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What Are the Different Types of Cat Eye Drops?

Gregory Hanson
Gregory Hanson

Cat eye drops come in two general varieties. Some are prescribed by a veterinarian and contain specific medication to treat particular problems. A second broad category of cat eye drops consists of products that are available without a prescription, which are used to treat certain minor conditions or to clean and soothe a cat’s eyes. Some natural or homeopathic eye drops are also available for cats and may help in treating certain conditions.

A number of different ailments can afflict the eyes of cats. Bacterial infections are quite common and can cause eyes to become red and puffy. A veterinarian will often prescribe antibiotic cat eye drops to treat this type of condition. If used correctly, these eye drops should eliminate a bacterial infection over the course of a little more than a week.

An adult housecat.
An adult housecat.

Cats can become infected with viruses and other parasites in addition to bacteria. In some cases, such as when dealing with the feline herpes virus that is common among housecats, eye drops may be used to aid in removing crusts from the eyes but are not able to directly treat the underlying condition. In other cases, such as when treating parasitic infections, medical eye drops may be available.

Cat eye drops.
Cat eye drops.

Many stores sell over the counter eye drops for cats. These eye drops serve primarily to irrigate and soothe eyes that may be irritated from allergies or from minor trauma. Cat owners should consult with a veterinarian before employing these treatments to make sure that the use of such cat eye drops is appropriate.

Natural medicines and supplements are available for cats just as for humans, and eye drops based on natural substances are marketed widely. These eye drops should be evaluated based on the specific ingredients that they contain. If unsure about the properties of a specific substance, a cat owner should consult with a trained veterinarian in order to err on the side of caution, as the natural substances in these supplements are subject to much less regulation than are medical drugs but can have very powerful effects on a cat.

Cats may be prescribed eyedrops with specific medication.
Cats may be prescribed eyedrops with specific medication.

In some cases, a veterinarian may prescribe a mild ointment in place of cat eye drops. This is done because an ointment will typically transfer a larger dose of medicine and require less-frequent application. This may be a preferable option in some cases because not all cats tolerate the application of eye drops well, and the frequent administration of drops can be traumatic for a sick animal.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main types of eye drops used for cats?

There are several types of eye drops for cats, including lubricating drops for dry eyes, antibiotic drops for bacterial infections, antiviral drops for viral infections, anti-inflammatory drops to reduce swelling and irritation, and drops containing steroids for more severe inflammation. Each type targets specific conditions and should be prescribed by a veterinarian.

Can I use human eye drops on my cat?

It is not recommended to use human eye drops on cats without veterinary guidance. Cats have different eye structures and may react adversely to ingredients that are safe for humans. Always consult a veterinarian before administering any medication to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your cat's specific condition.

How can I tell if my cat needs eye drops?

Signs that your cat may need eye drops include redness, swelling, discharge, squinting, or constant pawing at the eyes. If you notice any of these symptoms, it's important to visit a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. They can determine the underlying cause and prescribe the correct type of eye drops.

Are there any side effects associated with cat eye drops?

Like all medications, cat eye drops can have side effects, though they are generally mild and rare. Possible side effects include increased tearing, mild irritation, or an allergic reaction. If you notice any severe reactions or if the symptoms worsen after applying the eye drops, contact your veterinarian immediately.

How do I safely administer eye drops to my cat?

To safely administer eye drops to your cat, gently restrain your cat and tilt its head back slightly. Use one hand to hold the eye drops while using the other to open the eyelids. Apply the prescribed number of drops, being careful not to touch the eye's surface with the dropper. Reward your cat afterward to create a positive association.

How often should I apply eye drops to my cat?

The frequency of eye drop application will depend on the diagnosis and the veterinarian's prescription. It's crucial to follow the prescribed dosage and schedule, which could range from several times a day to just once daily. Consistency is key for the treatment to be effective, so adhere strictly to the instructions provided by your vet.

Discussion Comments


I have heard that propylene glycol is an ingredient in antifreeze. I would stay away from any eye drops with that in it. I believe there is some dog food under scrutiny right now that has this in it; some owners claim it has sickened or killed their pets.


Teramycin powder -- they call it a puffer -- can be found at feed stores and is a fine powder that is puffed into the eyes. According to label instructions, if you have used it for four days and you see no improvement, then the infection is most likely not bacterial and is possibly viral and you need to see your vet. It is safe for both dogs and cats. My vet recommended it to me because we live on a ranch and the dust blows things into their eyes.

If your cat has a virus such as FHV-1, two very important things to help boost their immune system are l-lysine and L-arginine. The l-arginine is an essential amino acid and is usually found in their food, so check your food label and make sure if you have a cat with a compromised immune system.

As far as dosage goes, everything I have read and been told says the L-lysine is recommended 500mg once or twice daily. Vitamin A is also important to eye health, so a multivitamin is important. It must contain vitamin D to aid the absorption of the Vitamin A.


@turkay1-- Not every eye drop can be used for cats. I once asked my cat's vet about saline eye drops and he said that it's okay to use it on my cat, as long as it doesn't have preservatives. Apparently some ingredients like propylene glycol in eye drops are bad for cats.


The only eye drops I've ever used for my cat was antibacterial eye drops. My cat got in a fight with another cat and almost got a scratch in her eye. She had some eye irritation and the vet gave this eye drop to prevent a possible infection.


From what I understand, almost every type of eye drop that's available for human use is also available for cats. In fact, sometimes human eye drops are used for cats.

My cat has an eye allergy right now and the vet gave her an anti-allergy eye drop with antihistamine. He said that it's actually for human use but they use the same ones for cats. Just the doses vary for cats, they need smaller doses that are usually prescribed for infants.

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    • An adult housecat.
      By: Eric Isselée
      An adult housecat.
    • Cat eye drops.
      By: Vladyslav Danilin
      Cat eye drops.
    • Cats may be prescribed eyedrops with specific medication.
      By: Kirill Kedrinski
      Cats may be prescribed eyedrops with specific medication.