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Cats are natural-born hunters and, aside from when they are asleep on their favorite perch, their eyes are wide open and alert ready to observe the world around them. If you have noticed that your cat is squinting at you with one eye, you may be starting to stress and asking yourself “Why is my cat keeping one eye closed?”
The most common cause for your cat closing one eye is an infection such as conjunctivitis, which is more likely if your cat is also pawing at their eye regularly and keeping it closed. This is the most common eye infection found in cats and is where the mucus membranes of the eyes become inflamed and itchy. Conjunctivitis can lead to redness and swelling and could need treatment depending on the severity of the infection.
That being said, many other eye conditions, infections, or injuries could also be the cause.
However, if your cat is staring at your lazily with one eye closed having just woken up, I wouldn’t worry. If you catch me first thing in the morning, I will also likely hazily squint at you! It is only if your cat has started keeping one eye closed throughout the entirety of the day, blinking excessively, or appearing to be in pain that it could be a cause for concern.
In this article, I will walk you through all the possible reasons as to why your cat may be keeping one eye closed and what you can do about it.
Why Does My Cat Squint One Eye?
Your cat’s eyes can become sore and inflamed for many different reasons, and this pain can cause your cat to keep one eye closed. Some of these are a more serious cause of concern than others, so let’s find out all the reasons as to why your feline is squinting and blinking excessively.
As mentioned, conjunctivitis could be why your cat is keeping one eye closed, and this is the most common feline eye disorder. In fact, it is so common that most cats will have at least mild conjunctivitis at some point in their lives.
Conjunctivitis is where the mucus membrane that lines the inside of your cat’s eyelids becomes swollen and inflamed. As well as squinting and keeping one eye closed, you may notice discharge around your cat’s eyes. The third eyelid may also become red and swollen.
All cats can develop conjunctivitis regardless of the breed or gender, as this is not something cats can inherit. Instead, it is caused by bacteria that are passed from cat to cat. Allergies can also cause feline conjunctivitis, such as dust or airborne chemical substances that trigger the infection, yet this is not as common.
While it can occur in cats of any age, it is more common in young cats. Therefore, if you have a kitten with one eye closed, conjunctivitis is an extremely likely culprit.
In most cases, conjunctivitis is nothing to worry about and it can be resolved without any medication. However, it is advised you take your cat to a veterinary clinic for some antibiotic eye drops to help ease the infection, especially if your cat seems to be in a lot of pain. This is also important as it rules out the possibility of a more severe eye infection.
Glaucoma is another eye condition, but this is a lot more serious than conjunctivitis. Thankfully, it is also extremely rare in cats, but you must rule it out as the reason why your cat is keeping one eye closed.
This is not an infection but is rather caused by a high amount of pressure that builds up around the eye. Usually, this is due to a disruption in the drainage of fluids from the eye, and so a large amount of liquid accumulates in the area. High pressure around the eyes can damage the optic nerve and lead to blindness if left untreated.
If you notice that your cat’s eye is bulging and bloodshot, they may well have glaucoma. Your cat will be in severe pain if they have this condition, and so you may also notice behavioral traits such as your cat refusing to eat, increased irritability, or sleeping more frequently.
Several things can cause glaucoma in cats, including another underlying condition or a result of trauma. If you think your cat could have glaucoma, take them to the vets immediately so that they can prescribe drugs to manage the pressure and pain in the eye. However, this will be an ongoing treatment as glaucoma cannot be cured or reversed. In worse cases, surgery could also be recommended as a last resort due to the intense pain.
Allergies can also be a reason as to why your cat is squinting and keeping one eye closed. As with humans, if your cat is allergic to something, they may have sore, itchy, and watery eyes. As a result, they could end up squinting or blinking frequently.
With cats, common allergies include food, fleas and other parasites, perfumes, cleaning products, and pollens. If your cat is allergic to one of these things, they will often exhibit other symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing, and itchy skin. In some cases and depending on the allergy, cats may also experience vomiting or swollen paws. As mentioned earlier, allergies can also trigger conjunctivitis which can further cause pain and discomfort in their eye, causing them to keep it closed.
If you think your cat has allergies, it is best to visit your vet who can conduct an examination to see if your theory stands. Based on their findings, you can then look at removing the allergens from your home or cleaning more regularly to help decrease the severity of the allergic reaction.
The dome-shaped surface covering the front of the eye is called a cornea, and if this becomes damaged down to the deepest layers it is called a corneal ulcer. In the worse cases, corneal ulcers can lead to a permanent loss of vision.
