cat has one eye open
Questions About Cats

Why is My Cat Keeping One Eye Closed?

Cat are born hunters that usually have wide open, alert eyes. The only exception to this rule is when your cat is dozing. A cat keeping one eye closed all the time suggests that it has an underlying health problem.

A cat may keep one eye closed due to temporary irritation. If your cat is keeping its eye closed, then it has an infection. A red, itchy eye suggests conjunctivitis (pink eye.) If your cat’s eye is swollen, it may have glaucoma. Look at your cat’s iris as it may have an ulcer or cataract.

Cats have expressive eyes. A happy, healthy cat will have matching eye sizes. A cat with an eye problem will scratch and paw at its eye regularly. You will also notice redness around the eye.

My Cat Can’t Open One Eye Properly

Failure to open one eye properly or squinting is linked to the following:

  • Eye infections
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Glaucoma
  • Ulcers on the cornea
  • Cataracts
  • Blepharitis
  • Foreign objects trapped in the eye

In addition to the eyelid, observe your cat’s pupils. According to the Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, mismatched pupils denote a condition called anisocoria.

Look out for any discoloration of the iris. This often stems from a condition called melanosis. Melanosis is common in older cats, and is usually harmless. It will manifest as brown spots that resemble liver spots.

If the spots become darker in shade and oversized, it could be melanoma. This means that your cat may have a cancerous tumor in its eye.

Types of Eye Infections in Cats

Feline eye infections are bacterial in nature. They can be treated with prescription medication. Signs that your cat has an eye infection include:

  • Redness in and around the eye
  • Excessive tear production
  • Constant blinking or winking
  • Protrusion of the eyeball

The majority of eye infections will be treated with prescription antibacterial eye drops. Never use human eye drops to treat a cat.

The prognosis for eye drops is good. Most cats make a full recovery in a short space of time. Do not allow the infection to run its course alone. This will only aggravate the issue and inflict further discomfort.

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Your cat’s eye will become inflamed, red, and swollen. This will be painful. Your cat will rub and claw at its eye.

The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association explains that conjunctivitis can affect both eyes.

The cause of feline conjunctivitis varies. It could be due to allergies. Alternatively, your cat may have got conjunctivitis from another cat.

Feline conjunctivitis is treated with anti-inflammatory eye drops. Most cats make a full recovery within two days of treatment.

cat squinting in one eye

Glaucoma

Glaucoma can occur when a cat’s eye infection is not treated. A cat must drain fluid through its tear ducts. If your cat is unable to do so, pressure builds. This leaves your cat in pain and unable to open its eye.

Glaucoma must be treated at the first sign of symptoms. If a cat’s glaucoma is not treated, it may lose its eye. The warning signs include:

  • Visible swelling in the eye
  • Clawing and pawing at the eye
  • Dilation of the pupils
  • Thin, watery discharge.
  • Cloudy, discolored iris

Veterinary Pathology explains that uveitis, a form of inflammation, is the commonest cause of feline glaucoma.

Glaucoma in cats cannot be cured or reversed. The condition must be managed for the duration of a cat’s life.

This is achieved through steroidal eye drops. Timolol and dorzolamide are the drugs used. These drops reduce the swelling and manage pain.

Corneal Ulcers

Cats can develop ulcers on their cornea. This occurs when layers of the cornea are depleted. Common symptoms of corneal ulcers include:

  • Excessive ocular discharge
  • A clear film over the eye
  • Sensitivity to light, causing the cat to close one eye in a bright room

Ulcers can be caused by trauma or infection. Treatment will begin with antibiotic eye drops and pain management.

If the ulcer is deep, surgery may be required to remove it. If the ulcer is at the surface level, a vet can remove it with a swab.

Cataracts

Cataracts occur in senior cats as a natural part of the aging process. A cataract will resemble a cloudy blockage in a cat’s eye.

Cataracts prevent light from entering the retina. This reduces a cat’s eyesight, eventually leading to blindness.

Your cat can survive with cataracts. Your cat will use its other senses to detect the surroundings. If you are concerned, or if they are causing distress, cataracts can be removed surgically.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is the scientific term for chronic inflammation in the eyelid. The issue will begin with irritation. This may come from a trapped foreign object or insect bite. If the initial problem is ignored and left untreated, the cat will develop blepharitis.

Your cat’s eyelid will become dry and flaky. It may also start to leak pus. In addition, a cat’s eyelid will swell significantly. This will eventually leave the cat unable to open its eye.

Treatment for blepharitis is conducted at home. Soak a cotton pad in warm water and compress it to a cat’s eye for fifteen minutes. If you repeat this daily, the swelling will calm.

You may still need to treat the underlying cause of your cat’s blepharitis. Your cat may have developed an eye infection through the initial irritation. This will typically require antibiotic eye drops.

