Examining and Medicating the Eyes of a Cat
This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care.
Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.
In the photographs below, unless otherwise noted, the cat is facing
with his nose pointing to your left.
Variations on these instructions exist.
Some cats will happily sit in your lap or on a table while you medicate
their eyes but many require some form of restraint. See the section on
restraining a cat for some suggestions.
Anatomy of the normal eye
To hold your cat in your lap to place eye medications, drape
your left forearm across the cat's body to keep him/her in your
lap. Hold the head with your left hand using your left thumb to
pull down the lower eyelid.
Hold the medication in your right hand, balancing the heel of
your right hand on the cat's head.
||To examine the eyes, the head is
cupped between both hands with one thumb on the upper eyelid and
the other thumb on the lower eyelid.
|To see the parts of the eye
beneath the upper eyelid, pull the upper eyelid up with your
thumb which will open the eye widely. The white part of the eye
is the sclera. The sclera is normally glistening white and has
small, thin red blood vessels on its surface.
Abnormal findings on the sclera include:
- large, engorged blood vessels
- bruises may indicate a local injury or a problem with
the clotting system
- yellow discoloration of the sclera which indicates
|If you stretch
the lid further you will see a pink tissue which is the
conjunctiva. In health, the conjunctiva are about the same shade
of pink as the gums.
Abnormal findings on the conjunctiva include:
- pale pink may indicate anemia
- yellow discoloration indicates jaundice
- bruises may indicate a local injury or a problem with the clotting
Looking through the pupil, you look through the lens which is clear and you
may see a very bright colorful structure which is the retina. When you
photograph a pet and see "red eyes", you are seeing light shining off the
The iris can be one of several different colors and some cats have 2
different color irises. Some, but not all cats with blue eyes are deaf.
Abnormal findings on the iris include:
- ragged edges, although this can occur with aging and is called iris
- growths on the iris
- black spots on the iris
- blood spots on the iris
The pupil is the black spot in the center of the eye. Cat pupils are oval
compared to dog pupils that are round. The pupils should be the same size
and should constrict to a slit when a bright light is shined in the eye. The
pupil is a hole in the center of the iris. The lens is behind the pupil but
is not seen when healthy as it is clear.
Abnormal findings in the pupil include:
- blue discoloration of the pupil is a color change in the lens,
indicating cataracts or an aging change called nuclear sclerosis
- different sized pupils which is called anisocoria
- ragged edges, although this can occur with aging
Use your lower thumb to pull down the lower eye lid. The
third eye lid, also called the nictitating membrane, will
protrude over the bottom inner corner of the eye. In the
pictures above, notice that the third eyelid also protrudes when
you pull up the upper eyelid. The 3rd eyelid is usually a pale
pink or white color and has thin blood vessels on its surface.
When you pull the lower lid down it pulls way from the eyeball
creating a pouch that is lined by pink conjunctiva. This pouch
is where eye medications are placed.
Abnormalities of the conjunctiva and 3rd eyelid include:
- yellow discoloration in patients with jaundice
- discharge may accumulate in this pocket
||Eye medications are either drops
or ointments. Ointments stay in the eye longer than drops so are
usually applied less often. Your veterinarian will prescribe
specific medications for specific conditions.
|Cradle the head in one hand,
usually the left hand if you are right-handed. Use the thumb of
the hand holding the head to pull down the lower eye lid to
create a pouch. Hold the ointment tube in your right hand, with
the tip a few millimeters away from the eye, not touching the
eye, squeeze a small ribbon of ointment into the pouch.
||To distribute the ointment across
|| ...massage the ointment across
the surface of the eye with eyelids closed.
|Eye drops are also placed in the
pouch created when you pull down the lower eyelid. Hold the head
and pull down the lower eyelid as described for placing
ointments in the eye. Drop the prescribed number of drops into
the pouch without the tip of the bottle touching the eye. Eye
drops disperse across the surface of the eye rapidly and do not
need to be rubbed across the eye by massaging.
Depending upon the size of the cat's head and your hands, you may rest
the middle finger or heel of the hand holding the bottle or tube on the
cat's head to keep your hand more steady and reduce the risk of poking the
cat in the eye with the bottle or tube.
Washington State University
assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following
these descriptions or procedures.
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