If your cat has a corneal ulcer, they will keep their eye shut tightly due to the pain. They could also blink rapidly or permanently squint to try and protect the eye. Sometimes there will additionally be discharge collecting at the corner of the eye.
In cats, the most common cause for corneal ulcers is trauma, such as a scratch in the eye from a catfight or brushing their eye against a rough surface or sharp object. It could also be caused by chemical burns from shampoos or other liquids, or bacterial infections and diseases. Because of Persian’s flatter faces, these cats are most prone to corneal ulcers.
Unfortunately, surgery is common for cats that have a deep or growing corneal ulcer, or your vet may be able to remove loose layers of the cornea to prevent irritation. It will take a while for your cat’s eye to heal, so ensure you give them a few weeks indoors at least and limit their activity so that they can recover fully.
Your cat’s cornea may also be damaged to a less severe extent and at a more superficial level, known as a corneal abrasion. These can deepen and worsen into an ulcer, so make sure you still visit the vets and get the right medication to prevent this from happening.
Unlike the other reasons why cats keep one eye closed, entropion is a genetic condition. Cats with entropion have an inverted eyelid which folds inside against the eyeball. Their fur and eyelashes can then rub on their eyeball and cause irritation. Eventually, this can lead to corneal ulceration and loss of vision.
As well as keeping their eye closed and squinting, cats will usually have visibly red eyes and, in some cases, puss or mucus oozing from the inside. Persians and other short-nosed breeds such as Himalayan and Burmese cats most commonly suffer from this condition.
As this is a genetic problem, it is something that cats will have for life from when they are just kittens. Therefore, if you have a senior cat that has suddenly started squinting, you can rule this out. However, if your kitten has one eye closed, this could be the cause. In most cases, entropion is diagnosed by the time your cat reaches the age of two.
Mild entropion can be treated simply by adding a lubricant to the eye. However, where the cornea has been ulcerated, surgery is often required to turn the eyelids outward.
Blepharitis is where your cat’s eyelids become inflamed, and it can affect either one or both of their eyes. If infected, their eyelids will become swollen and itchy, making it difficult for your feline to open their eye. They may also squint or continuously blink due to the itching and irritation.
This condition can be caused by many different things, including allergies, trauma, or eye infections. In terms of genetic causes, entropion is thought to predispose cats to develop blepharitis, which makes this slightly more common in short-faced breeds. However, in some cases, there appears to be no cause whatsoever!
The underlying cause of the condition will help your vet to prescribe effective treatment; by treating the cause of blepharitis this condition will also disappear. However, they could also advise you to apply a warm compress for 5 to 10 minutes a few times each day to help relieve symptoms.
Trapped foreign objects could also be the reason why your cat is keeping one eye closed. As cats don’t blink often, they get items lodged in their eye more often than expected. Common items that could get stuck in your cat’s eyes include small stones, pieces of dust or grit, or clumps of hair or fur.
If your cat does have a foreign object in their eye, they will likely also paw at their eye and rub their face on the floor in an attempt to remove the item. Their eyelids may also be swollen, and they will be producing excessive tears.
This is a simple issue to fix; all you need to do is remove the foreign item that is causing irritation. When trying to remove the item yourself, only ever try to wash it out with a saline solution. Never use tweezers as this could lead to a severe eye injury and make the issue much worse. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, take your cat to the vets who will happily flush the eye for you.
Inflammation of structures inside your cat’s eye, such as the uvea, can also cause them severe pain and discomfort.
The uvea is one such structure, made up of three parts:
- The iris which is the circular part of the eye that gives it its color;
- The ciliary body which is the part of the eye wall responsible for making fluid;
- The choroid which is the middle layer of the eye.
If your cat has uveitis, one or more of these structures that make up the uvea will be inflamed. This can be caused by a huge range of different issues, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, eye trauma, chemical irritant, or infections.
Lots of the symptoms of uveitis are similar to those of glaucoma. Your cat will keep the infected eye closed and the visible parts of the eye will be red and sore. There may also a watery discharge or mucus released from the corner of the eye.
As uveitis is a secondary condition, the underlying condition will be treated first and foremost, while anti-inflammatory medicine and pain relief can be provided to make your cat more comfortable and relieve their stress.
What Should I Do When My Cat Is Keeping One Eye Closed?
It is worthwhile knowing what could be the cause of your cat closing one eye. However, you should also know what to do if you notice your cat blinking one eye so that the issue can get fixed and any long-term damage can be avoided.
