How to Treat a Cat That has a Scratched Eye

Cat with a Scratched Eye in a Cone
Beautiful white cat in a plastic collar with a scratched eye. anton petukhov / Getty Images

Cats are naturally curious and get into many places and things in the household. This means their chances of receiving a scratched eye or eye irritation are high. Some cats also can experience eye irritation from viruses, allergies, dust and dirt, fights, etc. An irritation can lead to a mild inflammation of the tissue around the eye (conjunctivitis) or severe damage to the cornea. Upper respiratory diseases are probably the most common cause of conjunctivitis in cats.

When examining the eye, it is important to know that cats have a third eyelid located in the corner of the eye nearest the nose. This third eyelid can completely cover the eyeball and sometimes gives the appearance that part of the eye is gone. If it is raised and looks red, the eye is inflamed. Do not touch or manipulate this eyelid. All eye irritations should be treated by a veterinarian.


If you are unsure whether your cat has a scratched eye or an eye infection, some of the signs to look for include the cat squinting and rubbing or pawing at its eyes. The eye also will have a thick discharge or redness. If your cat has a scratched eye or an eye irritation, use the following cat care tips:

Step 1: Approach the cat carefully. If your cat is nervous or anxious, restrain the cat if necessary.

Step 2: Flush the eye thoroughly (three or four times) with saline solution or plain water.

Step 3: You should help the cat prevent self-injury to its eye.

Step 3a: Dewclaw should be bandaged on the front paw on the same side as the affected eye.

Step 3b: If the cat is scratching at the eye continuously, cut a large piece of cardboard into an Elizabethan-type collar.

Step 4: Transport the cat to the veterinarian immediately.

©Publications International, Ltd.


Cat Scratched Eye FAQ

Will cat conjunctivitis go away by itself?
It depends on what the cause of the conjunctivitis is. It’s best to seek veterinary care as you’re likely to need eye drops to treat the issue. Treatment is particularly important if you have multiple cats, as conjunctivitis can be contagious.
What does it mean when a cat's third eyelid is showing?
If your cat's third eyelid is showing, it means that the eye is likely either infected or injured. It can also indicate a bigger issue like dental disease, an abscess or an oral infection. It is best not to touch or manipulate the eyelid and seek veterinary care immediately.
How do you treat a cat's irritated eye?
The best course of action is to take the cat to the vet for examination. In the meantime, flush the eye thoroughly with saline solution or cool water and put a cone around its neck to prevent them from scratching or rubbing at it.
How long does it take for a cat's scratched eye to heal?
Eye irritations in cats usually heal within three to five days. Medication is generally given to prevent bacterial infections and to relieve pain.
Why is my cat's eye watering and squinting?
Your cat's eye is likely watering and squinting due to irritation from a virus, allergies, dust, dirt or a scratch. Irritation can lead to a mild inflammation of the tissue around the eye (conjunctivitis) or, in the worst case, severe damage to the cornea.