How To Treat Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis) in Cats

Four minutes
Aug 21, 2023

If you’ve ever had pink eye, you may remember how irritating it can be to your eyes. For your kitty, pink eye (conjunctivitis) can be an uncomfortable, yet common occurrence. In fact, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center, conjunctivitis is the most commonly diagnosed cat eye disorder.1

The cost to treat pink eye can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on the severity of the condition and if cat eye surgery is needed. Below, we’ve gathered what you need to know about pink eye in cats — and how cat insurance could help you offset the cost of care.

What Is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is inflammation of the conjunctiva.2 This area of the eye is a mucous membrane that lines the whites of the eye, the inside of the eyelid, and a cat’s third eyelid. Pink eye in cats can be a condition on its own, but it can also be a symptom of a larger problem.

How do cats get pink eye?

Cats can get conjunctivitis in two main ways: from an infection or from non-infectious environmental factors.2

Infectious forms of pink eye from bacteria, fungi, and viruses include feline herpesvirus (FHV-1), feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), and feline chlamydophila.2,3 These forms of pink eye are highly contagious among cats and can be transmitted through close contact with an infected cat. Once a cat contracts feline herpes viral conjunctivitis, they’ll be carriers of the virus for the rest of their lives.3

Pink eye can also be caused by allergies and exposure to airborne toxins, as well as foreign objects getting trapped in a cat’s third eyelid.2 Common triggers include longer fur that rubs against the eyes, dirt, sand, and other irritants.

Pink Eye Symptoms To Know

If you’re wondering how to get rid of pink eye in cats, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of what you’re dealing with first. Signs that your cat has pink eye can include:2

  • Very watery or tearful eye(s)
  • Reddish or pink eyes
  • Discharge from your cat’s eyes that’s yellow, green, or cloudy
  • Squinted eyes or the inability to open eyes due to discomfort
  • Avoidance of brightly lit areas due to discomfort
  • An extremely swollen third eyelid that now partially or fully covers your cat’s eye

If left untreated, pink eye may lead to a worse condition, like your kitty’s eyes becoming sealed shut with discharge or long-term pain.2

When in Doubt, Get Your Cat Checked Out

Pet Insurance Can Help

Pink Eye in Cats: Treatment Options

When exploring how to treat conjunctivitis in cats, your treatment options may depend on the severity and cause of the pink eye. Here’s what you can try to get your kitty feeling better soon.

If you notice your cat is suffering from any pink eye symptoms, get them checked out by a veterinarian as soon as possible to catch and treat the issue early on. You may also rule out the possibility of other problems that could snowball into bigger issues, like eye tumors or the need for cat eye surgery.2

What’s more, according to the Countryside Veterinary Clinic, your veterinarian will need to run specific tests for diagnosing pink eye.4 Once you receive a diagnosis, your vet can help you decide on the best course of action for your pet’s eye health.

Topical antibiotics

According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, a common treatment for pink eye in cats is a topical antibiotic.5 This may come in the form of eye drops or ointment. Typically, this type of treatment is used three or four times a day over the course of 2 – 3 weeks.

Topical antibiotics are prescribed for allergic conjunctivitis — environmentally triggered pink eye that’s not infectious.2, 5

Topical antivirals

If your vet determines that the cause of your cat’s pink eye is the feline herpesvirus, topical treatment alone won’t cure the pink eye completely. However, topical antiviral drugs can be prescribed alongside antibiotics, which may improve your cat’s pink eye within 1 – 2 weeks.5


In severe cases of pink eye, surgery may be an option. If your cat suffers from feline herpes, they may experience chronic pain, scarring, or infection that can result in the need for your cat’s eye to be removed.3,6 This surgery is known as an enucleation, and it’s typically only utilized as a last resort for kittens or cats with weakened immune systems who are impacted more severely by conjunctivitis than healthy cats.

How To Prevent Pink Eye in Cats

Vaccinations are an effective way to lower your cat’s risk of contracting viral forms of pink eye. The herpes and calicivirus vaccine is administered through the nose or via injection.3 It’s deemed a core cat vaccine, so your cat will receive it during their wellness visits.

Cost of Cat Pink Eye Treatment and How Pet Insurance Could Help

It’s no secret that trips to the vet may be pretty costly. In terms of treating conjunctivitis in cats, your average cost of treatment could range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on whether your cat needs basic topical treatments or surgery. A cat insurance plan may help cover some costs, like diagnostic tests or exam fees.

Wondering about how MetLife Pet Insurance could help support your cat’s health? Check out our article on how pet insurance works and get a quote today.

Help Keep Your Cat Healthy and Happy

*As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Feline Vision Problems: A Host of Possible Causes,” Cornell Feline Health Center

2 “Conjunctivitis in Cats,” VCA Animal Hospitals

3 “Feline Herpes Viral Conjunctivitis,” VCA Animal Hospitals

4 “Kitty Pink Eye!? How to Treat Your Cat’s Conjunctivitis,” Countryside Veterinary Clinic

5 “Conjunctivitis,” Cornell Feline Health Center

6 “Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1),” Veterinary Specialty Center

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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