How to Clean Your Cat’s Eyes

The most striking feature on just about any cat is the eyes. The eyes of a healthy cat should be clear and bright. Sometimes, your cat’s eyes may get runny or weepy and a crust may form. If this crust is allowed to remain, it could block the tear ducts and become a infected. Consequently, it is important to know the proper way to clean your cat’s eyes in order to keep them healthy and infection-free.

What You Will Need

  • Soft washcloth
  • Distilled water
  • Cotton balls
  • Table salt
  • 2 clean cups
  • Large bath towel

The Cleaning Process

    1. Although your cat is very fastidious about personal grooming, he made need a little help around the eyes. Once every couple of days, dampen a soft washcloth with distilled water (room temperature), and gently wipe your cat’s eyes. This is especially helpful for breeds prone to “tear staining” (such as Persians), and may be done daily to help reduce the problem.


  1. If your cat’s eyes become encrusted (i.e. coated on the lids or in the corners with a hard, crumbly crust), a more thorough cleaning is in order.
  2. Bring one cup of distilled water to a boil and add a scant teaspoon of table salt. Continue boiling until all the salt is completely dissolved, then remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  3. When the mixture is cooled, bring it to your table (or whatever area you plan to work with your cat), and divide it evenly between the two cups, and set them next to the cotton balls (allow at least three cotton balls per eye).
  4. Find your cat, pick him up, and swaddle him in the large bath towel. This way, he will be easier to hold while you are cleaning his eyes, and will be less likely to scratch you while you are doing it. If your cat is prone to biting, you may want to wear a pair of gloves while doing this. When you swaddle your cat, make sure his legs are in a natural, comfortable position, and are not twisted or caught in an awkward position.
  5. Working with one eye at a time, dip a cotton ball in the salt water solution, and gently wipe at the encrusted area of your cat’s eye.
  6. Continue working on that one eye, using fresh cotton balls as needed, until the crust has been removed.
  7. When starting the second eye, make sure to use a new cotton ball and the unused cup of salt water solution. Otherwise, if there is the start of an infection and you use the same cotton balls or salt solution on both eyes, you run the risk of cross-infection.
  8. Again, for the second eye, dip a fresh cotton ball into the unused batch of salt solution, and gently wipe the encrusted area of the eyes, repeating until the crust is gone (using fresh cotton balls as needed).
  9. When all the crust has been cleared, set your cat free, and don’t forget to give him lots of love and a few treats for being so patient.
  10. Discard all soiled cotton balls and used salt solution, and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  11. Check your cat’s eyes daily for any signs of encrusting, and if they become encrusted again, repeat the above steps as needed.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If your cat’s eyes appear red or swollen, if there is a greenish or puss-like discharge, or if the crust keeps reappearing despite your best efforts to keep the eyes clean, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible as these may be it may signs of an infection or other eye problem (such as feline conjunctivitis or feline pink eye). For more information on feline eye infections and other feline health related issues, visit the Internet Cat Club online.
  • Similarly, if your cat’s third eyelid (the extra white eyelid underneath the upper and lower eyelids), starts showing constantly, or your cat appears to be squinting, contact your veterinarian as it may the sign of a serious eye problem.
  • If you have a long-haired cat, try to keep the hair trimmed away from the eyes as a cat’s cornea (the clear membrane covering the eye) can be easily scratched by foreign objects, including their own hair.
  • It is always recommended that there be at least two people when working with a cat. Even if your cat is the most tolerant, well-behaved creature on earth, cats are unpredictable and impulsive by nature, and problems can certainly arise. In that event, it’s best to have someone readily available to lend a hand.
  • Most pet stores sell eye washes specially designed for cats (i.e. Tomlyn OptiClear Eyewash available at PetSmart or Petco; also, Halo Herbal Eyewash for Pets, available online at The Cat Connection) These may be helpful in keeping your cat’s eyes clean and mucus free on a regular basis, but be sure to read and follow all directions, and to discontinue use and seek the advice of a veterinarian if there are any signs of infection or allergic reaction.
  • When in doubt, never hesitate to seek the advice of a veterinarian. For help finding a qualified veterinarian in your area, contact your local Chamber of Commerce, or visit the Yellow Pages. Scoop Away also maintains a very useful vet search engine, where you can find a vet in your area by entering your zip code



  1. Roxanne says:

    How do you keep a cat’s eyes clean?

  2. Rox, it’s the area below the inner corner where staining accumulates or if it’s really bad, there might be some gunk on the eyelid. Whatever you put, the cat will start wiping it off so probably best to use a damp washcloth and not bother spending money on wipes. If the cat senses something strange on it, it gets stressed and over-grooms and you end up with bigger problems.

