My Cat’s Eye Is Red & Swollen, Can Cats Get Pink Eye?

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Can Cats Get Pink Eye

Pink eye is a very common eye condition in humans. You’ve probably had it at least once in your life. Since it’s pretty prevalent, it’s easy to assume that your pet cats can have it too. But, can cats get pink eye? 

We know fair well how bothersome it is to get pink eye. It’s itchy and, at times, painful. What’s more, it can also be contagious. So, when your cat’s eyes turn red and inflamed, we can’t help but worry.

If you want to know if your cat can get pink eye, read on. Feline Living is here to answer that and give you all the nitty-gritty details about “pink eye:” its symptoms, treatment, and more.

What Is Pink Eye?

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is an eye condition characterized by the inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a thin, clear tissue or membrane found underneath the eyelid and over the white part of the eyes. 

Contrary to popular belief, conjunctivitis isn’t always infectious. Some types of conjunctivitis are not contagious, so isolating oneself isn’t always necessary. Also, although pink eye is common among children, adults can get this too. 

Can Cats Get Pink Eye?

The short answer is Yes. Cats can get pink eye. In fact, it’s the most common eye disorder in cats. Whether young or old, you can expect your feline friend to get it at some point in their life. They can even get it more than once. 

Like humans, the conjunctiva is also part of a cat’s eye. It lines your cat’s eyelids, which is very similar to what people have. It also covers the third eyelid, aka “nictating membrane.”

This is often tucked away in the inner corner of the eye. It isn’t readily seen in healthy cats and should appear pale pink.

Conjunctivitis in cats occurs when the membrane that lines their eyelids become inflamed and reddish in color. It can affect one of your cat’s eyes or both. All cats can get it. However, this happens more frequently in younger kitties than older cats.

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How To Know If Your Pet Cat Has Pink Eye

Apart from eye redness, your cat may also exhibit the following clinical signs:

  • Excessive tear production
  • Yellowish, greenish, or cloudy eye discharge
  • Frequent blinking or squinting
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing

In severe cases, your cat’s swollen third eyelid may also cover the eye partially or fully. Other times, a cat with pink eye can also show different symptoms, including fever, diarrhea, or difficulty breathing. 

Whether mild or severe, it’s best to set up a vet appointment so that your cat can be checked right away. 

Types Of Conjunctivitis In Cats & Its Causes

A variety of things can cause pink eye. The common causes of conjunctivitis can range from something as small as a dust particle or something serious like an existing medical problem or an eye disorder. 

Either way, cat conjunctivitis can be roughly classified into two types: 

Non-Infectious Cat Conjunctivitis

As mentioned, some cases of cat conjunctivitis are not contagious. This makes them non-infectious. 

This type of pink eye is often triggered by something in the environment. It can also be a secondary symptom to an existing health problem. The most common causes include the following:


Allergic conjunctivitis, as the term implies, is caused by allergies. And since it’s simply a reaction to something your cat has eaten (like a new pet food) or inhaled (think pollen), you can be assured that this is non-infectious. Unfortunately, figuring out the allergen that caused the reaction can be complicated. 

Environmental Irritants Or Foreign Body

Your cat’s pink eye may just be an eye irritation caused by an irritant or foreign bodies. This includes dust particles, smoke, or the scent of your favorite perfume or cologne. Chemical exposure may also cause conjunctivitis, and it can also result in a secondary infection.


Entropion or inverted eyelid is a genetic condition that often leads to corneal irritation. Brachycephalic, short-nosed cat breeds (think Persian) are at risk given their facial shape.

Underlying Medical Condition

Sadly, the swollen eye of your cat can also indicate that your cat is suffering from another illness or disease. This is one reason why you might want to seek your vet’s expert advice.

Conjunctivitis usually appears in cats with eye tumors. At times, this can be a result of a weakened immune system

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Infectious Conjunctivitis

Besides allergens and irritants, a cat’s conjunctivitis can also be infectious in nature. Unfortunately, most cases of cat conjunctivitis or eye infections are caused by the following:


Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) is a contagious disease caused by the feline herpesvirus (FHV-1). Since it is the most common culprit behind pink eye in cats, the feline herpes virus can be the initial cause of cat eye infection. 

