogers. It can be due to allergies or changes in the season. The boogers are found in the corner of their eyes and may appear dry, a bit brown, and crusty.

Cleaning cat eye booger is relatively easy. Here’s how to do it:

Method #1: Warm Washcloth

cleaning cat's eyes with a cloth

Things you will need:

  • A soft washcloth

  • A small bowl filled with boiled water

Step by step guide:

  • Have your cat sit on your lap. You may also ask someone to help you out.

  • Wet a part of the washcloth with the water.

  • Wipe any grime or dirt from your pet’s eyes. It is recommended that you start from the inside corner of his eyes.

Method #2: Cotton Balls

cotton balls

Things you will need:

  • Cotton balls

  • Two clean, small bowls

  • Table salt

  • Two cups of water

  • Pot

  • Towel

Step by step guide:

  • Pour two cups of water into a pot. Add half a teaspoon of table salt then let it boil until the salt has been completely dissolved.

  • Divide the boiled water into the two bowls. Let it cool to room temperature.

  • Pick up your cat, and using a large bath towel, swaddle him close to you. This would make it easier for you to hold on to your cat. Having an extra pair of hands from a friend would also help.

  • Drop a cotton ball into one of the bowls. Using the moistened cotton ball, gently wipe away the goop from the pet’s left eye. Moisten another cotton ball if needed to remove the booger.

  • Get another cotton ball and drop it into the other ball to clean up the other eye.

  • Don’t reuse cotton balls as there is a chance that one of the eyes is infected. By dipping the cotton balls in separate cups of water, you can prevent a potential crossing of infections.

  • Use a dry cotton ball in removing additional water droplets which could leak into the eye.

Method 3: Tea Bags

a teabag for cleanin cat's eyes

Yes, good old tea is also effective in cleaning cat eyes. You can use green tea, chamomile, or any other natural tea. But remember—don’t add sugar to the drink.

Things you will need:

  • Tea bag

  • A cup of boiling water

  • A cotton ball or a soft washcloth

Step by step guide:

  • Boil water then put in the tea bag.

  • Wait for the tea to cool down before taking the cotton ball and dipping it into the tea.

  • Press the cotton ball gently to wring out the tea.

  • Drip a bit of the tea into your pet’s eye and wipe it across and around the eye.

  • Repeat this several times throughout the day.

How to Clean Cat Eye Discharge Due to Flu

Flu is another possible reason why your cat has eye discharge. Cat flu is an upper respiratory tract infection due to the feline herpes virus. It affects the membranes of a cat’s eyes, leading to ocular discharge. Other symptoms include sneezing, loss of appetite, drooling, and nasal discharge.

See Also: How to Tell If a Cat Has a Fever

In cleaning eye discharge due to cat flu, you can follow the cotton ball method. But remember not to use water that’s too hot because it could burn his eyes. Moreover, discard used cotton balls to prevent the spread of infection.

It should be noted that there are no drugs designed to kill the herpes virus and treat cat flu. As such, treatment is aimed at alleviating the flu symptoms until the cat recovers on his own.

There are some home remedies that you can try to alleviate eye discharge due to cat flu:

Method #1: Warm Compress

leaking cat's eyes

A warm compress is ideal if the cat’s eyes are starting to leak.

Things you’ll need:

  • A soft washcloth

  • A bowl of warm water

Step by step guide:

  • Dip the washcloth into the bowl of warm water.

  • Gently press this onto the cat’s eyes.

  • Hold it for about 2-3 minutes.

  • Ask the help of a friend to keep the feline steady so you can hold the cloth in place.

  • Repeat this several times a day.

Method #2: Saline Solution

using an eye dropper for cat's eyes

Eye irritation or discharge due to flu can also be cured with a homemade saline solution.

Things you’ll need:

  • One-fourth teaspoon of salt

  • One cup of warm water

  • Cotton ball or eye dropper

Step by step guide:

  • Add the salt to the lukewarm water. Stir well until the salt is dissolved.

  • Use an eye dropper or a cotton ball to wet your cat’s eyes.

  • You may need to do this several times a day.

  • Always make a new solution for each application. Moreover, use a new cotton ball for each eye to prevent bacterial infection.

Vets may also prescribe the use of antibiotic eye drops to prevent secondary bacterial infection. The use of antiviral eye drops may also be prescribed especially if there is inflammation of the pink membrane of the cat’s eye. Antiviral eye drops, though, are rather expensive and require frequent application.

How to Clean Cat Eye Discharge Due to the Dry Eye Syndrome

vet checking cat's eyes

The dry eye syndrome is yet another possible cause of eye discharge necessitating cleaning of your pet’s eyes. Also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), it is characterized by the lack of aqueous tear film over the lining of the lids and over the eye surface.

