Your cat has magical eyes. You might be startled by their glow from corners in the middle of the night. A cat’s eyesight is part of its superpowers, namely cuteness, and hunting. The bright eyes that communicate curiosity, hunger, and love also focus with deadly intent on prey like mice or ankles. As a responsible pet parent, you’re researching ways to support cat eye health. In this article, we’ll talk about how your cat’s eyes work, nutrition for healthy eyes, eye cleaning and grooming, and signs of eye issues in cats.
Understanding How Cats’ Eyes Function
Your cat has the eyes of a nocturnal hunter. Cat eyes are quite large in comparison to the size of their skull. This gives your cat a wider field of view than humans have. Cats have 295 degrees of vision, whereas humans only have 210 degrees of vision. This wider field of vision increases your cat’s ability to judge distance—a crucial hunting skill. Since they evolved as nocturnal hunters, cats can see in very dim light. Two parts of their eyes help them do this.
- A specialized layer of cells beneath the retina, called the tapetum lucidum (shining layer), helps your cat to see in low light. These cells are flat and act as mirrors-light bounces off them and into the retina. They amplify the dim light, allowing your cat to see more clearly. These cells are responsible for the characteristic glow of cat eyes in the dark. If you shine a bright light in a cat’s eyes in the dark, you will see silver, oval disks. These disks are the tapetum lucidum.
- The second way that cat eyes are specially adapted to dim light is their pupil shape. Cat’s pupils are elliptical and can vary in size from narrow, vertical ovals to circles. The pupil is the part of the eye that lets in light. This allows them to precisely control the amount of light entering their eyes, or retina. The retina is the light-sensitive part of the eye and is made up of rods and cones that send information to the brain through the optic nerve. In low light, a cat’s pupils will widen to let more light into the eye, which helps them to stalk their prey (or your toes) in dim lighting.
Human eyes are made for seeing color and detail. Cat eyes are different. While they can see some colors—particularly red and blue—they don’t see color the same way we do. However, cat eyes do have the same basic mechanism as human eyes. Light reflected off objects enters the eye through the cornea, which refracts (bends) the light so it can enter the pupil and go through the lens, which changes the shape of the light again, focusing it on the rods and cones of the retina, which are photosensitive cells. These specialized cells convert the light they’re sensing into electric signals which are sent to the brain to be interpreted as vision.
Feeding your cat a high-quality high protein diet not only supports cat eye health but their health overall. Taurine, an amino acid found in protein, is essential for cat eye health. Without enough taurine, the photosensitive parts of a cat’s eyes start to deteriorate. A high-quality protein has a proper balance of amino acids and is digestible, that is the body can absorb the nutrients from the food. Not all cat foods use digestible proteins, which can lead to health issues in cats. Here are a few ways to determine how well your cat is digesting their current food.
- Look at their stools or poops. Large quantities of poop mean that a lot of food isn’t being digested by the body, so it needs to be eliminated. Soft poops and poop with mucous are also signs of poor digestibility.
- Examine your cat’s food ingredient label. While some meat meal and meat byproduct is ok for kitties, since they eat the carcass of their prey in the wild, the first few ingredients should be high-quality protein sources that sound like food.
- Consider how much your cat’s food cost. The general rule of thumb when it comes to pet food is the higher the price, the higher the quality, or digestibility. Good protein costs more. However, since a higher quality food is more digestible, you will need to feed less of it to your cat. And, you’ll have less poop to clean up.
Healthy fats are also essential for eye health. A good source of healthy fats for cats is fish oil. Fish oil contains essential fatty acid omega-3, which supports the health of your cat’s coat, skin, eyes, heart, and nervous system.
Another good supplement to support cat eye health is full-spectrum CBD or hemp oil. This nourishing plant is packed full of healthful cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. CBD helps to maintain normal eye function and health, supports healthy vision and normal vision development. You can combine the power of fish oil and CBD for your cat with Pet Releaf’s Liposome Hemp Oil 100. This CBD oil is designed for cats and made with full-spectrum hemp CBD, that’s made from hemp grown here in America with sustainable and regenerative farming practices. Pet Releaf extracts from the whole hemp plant, using state of the art technology that doesn’t use any heat, chemicals, or solvents. The full-spectrum CBD is mixed with sustainably sourced Wild Alaskan Red Pollack fish oil, making this a tasty treat for your kitty. This fast-acting hemp CBD oil can be given with food.
Cleaning and Grooming
Eyecare is part of a healthy grooming routine, and a good way to support cat eye health. Giving your cat a quick, DIY eye exam is a good way to check on their eye health, and to know when it’s time to go to the vet.
- Look at your cat’s eyes in a brightly lit space. Healthy eyes are clear and bright, and the white part of the eye is white. Pupils should be the same size.
- Wash and dry your hands thoroughly. Gently, using your thumb, roll down your kitty’s bottom eyelid and look at the lining. A healthy lining is pink. Red or white indicates an issue.
- Sometimes cats will collect crusty bits in the corner of their eye. Using a damp cotton ball, wipe the gunk away, moving away from the eye, and towards the nose.
- Trim any long hair that could be impeding your cat’s vision or poking their eye.
A special note about cats. Do not fight a cat. The cat will win. This may sound silly, but it is revered veterinary advice. If your cat seriously fights you when you try to groom it, a professional groomer is a safer choice for both parties involved.
Veterinary Exams and Check-Ups
Taking your cat to their regular veterinary visits is a key part of maintaining their eye health. Your vet is an expert on your cat’s eye health and will examine your cat’s eyes to check for their health and any potential dysfunction or issue. If something is developing in your cat’s eyes, the sooner you can start treatment, the better the outcome.
Watch Out for Signs of Eye Injury or Disease
Here are common signs of eye issues in cats and some of the common eye conditions cats can develop. Any kind of eye health concern requires the immediate attention of a veterinarian.
Discharge, like mucous or thick tears.
Excessive tearing up.
Keeping eyes closed.
Eye color changing, or cloudiness of the eye or eyes.
Visible third eyelid.
Rubbing eyes against surfaces, pawing at eyes.
A common cat eye condition is conjunctivitis, a condition where the outer layer of the eye becomes inflamed. The causes range from the feline herpes virus to bacteria, foreign bodies (like dirt), or allergies. Its symptoms include redness, swelling, watery or pus-like discharge, squinting, rubbing their eye, or pawing at it. This condition is easily treated.
Another common cat eye condition is not an infection, but a type of injury. If the eyeball is scratched, it can cause a corneal ulcer. The cornea is the clear part of the eyeball. These are very painful and require swift medical treatment. Symptoms include squinting and a partly closed eye, blinking, eyes that are watery-with occasional discharge in the corner of the eye, redness, irritation of the eye; they’re pawing at it or rubbing their eye.
Glaucoma is a less common, but serious eye condition where the inner pressure of the eye increases due to a blockage in the eye’s fluid drainage system. This increase in pressure causes the eyeball to get bigger. After a time, this condition will lead to permanent damage to the retina, which is the light-sensitive part of the eye. Symptoms include squinting and blinking, dilated pupils, large or small that do not respond to light, redness, cloudiness, and vision loss. In most cases, this is a treatable condition, but all cases of glaucoma require veterinary care.