Painful eye/eye held closed in cats


  • Has your cat been blinking excessively, holding an eye shut, or showing other signs of ocular pain?
  • There are many conditions that can cause painful eye(s), some more serious than others.
  • Contact your vet if you think your cat has an eye problem.
  • An urgent appointment will be necessary if your cat has signs of extreme pain such as being off their food, lethargic, or hiding away.

General information

If your cat has painful eye(s), they are likely to hold them closed, blink more than usual, become less active and hide away. If you notice any of these symptoms, book an appointment with your vet. Tell your vet about any other changes such as discharge, redness, cloudiness or loss of vision.

Cat holding their left eye shut

If your cat has a painful eye they are likely to hold it closed.


Painful eye(s) can be caused by:

  • Eye injuries or trauma - common in cats, especially those that fight.
  • Something stuck in the eye - e.g. a grass seed or another cat’s claw!
  • An eye ulcer - a wound on the surface of the eye that causes pain, discharge, inflammation and redness.
  • An eye infection (conjunctivitis) - causing inflammation, itching and discharge.
  • Something irritating - such as smoke, dust, sand, wind and chemicals.
  • An allergic reaction - often causes severe swelling around the eyes and in other parts of the body.
  • Glaucoma - increased pressure in the eye. Glaucoma is extremely painful and causes eyes to become red, cloudy and bigger than normal.
  • Uveitis - inflammation of structures inside the eye.
  • Eyelash disorders - rare in cats.
  • Eyelid disorders - rare in cats.

When to contact your vet

Make an appointment with your vet ASAP if you notice your cat blinking more than usual or think they may have painful eyes. Left untreated, the problem could become much worse. You know your cat best - contact your vet if you’re concerned.

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Published: January 2020

Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.