The Truth About Cat Eye Boogers. Are They Normal or Not?

What Are Cat Eye Boogers?

Eye boogers in cats refer to the sticky, mucus-like discharge that can accumulate in the corners of a cat’s eyes. The technical term for eye boogers is “rheum.” Rheum is made up of mucus, fat, skin cells, dust, and other debris.

Eye boogers form when the mucus coating and lubricating the eye dries up. The mucus traps particles like dust and dead skin cells. Over time, these particles build up in the inner corners and edges of the eyes, forming solid bits of dried discharge.

cat's third eyelid collecting debris contributing to eye boogers

Cats have a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane that also traps debris and contributes to eye boogers. Eye boogers are often most noticeable when a cat first wakes up in the morning, since the eyes produce more mucus during sleep. While unsightly, mild cases of eye boogers are harmless and very common in cats.

Are Cat Eye Boogers Normal?

Eye boogers are very common in cats and are generally not a cause for concern (1). They form when tears, mucus, dust, or other debris accumulate in the corners of a cat’s eyes and dry into crusty deposits. While a small amount of clear eye discharge is normal, some eye boogers can be a minor annoyance for cats.

Eye boogers themselves are not inherently dangerous or problematic. In fact, they are a normal biological process as a cat’s eye lubricates and protects itself. However, colored, excessive, or foul-smelling eye discharge could point to an underlying health issue (2).

Overall, small amounts of eye boogers are very common in cats. They may be unsightly but are not necessarily harmful. However, if they seem excessive or abnormal, it’s a good idea to monitor your cat’s eyes more closely or consult your veterinarian.

Causes of Eye Boogers in Cats

There are several potential causes for eye boogers in cats:

Dust, dirt, pollen and other irritants can get into a cat’s eyes and cause discharge and crusting. Cats spend a lot of time grooming and can transfer particles into their eyes that way (source).

Dry eyes or reduced tear production can also lead to eye boogers in cats. Tears help flush out and lubricate the eyes. When tear production is inadequate, discharge and matter can build up (source).

Bacterial infections are a common cause of conjunctivitis (pinkeye) in cats, which can result in yellow or green discharge. Cats can pick up bacterial infections through contact with other animals or unsanitary conditions (source).

Allergies to pollen, dust, mold, or other environmental allergens can trigger eye discharge and crusting in cats, just as with human allergies. Allergic reactions cause inflammation of the conjunctiva (lining of the eyelids and eyeballs).

Blocked tear ducts prevent normal drainage of tears from the eyes. This allows discharge to accumulate and become crusty (source). Cats can have blocked ducts at birth or due to an injury.

When to Worry About Eye Boogers

when to be concerned about cat eye boogers

While most cases of eye boogers in cats are harmless, you should keep an eye out for certain signs that may indicate an underlying issue. Some symptoms that warrant a vet visit include:

Persistent eye boogers that don’t clear up within a day or two. Chronic eye discharge can be a sign of infection or other irritation (Source).

Eye boogers that are green or yellow in color. This can indicate an infection or blocked tear ducts (Source).

Eye discharge accompanied by other symptoms like redness, swelling, squinting, or blinking. This often signals an eye problem like conjunctivitis or ulceration (Source).

Excessive pawing at the eyes. Your cat may be bothered by irritation, pain, or vision impairment from eye issues.

In these cases, it’s important to schedule a veterinary exam promptly. Left untreated, eye infections and other problems can worsen and even damage vision.

Preventing Eye Boogers

There are several steps cat owners can take to help prevent eye boogers from forming in the first place:

Keeping your cat’s environment clean is important. Dust, dirt, and dander can irritate your cat’s eyes and lead to excessive tearing and discharge. Be sure to vacuum and dust regularly, and wash bedding frequently. Consider using an air purifier as well.

Regular grooming can also help. Trimming the hair around your cat’s eyes can prevent hairs from poking the eye and stimulating tear production. Gently wiping your cat’s eyes daily with a warm, damp cloth will remove any buildup before it hardens into boogers.

Treating any underlying allergies your cat may have can reduce watery eyes. Allergies to food, dust, or pollen can all cause eye irritation. Your vet can help you identify and manage any allergies.

Ensuring your cat stays well hydrated is also important. Dehydration can lead to thicker eye discharge. Make sure fresh, clean water is always available. You can also add moisture to your cat’s diet with wet food.

With diligent cleaning, grooming, allergy management, and hydration, you can help prevent problematic eye boogers from plaguing your cat.

Treatment for Troublesome Eye Boogers

If your cat has persistent or severe eye boogers that don’t resolve on their own, your veterinarian may recommend treatment to help clear up the issue. Some common treatment options include:

Warm Compresses – Your vet may recommend applying a warm, moist compress to your cat’s eyes several times a day. The moisture and warmth can help loosen dried discharge and allow it to be gently wiped away. Be sure to use a clean cloth each time.

Veterinarian-Prescribed Eye Drops/Ointments – For eye infections or inflammation, your vet may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or anti-inflammatory eye ointments to apply to your cat’s eyes. It’s important to follow dosage instructions carefully. Examples include Fucithalmic gel and Neomycin/Polymyxin/Dexamethasone ophthalmic ointment.

