How to Administer Eye Medication to a Cat

From time to time it will be necessary to administer medications to your cat’s eyes which have multiple purposes including. Eye medications are typically drops or ointments.

Types of eye medications

Eye medications are typically drops or ointments. Drops are liquid and quickly disperse across the eye, ointments are oil-based and have the advantage of increased drug contact time. Ointments are typically administered less frequently than eye drops,

  • Lubricating: These drops help to reduce irritation from dry eye, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)
  • Allergy relieving: Drops to relieve allergies and soothe irritated eyes
  • Antibiotics: Ocular eye drops to treat bacterial infections of the eye
  • Antivirals: Medication to reduce viral shedding of feline herpes
  • Mydriatic: These medications dilate the pupil which allows the veterinarian to see inside the eye, they can also be prescribed to relieve pain from an injury, corneal ulcers, and uveitis
  • Antiinflammatory: Corticosteroids to treat inflammation (blepharitis, conjunctivitis, episcleritis, superficial keratitis)
  • Pressure-lowering: To reduce intraocular pressure in cats with glaucoma
  • Immunomodulators: Drugs that help manage immune-mediated surface ocular inflammation (dry eye, chronic superficial keratitis, episcleritis, eosinophilic keratitis)
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Medications to reduce pain and inflammation (blepharitis, episcleritis, and keratitis)
  • Numbing: Applied to the eye before surgery or diagnostic procedures

How to apply eye medication to a cat

Always follow the veterinarian’s instructions when applying eye medication and do not administer eye medications unless prescribed.

  • Wash hands before and after applying eye medication
  • Remove the cap from the medication and do not touch the tip, place the cap on its side or hold it in your hand to avoid contact with contaminated surfaces
  • Remove debris (sleep/discharge) from around the eyes with a damp facecloth
  • Sit the cat on your lap with the cat’s face facing away from you, this can help prevent the cat from backing away
  • Hold the medication in your dominant hand, and gently tilt the cat’s head back with your non-dominant hand
  • Hold the medication between your thumb and index finger, resting the outer side of the hand on the cat’s forehead to keep it stable
  • Use the index finger of your non-dominant hand to carefully lift the lower eyelid to create a pocket, use the remaining fingers under the jaw to keep the head stable, squeeze the medication into the pocket making sure the tip of the bottle doesn’t come into contact with the cat’s eye
  • Close the cat’s eyelid after administration to disperse the medication across the eyeball


If you have an easygoing cat, it may be possible to lay them on their back on your lap to administer the medication, which I find easier to work with.

If the cat is less compliant, you can hold the head steady with your dominant hand, open the eye with the thumb of your non-dominant hand and have a second person administer the medication (see below).

Administering eye medication to cats

Extremely reluctant cats may need to be wrapped in a towel so that they cannot wriggle about. It is always preferable to use the minimum amount of restraint possible to avoid stressing the cat.

Give the cat a treat immediately afterwards as a reward and to distract the cat from rubbing the eye.

Side effects

Some eye drops may sting or irritate the eye for a short time.

In rare cases, cats may develop an allergic reaction to eye drops.

Contact your cat’s veterinarian if there is no improvement, or if the condition becomes worse or additional symptoms develop.


Always administer as directed by your veterinarian, do not over or under-medicate.

Do not let the tip touch the cat’s eyes or your fingers.

Eye drops and ointments are usually stored in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. Always store as directed on the packaging. Store away from children and pets.

Do not use eye drops or ointments which have passed their use-by date, or 28 days after they have been opened.

Always check the label before administrating eye medications as many tubes of glue are available in similar packaging.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio

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