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How To Clean Cat Eye Boogers (Cat Eye Discharge)

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

tabby cat's eye discharge

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Vet)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Although cats generally do a pretty good job keeping themselves clean, you’ll still need to help them out sometimes. Your cat’s grooming routine should include regular brushing and, sometimes, other tasks to keep them looking tidy. If your cat often develops eye discharge or eye boogers, cleaning their eyes will be one of those tasks.

In this article, we’ll teach you how to clean your cat’s eyes, step-by-step. We’ll also let you know what symptoms indicate your cat may have an actual eye problem rather than just a need for a clean-up.

Before You Get Started

Eye discharge may be a normal sight for your cat but before you get started cleaning, it’s important to be sure your cat isn’t suffering from a medical issue. Eye conditions can be very painful and need to be treated quickly for the best results.

Here are some symptoms of eye disease or injury:
  • Yellow, green, or bloody eye discharge
  • Squinting or pain
  • Pawing at the eye
  • Rubbing the face against things
  • Excessive tearing
  • Red eyes
  • Sneezing, nasal discharge
  • Changes in pupil size
  • Differences between the two eyes

If you notice these signs, hold off on cleaning your cat’s eyes and contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Never put any drops or medications into your cat’s eyes without consulting a vet first.

tabby cat with eye discharge
Image Credit: Pitsch, Pixabay

Preparation

To clean your cat’s eyes, you’ll need the following items:
  • A towel
  • Someone to help you (optional)
  • Warm water
  • Gauze, a washcloth, or cotton pads
  • Eye medications (if directed by your veterinarian)
  • Treats
  • A calm and patient attitude

Generally, it’s best to work with your cat when both of you are in a calm headspace. If you are stressed, angry, or hungry, your cat can sense your mood and may not feel very cooperative. You don’t want your cat to form scary associations with the process of cleaning their eyes, especially if you’ll need to do it often.

Wash your hands before starting the eye cleaning process. Once you have all your supplies and you and your cat are as relaxed as possible, it’s time to get those eyes clean!

How To Clean a Cat’s Eyes

1. Properly Restrain Your Cat

Depending on how your cat feels about grooming tasks (or their general attitude towards life), you may need to enlist a friend to hold your cat. If your cat is generally tolerant, you may be able to clean their eyes on your own. Either way, start by wrapping your cat in a towel or blanket in a “kitty burrito”.

Wrapping can help your cat feel more calm and secure as you work. It also makes it easier to contain their claws if they object to your cleaning. You want both you and your cat to stay safe during the cleaning process.

woman hands holding a fat shorthaired tabby cat
Image Credit: 99mimimi, Pixabay

2. Wet The Gauze Or Washcloth

Once your cat is properly held and restrained, take your cleaning cloth, gauze, or pad and soak it in the warm water. To be extra clean, you can choose to sterilize the water by boiling it first. Just make sure you let it cool before you use it.


3. Wipe The Eyes

Using the wet cleaning pad, gently clean your cat’s eyes, starting at the inside corner and wiping out and away. If your cat’s eye boogers are especially thick or crusted, you may need to hold the warm, wet cloth against the discharge for a minute to loosen it before wiping.

Repeat this process with your cat’s other eye, making sure to use a new pad or cloth. This precaution will help ensure you don’t spread any possible infection from one eye to the other.

Work slowly when cleaning your cat’s eyes and never touch their actual eyeball.

cleaning persian chinchilla cat's eyes with cotton pad
Image Credit: catinsyrup, Shutterstock

4. Apply Eye Medications As Directed (If Needed)

If your cat’s discharge is from a medical issue, your vet may instruct you to clean the eyes before applying eye medication. This step will allow the treatment to work more effectively. Always clean before, rather than after, you treat with eye medications so you don’t wipe them away before they can work.

As we mentioned, you should never place anything into your cat’s eyes unless directed by your veterinarian. Also, never touch your cat’s eyeball with the tip of the medicine tube or bottle. Hold your cat’s head up with one hand and gently pull the lower lid down. With the other hand apply the required number of drops into the lower conjunctival pocket and then let the cat blink and spread the drops.


5. Reward Your Cat

Once you’ve completed cleaning your cat’s eyes, release them from the towel and offer them a favorite treat or toy as a reward. Creating this positive association for your cat will hopefully make your job easier the next time you need to clean your cat’s eyes.

cat eating treats with its tongue sticking out
Image Credit: Daria Bondina, Shutterstock

What If Your Cat Doesn’t Cooperate?

If your cat isn’t cooperating with your efforts, don’t turn it into a power struggle. They may just need some time and training to learn to tolerate eye cleaning. Work slowly and get your cat used to every step of the process, rewarding them liberally along the way.

If you’re still struggling, ask your veterinarian for help. The vet or their staff can give you better tips and instructions on how to clean your cat’s eyes and apply medications if necessary.

Conclusion

Cat eye boogers aren’t the prettiest sight, but they are common with many cats, especially young ones. Keeping our cat’s eyes clean is just one of our many responsibilities as cat owners. Again, make sure your cat isn’t showing any signs of a more worrisome eye issue when they develop eye discharge. If they aren’t, follow our step-by-step guide to keep your cat looking bright-eyed and squeaky clean!


Featured Image Credit: Nutnutchar NAV, Shutterstock

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