cat face with green eyes show no cat eye issues

Keep Your Cat’s Beautiful Eyes Clean and Healthy

Last Updated on May 26, 2021 by Holly Anne Dustin

I think every cat guardian has had this experience:  They wake up and see their furbaby with goopy, watery eyes or an inflamed third eyelid. Or Kitty is squinting at them from across the room.  Eye issues are one of the most common issues that develop in cats.  A regular grooming routine, including cat eye care, can help identify potential problems and treat some simple cases of watery or weepy eyes.

Dust, allergies, viruses, infections, or physical conformation issues can cause watery eyes. Brachechypalic “flat faced”  breeds such as Persians, Scottish Folds, and British Shorthairs are prone to excessive tearing.  Clear discharge from the eyes is normal, yellow or green indicates a problem.

Will a Cat’s Eye Infection Heal on it’s Own?

Most cases of cats with watery eyes, mild yellow/green discharge from the eyes, occasional squinting, and mild redness are not emergencies and may respond to simple cleaning and home care.  A vet visit may still be warranted if the symptoms don’t clear up in a few days of at-home treatment.

There are serious conditions that affect Kitty’s eyes and cause watery eyes. You should take Kitty to the vet if your cat has injured his eye, if you see blood around the eye, if Kitty is pawing at his eye, or if he appears to be blind.

I am not a vet and I don’t play one on the internet. If you have concerns about the condition of your kitty’s eyes please seek medical advice. This article is based on my research and my personal experiences with my cats and my grooming clients.

Cat with blue eyes on graphic for take care of your cat's eyes

Common Cat Eye Problems that Cause Watery Eyes:


The most common eye issue for cats is conjunctivitis, in humans people call it “pink eye”.  Red, inflamed, watery eyes are the most common symptoms. Viral or bacterial infection causes conjunctivitis. Irritants or allergens such as air fresheners, smoke, pollen or litter dust can also cause conjunctivitis. Minor cases of pink eye typically respond well to home treatments for cat watery eyes, but take Kitty to the vet if you don’t see improvement in a day or two.

Upper Respiratory Infections (cat flu):

The herpes virus and calicivirus are the most common causes of eye discharges.  The young, elderly, and immunosuppressed cats are at most risk. Cats in large colonies, catteries, and rescues are more likely to develop significant disease.

The herpes virus is like the virus that causes cold sores in humans. It will reoccur under stress or if Kitty’s immune system is under attack. Home treatments and support can help.  If it lingers, or if the discharge gets worse or turns green or yellow, then it is time to see the vet for antibiotics.


Just like in us humans, cats can suffer from environmental allergies to grasses, plants, mold and even their litter. They can react to perfume and household cleaning chemicals.  Artificially scented products can cause cat weepy eyes. Food allergies can also play a role.

Sneezing, itching, rashes, and hair loss are symptoms that might mean Kitty has an allergy problem. Severe problems may require medical intervention. You can treat a mild case of cat goopy eyes caused by allergies with home remedies like a saline wash or tea compress.
silver cat face with blue eyes showing minor cat eye issues

How to Treat Your Cat’s Eye Infections at Home:

There are simple ways to treat minor cat eye infections like conjunctivitis at home.  I have used these methods on many cats with weepy eyes over my lifetime. Actually, I’ve used most on minor cases of “pinkeye” in my own eyes. I keep them on hand.  I had an elderly rescue cat with chronic eye issues and now I live with Persians. Eye issues come with the territory.

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What Eye Washes are Safe for Cats?

Cat eye drops can help relieve eye symptoms caused by allergies, infections, particles, and other eye conditions. Generally, over the counter eye drops can help with redness, itchiness, stinging, dry eyes, and watery eyes. Eye drops work by gently coating the eye with a safe-for-the-eye liquid, and then flushing out irritants that are causing symptoms. Think of it as a lubricant for your cat’s eyes.

Saline Eye Wash:

A simple salt water wash is the easiest first step in addressing a cat eye infection. Cleaning a cat’s eye with salt water will help eliminate the infection and the rinse will clear any foreign bodies like litter dust or environmental allergens. You can make your own or buy one in the pharmacy.  Something like infant nose drops will usually work. Make sure you get something without medication, preservatives or additives.