Antibiotics – If your cat has a bacterial eye infection, your vet may prescribe oral or injectable antibiotics to clear up the infection. It’s important to give all doses as directed.

Surgery for Blocked Tear Ducts – In rare cases with severe blocked tear ducts, surgery may be needed to open up the drainage passages. This is typically only done when other treatments have failed.

By following your veterinarian’s treatment recommendations, most cases of troublesome cat eye discharge can be managed. But be sure to monitor your cat’s eyes closely and let your vet know if symptoms persist or worsen. With proper care, your cat’s eyes should be back to normal soon!

Removing Eye Boogers

When removing eye boogers from your cat, it’s important to be very gentle and never use anything sharp. The best method is to use a soft, damp cloth or cotton pad. Dip the cloth or pad in warm water or a sterile saline solution to dampen it. Gently wipe at the eye boogers to loosen and remove them, being careful not to scrub or rub too hard. Only wipe inward towards the nose, never outwards.

gently wiping cat's eye area to remove boogers

It can take some patience to fully clear away stubborn eye discharge. Work slowly and carefully. Don’t try to remove it all at once, which could irritate your cat’s eye. It may take a few sessions of gentle wiping over a couple days to clear a significant buildup. After removing eye boogers, follow up by flushing the eye with an appropriate veterinarian-recommended cat eye wash solution.

Never use tweezers, cotton swabs, or other objects to scrape at eye boogers, as this risks scratching the delicate eye area. Be cautious not to get any eye wash or cleaning solutions into the unaffected eye. With a calm, soothing approach and proper supplies, you can safely clear eye discharge from your cat’s eyes.

Sources:

How to Clean Cat Eye Boogers? Vet-Approved Step-by-Step Guide

When to See the Vet

While small amounts of clear or slightly brown eye discharge are normal in cats, there are some situations when you should take your cat to the veterinarian for eye boogers or other eye issues:

  • Eye discharge persists for more than a few days (https://www.maddiesfund.org/kb-eye-discharge-in-cats.htm)
  • The amount of eye discharge increases (https://www.vetdermclinic.com/eye-discharge-in-cats-signs-you-need-to-bring-your-cat-to-the-vet/)
  • The discharge changes color or becomes thicker or stickier (https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/cat-eye-discharge/)
  • Your cat seems to be in pain or the eye appears irritated
  • You notice any swelling, redness, or blinking in the eye
  • Your cat’s eyes seem more watery than usual
  • There are any changes in your cat’s vision or third eyelid visible
  • Your cat rubs or paws at the eyes excessively

Any of these symptoms could indicate an eye infection, injury, or other issue that requires veterinary attention and treatment. It’s important not to try to treat eye problems at home, as some medications can actually make the problem worse. Let your vet examine your cat’s eyes and prescribe the appropriate medication if needed. Prompt treatment by a vet can help prevent permanent damage and vision loss in cats with eye discharge or infection.

Caring for Cats with Eye Issues

Cats with eye infections or other eye issues require some extra care and attention from their owners. Here are some tips for caring for a cat with an eye problem at home:

Keeping your cat comfortable is important while their eyes heal. Provide soft, clean bedding in a quiet, dimly lit space. This will help reduce eye strain and irritation. You may need to separate them from other pets temporarily.

Be sure to administer any prescribed eye drops or medication as directed by your veterinarian. Never stop treatment early, even if your cat’s eyes look better. Completing the full course is key to resolving the infection.

Maintain good hygiene around your cat’s eyes. Gently wipe away any discharge using a soft, damp cloth. Avoid rubbing the eyes. Keep the area around their eyes clean to prevent further infection.

Provide enrichment with toys, scratching posts, and interactive playtime. This will keep their mind engaged and prevent boredom during recovery. Be sure toys are cleaned regularly.

Monitor your cat closely for any changes to their eyes or energy levels. Alert your vet if symptoms worsen or don’t improve within a few days of starting treatment. With proper care at home and medication, most eye issues can be treated successfully.

The Bottom Line

caring for cats at home with eye issues

Eye boogers are very common in cats. The occasional eye booger is usually not a major concern. Most of the time, eye discharge is a normal way for a cat’s eyes to clean themselves. As long as the eye boogers are not excessive, a different color than normal, accompanied by redness or swelling, or causing your cat discomfort, there is likely no need to worry.

It’s a good idea to monitor your cat’s eyes regularly for any troubling changes like increased discharge, stickiness, or irritation which could point to an eye infection or other issue. Gently wipe away any eye boogers daily with a warm, wet cloth to keep your cat comfortable.

If your cat has persistent eye boogers, irritation, squinting, pawing at their eyes, or other abnormal eye symptoms, contact your veterinarian. They can examine your cat’s eyes, diagnose any underlying conditions, and prescribe medication if needed. With prompt care, most minor eye issues in cats can be treated successfully.

While eye discharge is normal for cats, any concerning changes to your cat’s eyes should receive veterinary attention right away. Stay alert to your cat’s eye health and seek care when needed to keep your feline friend happy and comfortable.

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