Cat Swollen Eye: Causes, Home Remedies & Treatment

Cat swollen eye with redness
Signs of inflammation on a cat's eye.

A cat presenting with a swollen eye is more common than one might think. A swollen eye is usually a symptom of either an injury or infection. As a cat owner, it is important not to ignore any sort of inflammation evident in the cat’s eye because it could indicate a more serious complication that needs a veterinarian’s attention.

The most common causes of a swollen eye in a cat is trauma and viral or bacterial infections. Swollen eyes are usually painful and full of discomfort. The cat will squint or close the affected eye shut. The inflammation can be severe if the pet suffered a scratch to the cornea. Other symptoms such as redness and itchiness may also present.

Although there’s a lot you can do at home to help relieve your cat’s pain, it is important that you see a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment that will relieve the inflammation.

When eyes are swollen shut…

It is not normal when a cat’s eyes become inflamed. It is usually a sure sign that something is definitely wrong and needs your immediate attention. It is, however, common to notice inflammation if your pet is prone to bacterial and viral infections such as conjunctivitis. In most cases, these conditions may not produce a swollen head. You will see symptoms such as discharge and general discomfort in the feline’s eyes.

Some congenital conditions such as entropion can predispose your cats to blepharitis and general inflammation. When the problem persists, the affected eye can easily become swollen shut, leaving her with impaired vision.

According to the VCA Hospitals, Entropion refers to when the edges of the eyelid turn inwards and rub against the cornea. Cats with a short flat face or prominent facial folds are more prone to develop this condition, especially if the cat also has lagophthalmos (bulging eyes). If you notice the cat’s eye is swollen shut, take her to the vet as soon as possible because impaired vision can lead to sustaining further injuries.

Causes of swollen eyes in cats

There are various possibilities that can lead to swellings on the head and eye area the cat. I have discussed it one of them in a little bit of detail below.

1. A scratched eye (injury)

Cats are very curious animals. Sometimes, they can get injured while exploring the environment. One of the most common causes of eye injuries is scratches during fights. The laceration inside the eye will produce signs such as:

  • Squinting and excessive blinking
  • Watery eyes (tearing)
  • Bleeding in some cases
  • Swelling on the inside and outside

Squinting in itself is usually an alarming symptom and I always recommend that you see a vet as soon as possible, whether or not it is accompanied by swelling. I recommend you read my detailed article on how to help a squinting cat here.

Cats with scratched eyes should be taken to the veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent the development of a more serious complication such as feline corneal ulcers.

2. Allergy

Cats that are allergic are highly prone to reactions and inflammation provided there’s an irritant. Irritants such as mold, mildew, pollen etc. can all produce inflammatory reactions in allergic kittens and cats.

A swollen eye, eyelids, mouth and other body parts can also be an indicator that there’s an allergen you need to eliminate.

Sometimes the allergen may be in the food you are feeding her. Try to choose hypoallergenic cat foods and keep her environment clean to prevent allergic inflammations.

3. Foreign body in the eye

Dirt, dust and any kind of particles can enter the feline’s eye and cause irritation and inflammation. These can be very uncomfortable, making the cat blink excessively or even keep the eye shut.

If not treated appropriately, foreign bodies can cause the eye to swell and become red. Delayed or improper treatment can also lead to corneal damage.

In order to tell if something is stuck in her eye, look for the following symptoms:

  • Tearing or watery eyes due to excessive production of tears
  • Constantly pawing at the eye to relieve discomfort
  • Squinting in the eye with the foreign object

When this is the case, I’ve always noted that the cat will suffer irritation and swelling because of the constant pawing and even rubbing that side of the eye on the ground to gain some relief.

Remove the foreign body from the cat’s eye

Before attempting to remove whatever is stuck in your pet’s eye, it is important to prevent her from pawing at the eye.

  • Use an E-collar for this.
  • Do not attempt to remove it at home because you may end up causing a serious laceration to the cornea in the process.
  • While at home, flush a mild saline solution in the cat’s eye to remove the foreign object. If it doesn’t work, go to the vet’s office immediately.

In most cases, swelling is a sign of injury. I would advise that you take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible. If your cat is in pain, it may be more difficult to remove the foreign body from the eye.

4. Glaucoma

When your cat is suffering from a condition called glaucoma, the eye will become cloudy and soon enlarged due to the pressure on the on the eyeball from the cornea.

Related symptoms

Although most traumatic injuries that cause a cat’s eyes to swell arise from fights (scratches), we cannot rule out other causes such as illnesses especially if both eyes are affected. Therefore, look for the following symptoms that may accompany the inflammation:

  • A showing and inflamed third eyelid: Also called the nictitating membrane, the third eyelid easily points toward inflammation and possible infection when it becomes visible.
  • Eyelid cuts: Trauma to the eye is highly likely to extend to the feline’s eyelid. Swelling and bleeding may be observed when this is the case.
  • Conjunctivitis or pink eye
  • Any kind of eye discharge: yellow, white, crusty or even green. A yellowish-green discharge is usually a sign of infection.
  • A clouded cornea
  • Shutting of one eye or unusual blinking. (Keep in mind that cats hardly blink out of necessity. They do it casually.
  • An eye that is out of its socket (prolapse)

The most important question to ask yourself after observing the cat is: is the swelling in one or both eyes? If in one eye, it is more likely to be caused by trauma. If in both eyes, there’s likely to be an infection.

Home remedies

Before you attempt to help your cat at home it is important that you know the best way to take care of her is to see a veterinarian. Even so, you can do something to relieve her pain at home. Here is what you can do before you take her to the vet’s office.

  • Separate the eyelids and gently pour a saline solution in the eye. This home remedy will remove any foreign objects that cause irritation.
  • If you are experienced with herbal remedies, you can make one at home by mixing calendula, chamomile, eyebright, and red clover together, in equal measurements, and using a dropper to apply the eye drop to the affected eye. You should do this three times per day. This may however not be the best course of action especially if you are not sure what your cat is suffering from.
  • Apply cool chamomile tea compresses on the swollen eye to soothe the inflammation and take the cat to the vet as soon as possible.

Warning: Even with home remedies, I do not recommend treating your cat at home.

Treatment for inflamed eyes in cats

After proper diagnosis, your vet will choose the proper course of action. If the problem is an allergen, he or she may advise you to remove the allergen, which may be her food, pollen in the air, or dirty environments.

Antibiotics may be prescribed if the swelling is caused by an infection such as bacterial conjunctivitis. A viral type will soon clear on its own.

Steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may be given to relieve the inflammation and pain as the cat recovers from the injury.

Most importantly, the vet will examine and remove the foreign body in the eyes especially if it is the one that causes the irritation. The procedure may vary depending on the severity of the foreign object.