You can stream a few drops from the applicator if you purchased a commercial product or use a cotton ball or paper towel to gently drip the salt water in the corner of Kitty’s eye. Don’t let the applicator touch the eye area to avoid contamination. If it does, toss the bottle when Kitty is better. Don’t save it for the next time he develops a problem.

Tea Compresses as Home Remedy for Pink Eye:

Brewing a batch of tea for a compress can help loosen any gunk, and the tannins in the tea will help combat the infection.  I make a compress rather than using the tea bag itself because some can contain bleach or preservatives. This is one of the best remedies for simple cases of watery eyes.

Simply brew a strong batch of tea, black is better but green will do. Even chamomile herbal tea will work in a pinch.  Soak a cotton pad or paper towel in the cooled tea and apply to Kitty’s eye for as long as he’ll let you. Treat a few times a day.

Liquid Boric Acid Wash for Cats:

This is another way to rinse minor irritations and prevent tearing staining.  You can buy it at most pet supply outlets or a pharmacy. A dilute boric acid wash is a good thing to keep on hand if you have a light-colored cat that tends to have goopy eyes. It is much easier to prevent tear staining on their coat than remove it later.

Vetericyn Eye Wash for Cats

Vetericyn makes a neutral ph eye wash and opthamalic gel.  A good alternative to a saline wash. The gel is more long lasting than the wash.  You can use them both together. Simply follow the directions on the bottle. I always suggest dripping in anything from the corner rather than directly into Kitty’s eye. He’s less likely to overreact. This is one of my favorite products for taking care of my cats’ eyes.

Can You Use Human Eye Drops on Cats?

Other than the straight saline wash intended for infants, it is not recommended to use human eye drops on cats, unless specifically told to do so by your veterinarian.  Avoid anything that “gets the red out.”

Terramycin for Cats with Goopy Eyes:

This is my next weapon against weepy eyes if a wash or compress doesn’t clear the issue in a couple days. If Kitty has a minor infection with yellow or green discharge, this will probably cure it. Terramycin is an over the counter antibiotic eye ointment. I keep this on hand at all times. If this doesn’t clear up a case of conjunctivitis in a few doses, then it is time to see the vet.

Terramycin is easy to apply to Kitty’s eyes, assuming Kitty will let you handle him.  I try to do it when my cats are sleepy to reduce drama. Just sit behind Kitty so he can’t back away. Hold his head with one hand, use your index finger and thumb to open his eye, and apply the gel with the other hand. I will just wipe it over the eyelid area with a clean finger or paper towel if Kitty blinks it right out.

Grooming Guide to Cat Eye Care:

Tears are made up of water, mucus, and fat. The water evaporates and dried bits of mucus and fat form in the corner of the eyes. Tears contain pigments that when exposed to sunlight turn dark. These “eye boogers” are not blood or infection. It is just “sleep crusties” like you wake up with.

All cats can experience watery eyes. Significant drainage is normal for Persians and other brachycephalic breeds of cats. The more extreme-face the more the drainage. The normal drainage system for tears does not function right because of the size and shape of the eyes and nose.

As the discharge darkens, it can stain your cat’s fur. The moisture in the coat can become a breeding ground for yeast and bacteria. It is important to develop a good grooming routine to keep your furbaby’s eyes clean and healthy. Like all grooming routines, the earlier you start making this a part of Kitty’s daily routine the better.

Blue and White Persian with no sign of cat eye problems

How to Clean a Cat’s Eyes

  1. If you have a long-haired cat, especially a Persian, that grows fur around his eyes consider clipping the fur so it doesn’t rub his eyes. Use a blunt end curved pair of grooming scissors.  If you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself, then a professional groomer can do this for you.
  2. The best way to clean a cat’s eyes is to use a saline solution or commercial eye wash like Eye Envy.  There are other products on the market, including Castle Baths Anna line tailored for Persians.
  3. Use a cotton ball or make-up pad soaked in the salt water or cleaning solution and gently wipe at the encrusted area of your cat’s eye.
  4. Use a separate cotton ball for each eye to prevent spreading anything.
  5. Once you’ve cleaned the area pat dry with a towel.
  6. You can use cornstarch or grooming powder to keep the area dry.

