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Cat Eye Discharge — What’s Normal and What’s Not

Cat eye discharge can be completely normal or something to bring to your vet’s attention ASAP. Here’s how to determine what’s worrying and what’s not.

Jackie Brown  |  Jul 6th 2017


Do your cat’s eyes ever get watery, goopy or downright crusty? It can be a little gross, but beyond that, cat eye discharge can sometimes indicate an eye problem that needs to be looked at by your veterinarian. If you’ve ever wondered if your cat’s eye boogers are normal or what could be causing them, you’re not alone.

Cat eye discharge should be brought to your vet's attention — sometimes. Photography by fotoedu/Thinkstock.com.

Cat eye discharge should be brought to your vet’s attention — sometimes. Photography by fotoedu/Thinkstock.com.

“Tears are produced constantly throughout the day and normally drain at the corner of the eye without spilling over,” says Beth Kimmitt, D.V.M., resident of ophthalmology at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in West Lafayette, Indiana. “If something causes irritation to the eye, more tears are produced. Irritation to the eye or blockage of the normal drainage pathway may lead to tears that spill over onto the face.”

Read on to get the scoop on what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to cat eye discharge:

1. A small amount of discharge is probably nothing to worry about.

“While technically a normal eye should not have any ocular discharge, a small amount of clear discharge, which may dry and appear slightly brown and crusty, may be OK,” Dr. Kimmitt says. If your cat just gets those morning eye boogers, the eyes are more than likely fine.

2. Some breeds are more prone to eye boogers.

Due to the shape of the face, Persians, Himalayans and other cats with short noses and large, round eyes might have more eye leakage than other cats. This might be normal, but if the discharge is excessive, ask your vet.

3. Some cat eye problems warrant a trip to the vet.

Yellow or green eye discharge is not normal — if your cat has colored discharge, make a vet appointment as soon as possible. “If there is enough discharge that you have to wipe your pet’s eye(s) more than one to two times daily, or if your cat is squinting or frequently rubbing at its eye(s), or if the eye(s) look red, it should be seen by a veterinarian,” Dr. Kimmitt says. When it comes to your cat’s eye issues, don’t delay making that vet appointment — your cat’s eyes and eyesight might depend on it.

4. Many things can cause abnormal eye leakage in cats.

Cat eye discharge is a sign of many different eye diseases and disorders, including corneal ulcers, conjunctivitis and entropion (an eyelid that rolls inward, allowing the hairs on the skin to irritate the eye). Your veterinarian will examine your cat and possibly perform certain tests to find out what exactly is causing your cat’s eye discharge.

5. It’s important to keep your cat’s eye area clean.

Use a soft, wet cloth to gently wipe away any discharge. “There are also a variety of veterinary products available to help clean around the eyes,” Dr. Kimmitt says. “Just be sure to find one that is labeled as safe to be used around the eyes, and avoid any product that contains alcohol.”

Have you ever dealt with cat eye discharge? What are your tips and tricks for handling them? Let us know!

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