Symptoms of Cataracts in Cats

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. February 17, 2021
Symptoms of Cataracts in Cats

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Feline cataracts is a common eye problem in cats, especially as they get older. Cataracts is a disease involving an alteration and loss of transparency of the lens or intraocular lens which makes visibility difficult.

Although some cats show no signs of decreased vision, especially if only one eye is affected, in most advanced cases, cats have vision deficiencies which can lead to blindness.

As a cat caregiver, it's important for us to be able to recognize the symptoms of cataracts in cats. In this AnimalWised article we're going to explain the causes, clinical signs and treatment for this eye problem.

You may also be interested in: Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in Cats

What is cataracts in cats?

Cataracts in cats refers to the increase in the opacity of the lens of the eye.When a cat develops a cataract, the normally clear lens develops a cloudy or opaque appearance that interferes with the ability of light to reach the retina. Depending on the severity of the cataract, this can have significant impacts on the cat’s vision.

Cataracts can occur in cats of any age, sex, or breed, however it is often seen in older cats. A genetic predisposition to inherited cataracts has been observed in Himalayans, Birmans, and British Shorthairs.

Causes of cataracts in cats

There are many different causes of cataracts in cats as it can occur due to a variety of damage to their lens. With that being said, the most common causes of cataracts in cats are the following:

  • Inflammation in the eye
  • Genetic or hereditary factors
  • Trauma to the eye
  • Metabolic diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Nutritional imbalances
  • Radiation exposure
  • Cancer
  • Viral, bacterial, fungal, or protozoal infections

With that being said, the most common cause of cataracts in cats is inflammation within the eye, also called uveitis. This can occur as a result of a number of underlying diseases. Uveitis can lead the body’s immune system to recognize the lens as a foreign material, contributing to the formation of cataracts.

Symptoms of cataracts in cats

If your cat is suffering from cataracts, the main symptom you will notice is a bluish grey spot when you look at your cat's pupil. This cloudy eye can get smaller or bigger in time. Sometimes cataracts progresses quickly and covers the entire pupil. Often, vision loss is observed due to lens opacity.

Vision deterioration may vary and you might notice the following symptoms:

  • They take abnormally high steps
  • Abnormal roaming
  • Insecurity when walking
  • Stumbling over familiar objects
  • Miscalculating distances
  • Not recognising familiar people
  • Having abnormally moist eyes
  • Change of eye colour
  • Change in the size or shape of the pupil

Cataracts can develop in one eye or both. Many cases of cataracts are congenital, in other words, they are present from birth.

A cloudy or clear runny nose may appear. This secretion actually comes from the eye. This occurs especially when the cause of cataracts is an infection, which, as we've previously mentioned, is the most common cause.

Learn more about other eye diseases your cat can have if they are displaying a cloudy eye in our article my cat has a cloudy eye.

Symptoms of Cataracts in Cats - Symptoms of cataracts in cats
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Treating cataracts in cats

An early diagnosis is crucial to address the root causes and stop the cataracts from progressing. This may vary, depending on your cat's age. Cataracts in kittens can spontaneously improve and may not require treatment. Cataracts in adult cats presenting a slight opacity that doesn't alter the cat's vision does not necessarily need treatment.

However, in such cases, anti-inflammatory eye drops can help make your cat more comfortable. Cataracts can also be caused by nutritional deficiencies. In these cases your veterinarian will help you provide your cat with a balanced feline diet and food supplementation, if necessary.

For cats with impaired vision, surgical excision of the affected lens is the only fully effective treatment. This is then replaced by an artificial lens. If the artificial lens is not inserted, the cat will only be able to see faraway, and very poorly.

The prognosis is better when surgery is carried out early on in the cataracts. The veterinarian will ensure that the cat is healthy before the surgery.

This surgery should be performed by a veterinarian specialised in ophthalmology. However, its high cost makes many cat caregivers decide not to do it because their cats adapt to their environment and even get used to their vision loss. Cats use their sense of smell for the majority of their activities and they don't have very a good sight in the first place. With that being said, for their safety and well-being, cats with partial or total loss of vision should be kept inside the house.

If an owner decides not to operate their cat with cataracts, they should make frequent visits to the veterinarian to monitor the progression of the disease.

When cats lose their vision, to a certain extent, the cat may be in pain. In this case, the best thing to do is to surgically remove the affected eye to prevent any unnecessary pain. Talk to your veterinarian to see which treatment is best for your cat.

We also encourage you to watch our video below about how to clean your cat's eye with chamomile.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Symptoms of Cataracts in Cats, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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