If your Kitty has a buildup of staining, it will take repeated efforts to clear it up. In those cases, a boric acid was or commercial eye cleaner designed for the purpose is necessary. Continued cleaning will lighten it up and as the fur grows out Kitty‘s face will be beautiful again.

A Clean Cat is a Happy Cat

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Cat Eye Problems that Need Prompt Vet Care:

Good grooming and basic at-home care will keep simple cat eye problems at bay. But if  Kitty’s watery eyes don’t improve after 2-3 days of home care, or if the discharge increases, or becomes green or yellow, it is time to see the vet.  A vet trip is warranted if Kitty is pawing at her eyes. The trip to the emergency vet is worth it if Kitty has an eye injury or apparent blindness.

Eye Ulcer:

Ulcers can cause goopy, weepy eyes.  Red eyes, squinting and blinking, rubbing the eyes and cloudiness in Kitty’s eyes can be symptoms of ulcers. Eye ulcers can cause blindnesses and losing an eye. Injury, trauma, or infection can cause ulcers and need prompt attention.


Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve.  It is causes high pressure to build up in the eye.  The pressure against the nerve will cause blindness. Cloudiness of the eye, reddened blood vessels in the white part of the eye, excessive blinking and dilated pupils are major symptoms.


Inflammation of the inner part of the eye. Painful and can lead to blindness.  Other than reddened, swollen, and weepy eyes you can’t “see” this yourself. Kitty will paw their head and rub their eyes.


Cataracts in cats are not age related. They are the result of trauma, infection or malnutrition.


Entropion is a birth defect where the eyelids are ill-formed, although it can be a result from repeated infections. Kitty’s eyelashes grow inward and rub on her eyes.  The irritation causes scar tissue to build up. Surgical repair is the only remedy. Entropion is most common in Persians and other flat-faced breeds.

Summary: Cat Eye Care

Cat eyes are one of their most appealing features. They are one of their ways they communicate with us. It is important that we keep Kitty’s eyes healthy and clean. Luckily, most common cat eye problems can be treated with home treatment.


Runny Eyes
Watery eyes treatment and solutions
Causes of feline watery eyes
Tear duct stains in Persians
Clean Persian eyes

For more in my grooming guides series:
Skin and Coat
Ear Care
Dental Care
Paws and Claws
How to Bathe Your Cat Without Getting Scratched to Bits
Tips for Trimming a Wiggly Cat’s Claws by Yourself

20 thoughts on “Keep Your Cat’s Beautiful Eyes Clean and Healthy”

  1. My cat had several eye infections in the 15 years that he lived with us, but our vet could never determine the cause. He usually responded pretty well to the ointment she prescribed. I wish I would have known all this information when he was alive. Perhaps I could have prevented them.

    1. That was my Lucky – all the time. He was older and had the herpes thing and flared up all the time. He’s the reason I learned a lot of this and why I started keeping terramycin on hand all the time.

  2. These are great eye care tips. A moist cotton ball to clean the cat’s eye area works great! A lot these causes I’d never heard of. Very informative. Sharing!

  3. Great post! Proper eye care is so important, especially since eye issues can be so painful. My older dog has always had a lot of eye discharge, but we checked with an eye specialist and she said it wasn’t anything to worry about, and is most likely just the way his face is shaped. When I was a kid my family had a dog with glaucoma and I had a pet rabbit who went blind in one eye because of an ulcer, so I’m always extra paranoid about eye issues now.

    1. Sounds like you’ve learned a lot about eye issues. Glaucoma was something I hadn’t really thought about much. I’ve been pretty lucky just dealing with the chronic eye infections in an older cat and all the Persian face stuff.

  4. One of my cats has allergies, and I didn’t know about it until I took her to the vet. She gets eye drops and medication but didn;lt have a clue about this. This guide that you provide is very helpful. Thank you!

  5. Such a great and comprehensive post, thanks for sharing. The only time I ever had a cat with an eye issues was when Tyler’s eye started to tear a lot. I took her to the vet and it turned out to be cancer that must have spread from a tumour she had removed from her jaw about a year or so earlier.

  6. I have been fortunate that my cats have not had any issues with their eyes, other than the occasional dry “eye booger” in the corner of their eye and they “let” me wipe it away. Your post is very informative and should my cats ever have eye issues, you sure have explained it well!

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