Is Cat Eye Infection Contagious

What is a Cat Eye Infection?

A cat eye infection, also known as conjunctivitis, is inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the thin transparent tissue that lines the inner eyelid and covers the white part of the eye [1]. It can affect one or both eyes.

Common symptoms of a cat eye infection include [2]:

  • Redness in the white part of the eye
  • Swollen or puffy eyelids
  • Green, yellow, or white eye discharge
  • Squinting or excessive blinking
  • Rubbing or pawing at the eyes

Causes can include [3]:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Viral infections
  • Allergies
  • Foreign objects getting in the eye
  • Blocked tear ducts
  • Underlying health conditions

While mild cases may resolve on their own, it’s important to have a veterinarian examine your cat’s eyes to properly diagnose the cause and provide appropriate treatment.

[1] https://www.dutch.com/blogs/cats/cat-eye-infection

[2] https://bluepearlvet.com/medical-articles-for-pet-owners/what-are-symptoms-of-eye-infections-in-cats/

[3] https://www.charlotte.carolinavet.com/site/charlotte-emergency-vet-blog/2020/06/12/help-i-think-my-cat-has-an-eye-infection

Are Cat Eye Infections Contagious to Other Cats?

Yes, cat eye infections can be highly contagious between cats. According to Cat Eye Infection Symptoms, “Eye infections are extremely contagious.” Cats primarily spread eye infections through direct contact with infected eye discharge. When a cat has an eye infection, its eyes will frequently tear and produce discharge. If another cat comes into contact with this discharge, it can easily pick up the infection.

two cats nuzzling each other

Cats who live together and groom/nuzzle each other have the highest risk of passing eye infections between themselves. Stray cats are also prone to spreading eye infections rapidly in groups. Even cats that don’t directly interact can potentially spread eye infections through touching the same objects or surfaces where infected eye discharge was present. Proper quarantine and disinfection is crucial when a cat develops a contagious eye infection in a multi-cat household.

Can Humans Catch a Cat Eye Infection?

While rare, it is possible for humans to catch certain eye infections from cats. One example is cat-scratch disease, which is caused by a type of bacteria called Bartonella henselae. This bacteria can be transmitted to humans if an infected cat’s saliva enters the body through a bite, scratch, or even just a lick. If the bacteria reaches the eyes, it can cause inflammation and infection of the conjunctiva. Symptoms in humans include redness, swelling, and discharge from the eyes. Cat-scratch disease usually resolves on its own, but antibiotics may be prescribed in some cases.

Another eye infection that can spread from cats to humans is toxoplasmosis. This is caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which cats can carry in their feces. Humans can catch toxoplasmosis if they inadvertently touch their eyes after coming into contact with an infected cat’s feces that contains Toxoplasma eggs. In the eyes, toxoplasmosis can cause blurred vision, eye pain, and sometimes permanent visual impairment. Treatment involves anti-parasitic medication.

While direct transmission is less common, humans can also develop viral eye infections like herpes that their cat is carrying. Overall, basic hygiene like washing hands after handling cats, avoiding scratches/bites near the eyes, and cleaning the litter box daily can help minimize the risk of humans contracting a feline eye infection. But cat owners should be aware of the possibility and see an optometrist if any eye irritation develops after contact with a cat.

Source: https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/zoonotic-disease-what-can-i-catch-my-cat

How to Prevent Spreading a Cat Eye Infection

If one of your cats has an infectious eye infection, it’s important to take steps to prevent it from spreading to your other cats. Here are some tips for containing the infection:

  • Separate the infected cat from the other cats in the household. Keep the sick cat confined to one room that the other cats do not access.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after touching the infected cat or anything in the room the cat has access to. Use soap and warm water and scrub for at least 20 seconds.
  • Do not let the infected cat share food bowls, water bowls, litter boxes or beds with the other cats. These items can harbor infectious agents.
  • Clean and disinfect any surfaces the infected cat has had contact with using a vet-approved disinfectant. This includes floors, counters, doorknobs, etc.
  • Launder bedding, blankets and fabrics from the infected cat’s room separately using hot water and detergent. Avoid shaking them, which can disperse infectious particles.
  • Monitor the other cats closely for any symptoms like eye discharge, redness or squinting, and isolate promptly if noticed. Early intervention is key.

Following strict hygiene and separation protocols is important to stop cat eye infections from moving between cats. Consult your veterinarian for any other specific tips for your situation.

Treating a Contagious Cat Eye Infection

If your cat has a contagious eye infection, your veterinarian will likely prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment to treat the infection. Common antibiotic eye medications for cats include Terramycin®, Vetropolycin®, and Neomycin. According to Charlotte Carolina Vet, these antibiotic eye medications can effectively treat bacterial and fungal eye infections in cats.

Some contagious eye infections may require oral antibiotics in addition to topical eye treatments. Your vet will examine your cat’s eyes and determine if systemic antibiotics are needed. It’s important to follow your vet’s instructions closely and finish the entire course of antibiotic treatment, even if your cat’s eyes look better.

In addition to medications prescribed by your vet, you can help care for your cat’s infected eyes at home. Gently wipe your cat’s eyes with a warm, wet cloth to remove any discharge. Use a separate cloth for each eye to avoid spreading infection between eyes. Keep your cat’s eyes clear of discharge as much as possible. Provide a quiet, comfortable place for your cat to recover. Monitor your cat’s eyes for any worsening of symptoms and contact your vet if the infection persists or gets worse.