  3. One of the stray cats that I feed has what looks like swollen watery eyes. I noticed it yesterday. She doesn’t come around very often and she only lets me pet her once in awhile. There’s no way I’d be able to get her to a vet without losing an arm, but I can’t not try and help her. I looked at what PetSmart has for eye cleanse and the ingredients include Boric Acid, which doesn’t sound good to me.
    I saw her again today and it looks like the third eyelid is showing for a bit. I hope it’s just an allergy or maybe dirt in her eyes. Is there a gentler eye solution I can use even if I’m only able to squirt her with it?
    I really don’t know what to do except pray everything turns out okay for her. I hope someone has an answer for me. Any ideas and suggestions are most welcome.

  4. Teckla, I’m so sorry I got to this site so late. How is this cat doing with its eye? Have you seen it lately? It is very common for strays to have eye infections that, if not treated, can cause serious problems. One of my rescues has a deformity in his face, resulting in a blocked tear duct. I have to clean him every day. Contact me.

  5. Teckla,
    Try to make friends with the stray cat by gently grooming it, slowly at first, until trust is built. Grooming is a natural bonding activity and the stray will respond once it’s able to relax. Before you try grooming the cat, start feeding it with high-protein wet cat food, and also some high-protein dry cat food. Leave fresh water out to try and build up the animal’s health. Once you can groom it, a regular brushing with a small cat brush will remove loose hair and also any fleas, and make the cat feel better (and look better); the cat will also groom itself, so the eyes may be just dirty. Again, the regular grooming will build trust. Do this by first offering it cat treats, and gently patting the cat, if it wants more, as a way of getting closer. Once the cat can be handled (and it may take several weeks of trying), you may be able to get it into a cat box to take it to the vet for proper eye treatment. Otherwise, there’s no way you will be able to treat the cat’s eyes yourself without heaps of drama. When you handle the cat to take it to a vet, wear gloves and have a towel to wrap around the animal to protect you from the claws, and the teeth!

  6. My cat is two years old and only just started having an eye problem. I took her to the vet and she had an injection for the infection and a pain killer, and he also gave her some eye drops, 3g fucithalmic to be applied twice a day. Her eyes are cleared up, but now they are swollen and red, I’ve started to wash them in a saline solution, but could the drops be causing an allergic reaction?

  7. Call your vet ASAP if you have not done so already.

  8. I took my tiny to the vet and the doctor said to put on some eye ointment. It’s not working. What can I do? Thank you.

  9. Natalie,
    If the ointment and the saltwater eyewash are not working, you could try using tea, which is another commonly used eyewash for people and cats. There are many comments about the use of tea as a cat eyewash on the article, How to Clean Matted Kitten Eyes. To use a tea eyewash for your cat, just make sure that it is a true tea (green, black, etc.), which all come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Do not use an herbal tea, which is any tea made from a plant other than the Camellia sinensis, such as chamomile. Also, make sure that the tea does not have any flavors or additives that are toxic to your cat, such as lemon or peach. As a side note, chamomile is also toxic to cats.

    Source: Adagio Teas – What is tea?
    Source: ASPCA – Chamomile

  10. Am very grateful for this exceptional and helpful article. But I am more grateful for all contributors and authors. Well done job! To be honest. For us living in the remotest areas of Ethiopia where there is no care for animals and where veterinary services are inadequate, especially for cats and dogs, your articles and webs are of a great importance to the needy in this eye-opening IT age. You made it easy for me to take care of my cats. God bless you all.

  11. I’ve bathed my cat’s eyes, but is there anything I can do for her so her eye isn’t sore?

  12. Melanie says:

    You can give your cat honey. Honey is a mild pain reliever, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. Just drip some on a few pieces of food or mix it into some water or broth.

    Source: Diane Stein – Natural Remedies for Cats and Dogs
    Source: Huffington Post – Honey in Integrative Veterinary Medicine
    Source: The George Mateljan Foundation – Honey

  13. I live on a beach in the Philippines and have numerous cats that have accumulated here. Several kittens in the last litter, now some months old, have
    chronic discharge in their eyes. I have been using Visine, but also have bought antibiotic eyedrops at the pharmacy. I also read that it is OK to smear antibiotic ointment over the eye.
    I welcome any other suggestions. There are no vets within 80 km.