Besides conjunctivitis, FVR infection can also lead to the inflammation of the cornea, corneal ulcer, and corneal scarring. 

Aside from the feline herpesvirus, the feline calicivirus, feline leukemia virus, and the feline immunodeficiency virus can also be the reason behind the eye infection of your cat. 


A compromised immune system caused by viral infections increases your cat’s chances of getting secondary bacterial infections—the most common of which is caused by the bacteria feline chlamydophila.

This kind of secondary bacterial infection is often accompanied by nasal discharge, rhinitis, and sneezing.


Fungal eye infections are rare, but they can still happen to your cat. This can be caused by Cryptococcus neoformans, Candida albicans, and other forms of fungi. 

Diagnosing Cat Conjunctivitis

Now that you know the common causes of conjunctivitis, let’s discuss the steps taken to diagnose cat pink eye.

Just like any ailment, your vet will be asking about your cat’s medical history and will be checking your cat for symptoms. It’s likely for your vet to give a tentative diagnosis of infectious conjunctivitis if your cat’s pink eye is not caused by a blocked tear duct, injuries, and ulcers.    

Of course, further testing will be required to provide a definitive diagnosis. A diagnostic test using a green dye might also be administered to determine if your cat has corneal ulcers or other injuries. Flushing of tear ducts and blood tests might also be carried out.

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Treating Conjunctivitis In Cats

Yes, mild cases of eye infection in cats often resolve on their own in a few days with little to no treatment. However, mild eye infections can rapidly turn into a nightmare if left untreated.

Aside from removing all the gunk off the affected eye of your cat using a clean, warm cloth, you can also use eye medication. However, you can’t just use any type of eye drops or eye medication.

Topical medications are often used to treat flare-ups caused by allergies while antiviral eye medications promote healing for viral infection. On the other hand, bacterial infections are usually treated using antibiotic eye drops or eye ointments. 

Anti-inflammatory medication and anti-inflammatory drugs can also be used to get rid of the swelling, while broad-spectrum antibiotics might be recommended to prevent secondary bacterial infection.

You can expect to see significant improvement a few days after applying medication. But if you want to see lasting, positive results, your best bet is to stick with your vet’s treatment plan.

Your cat’s eye might get re-infected if you don’t follow your vet’s prescription and abruptly stop treatment. 

Prognosis of Conjunctivitis In Cats

It’s rare for cats to suffer from long-term effects caused by conjunctivitis. In most cases, a pink eye caused by either a viral or bacterial infection is sorted out within five to fourteen days.

However, this doesn’t apply to all. In a few cases, flare-ups recur because some viruses cannot be cured (like the herpes virus). 

What To Do To Prevent Pink Eye In Cats

Since some types of conjunctivitis are contagious, infected cats must be isolated until you’re sure they’re not infectious. The same applies if you, as an owner, have pink eye. 

Yes, you read it right. Your cat and your other pets can get pink eye from infected humans. Now, if you’re worried that you might get pink eye from your cat, don’t be. You’re safe.

Besides keeping them away from your other pets, as pet owners, it’s also essential to keep them nourished by giving them plenty of water, immune-boosting supplements, and a complete and balanced diet. A little TLC will also help. Just make sure to wash your hands before and after to stop the spread of the disease.  

Food For Thought

Apart from making sure that your cat’s fur is in tip-top shape, it’s also a good idea to look at your cat in the eye now and then.

Yes, conjunctivitis is pretty common, and oftentimes it’s nothing serious. Still, it’s better to be on the safe side and take extra precautions.  

Just like all the other parts of your cat’s body, its eye health is also a big deal. At the end of the day, all we want is for our healthy cats to live long lives, minus the pink eye and any other disorders.

So make sure to get your cat checked regularly and help wipe off any eye discharge. Since vaccines help prevent infections, you might also want to ensure that your cat’s vaccines are up to date.

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