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Kitten Eye Infection – Causes and Treatment

Newborn cats are fragile creatures that can easily catch infections or diseases from an unhygienic environment. Similarly, it’s not uncommon to see a kitten with an infection on one or both eyes. But, no matter how frequent these eye issues might be, they can be quite dangerous and leave permanent damage to the eye. Therefore, if you doubt that your kitten has one, you’re at the right place. Inform yourself about the causes and risks and help your kitten recover as soon as possible.

Have you ever seen stray kittens with swollen, closed eyes with a pus-like discharge sticking their eyelids together? Well, that’s how eye infection in newborn cats looks like.

These eye infections can occur even before kittens open their eyes for the first time.

There are plenty of reasons that could be causing your cute kitten to squint its eyelids and avoid the light. So today, we’ll talk about all the causes of kitten eye infections, their symptoms, and remedies.

What Is An Kitten Eye Infection?

Eye infections occurring in young cats are also called ophthalmia neonatorum, neonatal ophthalmia or even neonatal conjunctivitis. What happens in this eye issue is that conjunctiva, the thin membrane lining the inside of the eyelids, gets infected. Sometimes the problem can lie in the infection of the cornea, the thin layer that covers the surface of the eye.

The infection is visible at about 10 to 14 days of age when the kitten finally separates its top and bottom eyelids. However, it can start even before the newborn cat has opened its eyes.

The sources of the infection can be various but are usually connected to the unhygienic environment the kitten has been born in. That’s why it is quite common to see eye infections in stray kittens or rescue kittens. However, the culprit of the infection can also be the mother. But let’s take a look more closely to what is causing these infections in young cats.

What Is Causing My Kitten’s Eye Infection?

The infection can often be transmitted at birth. The mother might have a vaginal infection that, after giving birth, can be the source of an eye infection in newborn cats. But there are other bacteria and viruses found in the environment that can cause Neonatal Ophthalmia. The most common culprits for your kitten’s eye issues might be Feline Herpesvirus, Staphylococcus bacteria, and Streptococcus bacteria.

So either the mother or the unclean environment could be the reasons why a kitten can’t open its eyes.

Does My Kitten Have An Eye Infection?

Eye infections in kittens are usually quite easy to notice because of their visible symptoms. A kitten that is suffering from an eye infection will likely have some or all of these symptoms.

Symptoms of an Eye Infection

  • Redness and discharge of the inner layer of the eyelids (conjuctiva)
  • Redness of the eye
  • Eyelids stuck to the eye
  • Pus-like eye discharge
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Collapsed eyeball
  • Cornea ulcers

If these symptoms are present, then chances are that your kitten really is suffering from an eye infection. You will have to react properly and provide the cat with adequate treatment as soon as possible because if left untreated this infection could cause some permanent damage to the eye and even result in blindness. So, if you’ve already noticed some or all of the symptoms mentioned above, you should bring your kitten to the vet as soon as possible.

Diagnosis of Eye Infection In Kittens

Although a simple visual observation might be more than enough to tell if your kitten has an eye infection or not, your kitten should still have an immediate physical exam at the vet.

Since it’s quite likely that the infection is transmitted during birth, your vet will probably ask for a complete medical history of the mother, pregnancy, and birth.

In order to rule out other underlying diseases, your vet will also want to know if your kitten has shown other symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea. If such symptoms are present, your vet will probably order a blood test or urine analysis to determine your kitten’s blood count and chemical blood profile.

If the eye discharge is accompanied by sneezing, your cat might be suffering from an upper respiratory infection.

How Do I Treat My Kitten’s Eye Infection?

The first thing your veterinarian will do is to carefully separate your kitten’s eyelids. He will first moisten them gently with warm compresses and then slowly pull the eyelids apart. After the eyelids are separated, your vet will wash out the pus and discharge with warm water or saline solution in order to get rid of the infected matter from the eye.

You might have to repeat this at home several times in the early stage of treatment. Your veterinarian should show you the proper way to do it.

At this moment, the vet might also take a sample in order to determine which bacteria or virus is causing the infection. Taking samples from the discharge improves the effectiveness of the following therapy.

After the examination and the eye cleaning, the vet will likely prescribe a topical antibiotic ointment that should be put in the eye every day and probably several times a day. Depending on the severity of the infection the antibiotic therapy might last one or two weeks. In any case, your vet will instruct you what to do.

Here’s a tutorial on how to wash your kitten’s eyes properly.

If your kitten happens to have a URI, then additional oral antibiotics might be prescribed.

Your vet might want to see your kitten again after a couple of days in order to see if the therapy is adequate and working.

With good treatment and proper therapy, the infection should go away within a week or two.

Managing The Eye Infection

Although you might be applying the antibiotic ointment as your vet instructed you, the eye discharge causing the eyelids to be stuck together might still not disappear. Therefore, you will have to use warm, wet towels or compresses in order to keep the kitten’s eyelids from sticking.

In order to stop the spreading of the bacteria, wash the bedding your kitten sleeps in daily.

Another thing you should know is that infections can be highly contagious and that you should do everything to stop the spreading of the infection to the rest of the litter or to the mother.

First, check if other kittens from the litter are affected with the eye infection. If that’s not the case, you will probably be instructed to wash the mother’s nipples with warm water in order to prevent the disease from spreading among kittens.

Your vet might even suggest you separate the infected and uninfected newborns from each other. However, do not do this on your own since physical contact with their litter mates is crucial for their development.