  14. My cat has a sort of cringe and has a very weepy eye. Should I contact my vet? I don’t agree with all of this advice though because I have 5 cats and giving them drops while weening seems to really help. Any advice on helping my cat? She is the most unusual; she was a mom at one year, has her brother with her, is a sort of outdoor cat; she used to go out a lot, but we moved and she was scared by one of the local cats and rarely goes outside. Any advice to help her? She is just over two years now. She is very lovable, but NOT an outdoor cat. If u have any advice, please reply. Thank you.

  15. We adopted a cat about two weeks ago that, according to the place we got her from, had no history of eye problems. A week after we got her, she got an eye infection and we took her to the vet three times that week. The first time, they put in the fluorescein dye and gave us some antibiotic drops. We used those, but the infection appeared to be so much worse the following day. Her eyes were matting shut every time she slept, so we took her back because she didn’t appear to be able to eat. They showed us how to properly put the drops in, gave us some lubricant as well, and they gave her a shot for the pain. Our routine was to put the antibiotic drops in, wait about 10 minutes, put the lubricant in, wait about another 10 minutes, and then clean any excess from around her eyes with lukewarm water and a cotton ball (We did this 2-3 times per day). Eventually all the old crust came off and her eyes were looking a lot better. We took her in for a follow up on Saturday and they put that dye in her eyes again, and now her eyes are just as bad as when we brought her in the first time. They’re both matting shut, the crust is around her whole eye (not just the corners), and we have kept true to our routine every single day! I don’t understand what happened! Is it possible that it’s the eye dye doing this to our poor cat? I’ve tried googling stuff about the eye dye, but I can’t find anything remotely similar to what is happening. I thought it might have initially been because the drops were gel and not pure liquid, but the vet refused to give me anything else for her, even though I requested antibiotic drops that were not gel but liquid. I just want to get the crust off of her eyes for her because it gets sticky when she closes her eyes and it gets very hard otherwise; I’m afraid it will hurt her poor eyes worse.

    I can’t even tell you how guilty I feel since we just got her and this has happened. I feel like I’ve failed her, but I don’t know what else to do. It’s upsetting my husband and I very much.

  16. I just use my fingertips to get the “sleepies” out of the corner of my cat’s eyes and it works fine!

  17. I have three adult females we rescued from a scrap yard. They were in terrible condition and all pregnant. They had nine kittens, disappeared for weeks, came back pregnant, had 13 more and we can’t re-home them because they all have sticky eyes really bad. We bathe them every three hours and apply small amounts of Vaseline. We rang RSPCA and they won’t help, plus Cats Protection says they’d have to get someone to report me for animal cruelty.

  18. My 1-year-old tabby has puss coming out of his right eye. He had that problem with his left eye until I started cleaning it with diluted boric acid. I have not tried cleaning his right eye because this has way more discharge than his left eye did. I do not currently have the money to pay for a vet visit. I am very concerned; he is not the same playful kitty I had. He’s very scared now and I feel really guilty.

  19. Appreciate if anyone could comment on this. My cat went to a cattery for a week, has been a few times, and I have had central heating put in; when I bought her home, there was a lot of dust still in the air. The fur down the side of her nose under the eye has turned white. I have been bathing each eye as per tips on cleaning; hasn’t gotten any worse, but not got any better either.

  20. Ashland says:

    Over the years, I have had numerous kittens that have problems with matting eyes. A RN told me to put neosporum on their eyes. I told her the directions say not to put it in your eyes. She said, ‘nonsense, we put it in peoples eyes that are having some inflammation all the time.’ I have done that for over ten years now; it works. I boil water and when it cools, I dab the water in their eyes with a Q-tip and dry with tissue paper very gently. In a few days, it clears up.

  21. Plain Murine eye drops, not the redness-relieving kind, on a cotton ball a couple of times a day work well for most minor eye discharges. Buy a bottle at the drugstore and keep it for use just with the cats.

    As stated, use a separate cotton ball for each eye and don’t touch the eye drop applicator to the eye.

    One of my cats, and they are brothers, has messy eyes off and on. His brother never has had the problem. The one with the problem roams the fields and may have allergies to plants, sprays, dust. The other spends most of his time on the porch.

    Just a caution: Runny eyes in an unvaccinated cat may signal the start of distemper, which is usually fatal. It may be accompanied by a runny nose, refusal to eat and drink, and diarrhea. See a vet.

  22. Hey, my cat has a watery eye, and an odd little cut in the corner of her eye. The fluid is clear, they seem to be just normal tears, and she doesn’t seem to mind it at all; no irritation and her eye is clear of any abnormalities at all. Does this warrant a vet appointment or just a proper eye cleaning?

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