Cats with contagious eye infections should be kept isolated from other household pets during treatment. Any bedding or surfaces that came in contact with discharge from the infected eyes should be disinfected. Follow up with your veterinarian as directed to ensure the eye infection has resolved fully after treatment.

Disinfecting Your Home After a Cat Eye Infection

If your cat has had an infectious eye condition like conjunctivitis, it’s important to thoroughly disinfect your home to prevent reinfection and spread to other pets. Here are some tips for effective disinfection after a cat eye infection:

person disinfecting home after cat illness

Focus on hard surfaces like floors, countertops, doorknobs, litter boxes, food bowls, cat beds and any other areas the infected cat had contact with. Use disinfectant products that specifically state they kill feline viruses and bacteria.

Some recommended disinfectants include chlorhexidine, accelerated hydrogen peroxide, potassium peroxymonosulfate, and quaternary ammonium compounds like benzalkonium chloride. Avoid disinfectants containing phenols or bleach, as these can be toxic to cats when inhaled.[1]

When using disinfectants, be sure to follow the product instructions exactly. Many require the surfaces to remain visibly wet for 5-10 minutes in order to effectively kill pathogens. For porous surfaces like bedding and fabric toys, wash and dry them on a high heat setting.

Isolate infected cats from other pets during treatment, and discard items like food bowls that can’t be adequately disinfected. With diligent cleaning and disinfection, you can help stop the spread of contagious cat eye infections in your home.

Caring for a Cat with an Eye Infection

If your cat has been diagnosed with an eye infection, there are some key things you can do at home to help care for your cat and support their recovery:

Apply any medication as directed. If your veterinarian has prescribed eye drops or ointment for your cat, be sure to apply them exactly as instructed, usually several times per day. Carefully pull down the lower eyelid to allow the medication to go directly into the eye.

applying eye drops to cat's infected eye

Keep the eye area clean. Use a soft, warm, damp cloth to gently wipe away any discharge around the eyes. Avoid rubbing and irritation. You can apply a warm compress for 5-10 minutes a few times a day to help loosen discharge.

Reduce stress. Keep your cat’s environment calm to avoid stress that could slow healing. Cats should be kept indoors during an eye infection and away from any potential irritants.

With at-home care and any prescribed medication, your cat’s eye infection should start to show improvement within a few days. However, make sure to follow up with your vet as recommended to monitor your cat’s condition.

When to See a Vet for a Cat Eye Infection

If your cat has symptoms of an eye infection like discharge, redness, or swelling, it’s important to assess the severity and get veterinary care if needed. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, you should take your cat to the vet if you notice excessive tearing, abnormal eye discharge, or reddened membranes. Here are some signs that require urgent vet care:

  • Thick, yellow, or green eye discharge
  • Eyes crusted shut with discharge
  • Squinting or spasms of the eyelids
  • Rubbing or pawing at the eyes
  • Cloudiness of the cornea
  • Ulcers or bleeding in the eye

Even mild symptoms should prompt a regular veterinary visit to check for infection and get prescription medication if needed. Left untreated, eye infections can worsen and cause permanent damage. Cats with chronic eye issues may need medications long-term to manage flare ups. Your vet can help assess when to treat at home versus come into the clinic. Monitoring for worsening and quick treatment is key to protecting your cat’s vision and comfort.

Preventing Cat Eye Infections

There are several steps you can take to help prevent your cat from developing eye infections:

Hygiene

Maintaining good hygiene around your cat’s eyes is important. Gently wipe away any discharge from the eyes daily using a separate tissue or cotton pad for each eye. This helps prevent contaminants from spreading from one eye to the other. Avoid using the same grooming tools in both eyes. Wash your hands before and after touching your cat’s eyes or applying medication.

Nutrition

Feeding your cat a nutritious diet supports eye health. Look for cat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids from fish, as well as antioxidants from fruits and vegetables. Stay on top of your cat’s dental health, as bacteria from dental disease can cause eye infections.

Veterinary Care

Take your cat to the vet for regular checkups and keep vaccinations up to date. Wellness exams allow early detection of conditions that could impact eye health. Veterinarians can recommend supplements or treatments tailored to your individual cat’s needs. In multi-cat households, isolate sick cats to avoid spreading infections between pets.

While not every eye infection can be prevented, maintaining your cat’s overall wellbeing goes a long way. Partner with your vet for guidance on protecting your feline’s eyes.

Outlook and Prognosis for Cat Eye Infections

The prognosis for most cat eye infections is excellent with prompt veterinary treatment and care at home. With appropriate antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications, most bacterial and viral conjunctivitis will clear up within 1-2 weeks (1). Cats generally respond well to treatment and make a full recovery.

However, it’s important to follow up with the full course of medication, even if your cat’s eyes look better. Stopping antibiotics too soon can allow the infection to recur. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s treatment instructions fully.

healthy cat with clear eyes

Potential complications from untreated cat eye infections include corneal ulcers, vision impairment, or even blindness if left untreated. However, such outcomes are rare if proper veterinary care is provided (2). With medications and TLC at home, most cats can expect a quick and full recovery.

In the long run, there are no lasting effects expected for cats who recover from eye infections. Once the infection has fully resolved, cats can enjoy excellent lifelong vision and eye health. Just be sure to follow your vet’s advice for preventing future eye infections in your cat.

(1) https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/conjunctivitis-in-cats

(2) https://bluepearlvet.com/medical-articles-for-pet-owners/what-are-symptoms-of-eye-infections-in-cats/

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