Aside from severe drying of the cornea and the conjunctiva, there are other symptoms of this condition such as a prominent third eyelid, excessive blinking, and the discharge of pus from the eyes.

There are many reasons why cats can get the dry eye syndrome. The most common cause is immune-mediated adenitis, which pertains to the inflammation of the gland due to abnormal activity of the immune system.

There’s also the likelihood that the dry eye is on the same side as a dry nose. Or that it was caused by general anesthesia. Plus, there are also drugs that may cause the dry eye syndrome.

The dry eye syndrome may also be x-ray induced or caused by bacteria such as Chlamydia conjunctivitis or the herpes virus.

It’s difficult for an ordinary cat owner to determine whether his/her cat has the dry eye syndrome or not, so a trip to the vet’s office is necessary. The vet will have to conduct a thorough physical exam on the cat while taking into consideration the feline’s history of symptoms.

It is also common for vets to perform a Schirmer tear test to determine the wetness on the eye. A low value on the test would indicate that the cat has the dry eye syndrome.

Unless the cat has a secondary disease requiring hospitalization, the dry eye syndrome is often treated on an outpatient basis. Vets usually prescribe topical medication such as tear medication and lubricant.

These medications can compensate for the lack of tears or the dryness of the cat’s eyes. Keep in mind that these treatment methods require follow-up visits to your vet.

Regardless of the type of medication prescribed by the vet to your cat, you need to clean your pet’s eyes first before applying the medicine. Again, enlist the help of a friend or family member to keep your pet calm.

How to Clean Cat Eye Discharge Due to Blocked Tear Ducts (Epiphora)

vet checking cat's eyes for epiphora

Finally, another possible reason why your cat has discharge in his eyes is due to tear duct blockage.

Similar to eye boogers, blocked tear ducts pose no serious health problems to cats. While it is not painful for our favorite pets, tear duct blockage can ruin the good looks of a feline.

Similar to us humans and other animals like dogs, the tear duct in cats is located at the corner of their eyes. It is a tiny drainage system consisting of a small tube that carries tear down into their nose.

Cat eyes will produce tears when it needs to flush out foreign objects or irritants. The tear duct, in turn, collects the overflow and helps prevent the tears from falling down the cat’s face. Certain breeds are prone to blocked tear ducts like Persians and Himalayans.

When the tear duct is clogged, the cat’s tears will overflow and cause staining and irritation. Aside from eye discharge, the most common symptom of blocked tear ducts is a red stain alongside the cat’s nose. It can also lead to crustiness on the eyelids as well as swelling of that part of the eyes.

As a result, cats with blocked tear ducts tend to blink excessively. They also rub their eyelids.

Unfortunately, removing the eye discharge caused by blocked tear ducts would require a trip to your vet’s office. Typically, the vet would check the general health of the cat. He/she would look for signs of cold, flu, respiratory illness, or allergies causing the eye discharge.

The vet will also check the eye and look for signs of infection, allergy, ulceration, and inflammation. The vet will also consider the facial anatomy of your pet because as stated earlier, flat-faced breeds are prone to tear duct blockages because of the way their tear ducts are structured.

There are several methods to treat this condition. The vet may recommend flushing the tear duct with saline, which requires anesthesia. Or the vet may opt for surgical adjustment of the eyelid’s positioning.

How to Prevent Cat Eye Infections

cat having a well-balanced diet

Before we end, you might want to learn some tips on how to keep your cat’s eyes in tip-top condition:

  • Keep your environment clean especially if you have kittens. Cats who live in dirty environments are more prone to getting something in their eyes, leading to an infection.

  • If you have cats with flat faces, keep their facial hair trimmed regularly to minimize tear staining.

  • Avoid smoking at home as this can lead to the proliferation of airborne irritants that can lead to eye infections.

  • Ensure that you give your cat a well-balanced diet. There should be enough protein in his diet. Cat eye infections are often due to a poor immune system.

Wrap Up

beautitiful and healthy cat's eyes

Cats are known for being very clean, but there are several reasons why parents like you may have to clean the eyes of their pets. Cat eye discharge isn’t dangerous in itself, but it can be a symptom indicating an underlying health condition, so you may want to take your pet to the vet regardless.

There are several homemade treatment methods for cleaning cat eyes like using cotton balls or a clean, soft cloth. Other treatment options include warm compress, saline solution, and even tea bags. If those treatment options still don’t work, we highly suggest you bring your pet to a vet.

Does your cat produce an unusual amount of eye discharge? Have you taken him/her to the vet? What else do you do to clean your cat’s eyes? Let us know in the comments section below. You may also find our other article on how do cats see interesting.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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