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Feline Eye Care Products
About Your Cat's Eyes
"Who can believe that there is no soul
beind those luminous eyes?"
--French writer and critic Theophile Gautier
Beautiful, wild, and mesmerizing, a cat's eyes are also structured for maximum functionality.
The first thing most people notice about feline eyes is the vertical pupil. Unlike our own pupils that are always round, a cat's pupil can narrow to a veritable slit. This both protects the cat's eyes in bright light and gives him the ability to open the pupil three times as wide as ours, maximizing incoming light in low-light conditions.
Cats also have three times as many light receptors in their eyes as humans. In the back of the cat's eye is the tapetum, a special layer designed to reflect light. This makes the eyes act as mini-headlights, throwing light back out so the cat can see better in 1/6 the light we require to see. However, it is a myth that cats can see in complete darkness; they can't.
A cat's pupils can be observed to indicate the cat's mood, as well. Relaxed, happy cats' eyes may look darker in color due to enlarged pupils, just as a human's pupils will dilate when gazing at something that pleases them. But large pupils in a cat can also indicate fear or excitement. If a cat's pupil is just a slit and it's not in bright light, that's one angry kitty! Observe its other body language to be sure, but be wary of a cat with narrowed pupils. Slow blinking in a cat is a sign of contentment, especially when staring at an adored object...like you! In fact, doing this yourself as you sit calmly next to your cat can calm him.
A cat's eyes are also designed to respond to movement, making our feline friends quite formidable hunters. The images a cat sees up close may be more fuzzy than what we see, and they can't see anything right underneath their noses; cats would be terrible readers! Feline eyes are better designed for seeing at a distance. Their visible color spectrum is also narrower than ours, most likely including higher-frequency blues and greens, but not the longer-wavelength reds. One cat even chose the color of her mistress's house: "catnip green"!
You may have noticed that when your cat isn't feeling well, a membrane emerges from the inside corner of the eye to partially cover it. This is known as the "third eyelid" or nictating membrane, and is there to protect the eye from damage and dryness. Dozing cats may also display the third eyelid, so it is not always a sign of illness.
Feline Eye Problems
Be aware of your cat's eye health. Many conditions, if left untreated, can result in blindness. Your veterinarian should examine the cat to make sure of the cause before you seek over-the-counter remedies for a cat's eye problems.
Several things may cause the membranes covering your cat's eyes to become inflamed, a condition known as conjunctivitis. Causes can include allergies, bacterial, fungal, or viral infections. Some cats may contract a herpes viral infection in the eyes that can return, just as it does in humans. Such an infection is also contagious to other cats.
A different type of cat eye inflammation is known as feline uveitis. This is swelling of the iris and surrounding area (the "ciliary body" and choroid) that contains a lot of blood vessels. Cats suffering from this may squint or be sensitive to light. You may see the third eyelid appearing. There may be tears running from the eye and redness apparent in the white portion of the eye. The pupil may be oddly shaped and the iris may have a "muddy" color or appear cloudy. The eye may also be enlarged, especially if glaucoma is present. Feline uveitis is most often caused by trauma to the eye, infection, or cancer. It can be a symptom of several feline diseases, most of which are life-threatening. While the uveitis itself may be treated, it is also essential to treat the underlying cause of it.
Because cats get into everything, they can scratch the cornea of an eye, resulting in ulceration. This may also happen in a cat fight. In severe cases, a cat's eye may need to be surgically removed if the damage is bad enough.
Older cats are susceptible to cataracts and glaucoma. Cats with diabetes may also develop cataracts. They cause the eyes to appear cloudy, and the cat may not see clearly at all. My little Vixen will sometimes walk over to another seat in the room where I'm sitting and look up at it as though I'm there because she can't see me sitting across the room.
Systemic yeast infections can cause the brown staining, or epiphora, under a light-colored cat's eyes that looks like tear stains. This can be controlled with a dietary supplement, and by products designed to wash the area around the eyes. The condition is not typically harmful to the cat's eyes or vision, just unsightly, and is really only a problem if the cat is being shown. Tear staining can also be caused by allergies, environmental irritants, an inflamed tear duct, eyelashes growing oddly, or certain minerals in the cat's drinking water. Use stainless steel bowls instead of plastic to eliminate this latter problem. If allergy is the culprit, you may need to experiment with your cat's diet to remove the offending item.
Whatever problem is affecting your cat's eyes, your first step should be a visit to your veterinarian to determine the cause. Once you know that, you can more safely choose the appropriate treatment.
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