Visit the Vet
If you have noticed that your cat is keeping one eye closed, squinting a lot, or blinking rapidly, you should definitely take your cat to the vet. Eyes are delicate organs and, if not treated correctly, quickly enough, or with enough care, eye conditions can lead to long-term damage and blindness.
Even if you know your cat has a problem with their eye that is easy to fix, such as a grit being stuck in their eye which you can wash out with a saline solution, it is still worthwhile taking a trip to your veterinarians. If this piece of grit caused even a shallow scratch in the surface of your cat’s eye, it can easily become infected or deepen and worsen.
Also, be sure to not force your cat’s eyes open. Even if you are looking to check for symptoms such as to see if their eye is red, forcing their eyes open can aggravate the injury and make it worse. Your vet will know how to do this safely and without causing further harm.
While you are at the vet, it is also advisable to ask them for advice on home-feeding and nursing. Cats with eye conditions often lose their appetite completely because of the distress and pain they are in. However, ensuring they have the correct nutrients is key to your cat having a healthy immune system, meaning they can have a quick and speedy recovery.
Correct Home Care
Once you’re back from the vets or before you have a chance to take your cat there, you can do your bit to ensure they receive the correct home care. This will stop the eye condition from getting any worse and aid recovery.
Your cat may not enjoy wearing a pet collar, but putting them in one is the best way to stop them pawing at their eye and reduces the risk of them making any injuries or infections worse. This is great for preventing your cat from worsening its injury before seeing a vet, as well as protecting it from harm after treatment has started.
If there is discharge coming from your cat’s eye or eyes, also try to keep this cleaned away. You can gently wipe using a clean damp cloth starting from the inner corner and remove the debris by using an outward motion. Remember to never force your cat’s eye open; simply clean around it instead.
After visiting the vests, also be sure to follow the treatment they have prescribed to a T. Sometimes this will include hot or cool compresses over the cat’s eye area which must be completed daily, as well as giving them their medication. Your vet will know best, so ensure any additional aftercare that they recommend is carried out.
Optimize Their Home Environment
You can also make things better for your cat by optimizing their home environment.
If you have more than one cat, be sure to isolate this cat from the rest of the cats in your home to start with. Firstly, if your cat is closing one eye because of an infection such as conjunctivitis, it is contagious. Unless you want all your cats ending up with the condition, it is best to keep them separated. Also, when your cats are playing together, there is more chance that the injury could be knocked and cause further damage.
You should also be sure to keep your lighting dimmed low and remove any bright lights from the room. Bright lights can cause severe pain to cats with eye conditions. If severely distressed, you could also keep the curtains and blinds closed until your feline has recovered.
Can I Prevent Cat Eye Problems?
Cat’s eye problems can be caused by a huge range of different things, making it near-impossible to prevent them all. However, there are some things you can do to help keep detrimental eye conditions at bay.
Keeping up to date with yearly vaccinations such as the feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus vaccines can help prevent cat flu, which can lead to conjunctivitis. The Chlamydophila Felis bacteria is also one of the main causes of conjunctivitis, so be sure to get your cat vaccinated against this.
Similarly, the feline leukemia virus can attack and weaken your cat’s immune system, making them more prone to infection and inflammation, including various eye conditions. Therefore, keep on top of this vaccination too.
Aside from vaccinations, keeping your cat indoors may reduce their exposure to eye hazards, such as small stones and grit which could get lodged, other cats that they could get into fights with, or abrasive surfaces such as thorny plants. Also, be sure to remove any sharp objects that could cause eye damage from your home.
Some causes for your cat keeping their eye closed can occur to any breed and any age. Yet, the unique skull shape and the large folds of skin of brachycephalic cats such as Persian, Himalayan, British Shorthair, and Burmilla breeds can make some eye conditions more likely. Therefore, if you are particularly concerned about your cat developing a serious eye condition, avoid these breeds.
Noticing that your cat is keeping its eye closed can be worrying. Eyes are delicate organs and need to be looked after properly. However, the best thing to do is keep calm, keep an eye on their eyes and behavior, and take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.
In most cases, conjunctivitis will be the culprit, which can be easily treated and is nothing to worry about. Even more severe issues can be easily managed with the correct treatment. Simply make your cat’s living conditions as comfortable as possible, follow their prescribed treatment, and your cat will be happy, healthy, and back to their usual mischievous selves in no time!