Removing Foreign Objects from a Cat’s Eye

Trapped foreign objects are common in cats. Cats do not blink often. This makes their eyes magnets for irritations. Signs that a cat has something trapped in its eye include:

  • Pawing at the eye
  • Rubbing face on the floor
  • Squinting
  • Excessive tear production

Tangible items that could be become trapped in a cat’s eye include:

  • Stones
  • Dust and grit
  • Ingrowing hair or fur

If your cat has a foreign object in its eye, remove it through washing. Mix a combination of warm water and saline solution.

Never attempt to remove the object with tweezers. Cats are skittish about their eyes. Your pet will fidget, which can lead to injury.

Cat eyes can also be irritated by environmental elements. Dust, air freshener, or cigarette smoke could provoke a reaction. As before, wash your cat’s eye in such an instance. The irritation should pass quickly.

My Cat’s Eyes are Red Around the Edges

Red-ringed eyes in cats should not be ignored. This is not normal. Your cat may have experienced minor ocular trauma.

Typically, this will involve being poked in the eye. Your cat may have wandered into a branch. It could also have scratched itself while grooming.

If the trauma is mild, it will pass quickly. Your cat will otherwise act normally. It may just blink a little more. Within an hour or two, the redness will calm down.

If this is not the case, your cat is likely living with an eye infection or conjunctivitis. Redness is the first warning sign of these concerns. Treating the cat early will minimize pain and discomfort.

My Cat Blinks One Eye More Than the Other

Cats do blink, but infrequently. You may never notice your cat blinking. This, in itself, is not a cause for concern. You may notice your cat blinking one eye, though. This has two potential explanations:

  • Your cat is expressing affection
  • Your cat has a foreign object trapped in its eye

A slow cat blink is a demonstration of affection. Many people call this a, “cat kiss.” Cats do not offer this lightly. Consider a slow blink a compliment.

If your cat blinks one eye at speed, it likely has an irritation. A foreign object may be trapped in the eye. The blinking is an attempt to remove it.

cat can't open one eye properly

Why Does My Cat Sleep with One Eye Open?

As naturally cautious animals, cats feel vulnerable while they sleep. Your cat may appear to sleep with one eye open. This is not the case.

Cats have a transparent third eyelid, known as the nictating membrane. This is located in the corner of your cat’s eye, resting below the conjunctiva.

This eyelid closes while your cat is sleeping. This helps you cat doze while remaining alert to potential danger. If your cat catches sight of movement, it can quickly react. This is an instinctive safety measure in cats.

It is also possible that your cat is not sleeping, but merely resting. Experimental Neurology explains that the eyelids of a sleeping cat will twitch. This suggests that the cat has entered REM sleep.

Can I Prevent Eye Problems in Cats?

It’s not always possible to prevent a cat from developing eye problems. Sometimes these concerns are genetic. Cats can also develop issues associated with age and lifestyle.

Keeping a cat indoors may reduce exposure to eye hazards. Your cat will not encounter other pets and thus avoid conflict. A lack of fighting reduces the risk of infection or eye trauma.

Watch out for excessive blinking or squinting. Your cat should also undergo an annual eye examination. This will reveal any health concerns.

Cat Breeds Most Prone to Eye Problems

The breed of your cat may contribute to eye issues. As the Australian Veterinary Journal explains, brachycephalic cats are prone to ocular problems. Popular brachycephalic cat breeds include:

  • British Shorthair
  • Burmilla
  • Exotic Shorthair
  • Himalayan
  • Munchkin
  • Persian
  • Scottish Fold
  • Selkirk Rex

Brachycephalic cats have a unique skull shape. They have shorter, rounder heads. Folds of skin can trap foreign objects.

In addition, tears do not easily flow from the eyes of these cats. This leads to the eyes drying out. Inflammation will then follow.

My Cat Needs to Have One Eye Removed

If a cat’s eye problems cannot be resolved, the eye may need to be removed. This operation is known as enucleation. Enucleation will only be necessary for these circumstances:

  • Inherited, incurable birth defects
  • Cancerous tumors that may otherwise spread
  • Untreatable infection (i.e. chronic glaucoma)

Your cat will be placed under general anesthetic and the eye removed with a scalpel. Stitches will be removed around ten days after the procedure. Enucleation is usually a single-day operation.

Cats can live contentedly with a single eye. Cats rely heavier on their sense of smell and hearing than vision. Once the cat has adapted, it will barely notice the difference.

This adaptation period is critical. A cat with one eye will have reduced depth perception. For safety, keep it indoors. It will be unable to accurately measure distance. This increases the risk of road traffic accidents.

You will also need to consider your cat’s new status at home. Climbing cat trees and jumping from a height will be problematic. Reintroduce these sort of activities gradually.