Thursday, October 10, 2019

Understanding and Caring for the Eyes of a Persian Cat

Persians are known for their flat, pansy-like faces with large, round, wide-set eyes. Persian Cats tend to communicate delightfully with these huge and expressive eyes (CFA, 2019). 

When one lives with a Persian Cat, there is pure love and enjoyment from the companionship with these beauties, but there is also the necessity of daily care for optimal health and beauty. We're focusing on those huge, round eyes in this post.

The Eyes of a Cat

Tortoiseshell Persian, Praline, with green eyes and vertical pupils
The vertical pupils of Miss Paula's Sweet Praline - March 2011

All cats have unique eyes where the black parts of the centers of the eyes are vertical instead of circular pupils like humans. The vertical pupils in cats can adapt quickly and can open and close like the aperture of a camera (Calderone, 2018). Cats are nocturnal animals and are most active at night. They can't see in total darkness, but can see well in just one-sixth the light humans require (Kelley, 2017). Cats can open their pupils super-wide, allowing small amounts of light into their eyes so they can see on dark nights, while also being able to squeeze them down to a vertical slit during the day with bright light. The eyes of a cat function much like those of humans. Cats can develop many of the same eye problems that people have, including cataracts, glaucoma, and other disorders so it's important for cats to receive good eye care to protect their sight and allow them to interact comfortably with their environment (Merck, 2019).

Eyes of a Persian Cat

silver shaded Persian Cat, Brulee, with green eyes and vertical slits
Crystalpurrs Creme Brulee - 2019

There are two types of Persian Cats, based on their facial structure. Traditional Persians, aka Doll-Face, have a normal nose length and placement in proportion to their facial structure. Extreme Persians, aka Show Persians, have a round head with large round eyes, round cheeks, and a short nose that is aligned with the eyes. Persian Cats, especially the flatter faces, tend to be Brachycephalics, which means they have shortened snoutsMost cat organizations, such as CFA and TICA, consider the Show Persians as the breed standard. Both type of Persian Cats have huge round eyes and need to have their faces wiped and eyes cleaned on a daily basis. There are unique needs in caring for Persian cats that any person interested in living with Persian Cats should understand and be able to do.

Daily Eye Care of Persian Cats

Sitka (L) and Krakatoa (R) from Mythicbells Persian Cats
Photo credit - Molly Barr

Persians benefit from a daily face wash since tearing is common due to the immense size of their eyes. Molly Barr, from Mythicbells Persian Cats, states that every Persian Cat will have different needs. Some Persians need little to no daily eye upkeep, while others need once to twice daily wipe downs. She explained that a minimal "upkeep" kitty does well with a tiny bit of boric acid (or Eye Envy Powder) worked into the fur each morning in the "drip zone" after being wiped with a damp cloth and patted dry. Boric acid and most commercial powders, such as Eye Envy Powder, have some antibacterial properties as well as help keep the area dry. Some Persian Cats may need some help with the black gunk that accumulates in the drip zone around the eye. Molly tends to gently use her fingernail to scrape this dry gunk. She encourages people who live with Persian Cats to consider using plain water to dampen the cloths or have a tub of pre-moistened makeup pads standing by where the pads are soaked in something like Eye Envy solution or Optrex Multi-action Eye Wash. 

Molly shared a video of a daily eye cleaning routine with one of her Silver Shaded Persian Cats, Nomad. 

Tearing, Staining, & Irritants

Brachycephalics can experience breathing problems and shorter or closed tear ducts. Instead of tears being funneled into the tear ducts, they spill out onto their face causing excessive tear production. Excessive tear production can cause tear staining, which are the reddish brown streaks that can appear under the cat's eyes (this is also possible with certain dog breeds) and it's really noticeable on cats with light fur. Persian Cats tend to have more tearing than other breeds of cats.

CFA judge, Teresa Keiger, with White Persian Cat
Teresa Keiger, CFA Association Allbreed Judge with a white Persian Cat
Photo used with Permission

Teresa Keiger, Cat Fanciers' Association Allbreed Judge, states that most important thing with Persians it to try to keep bits of hair and other irritants out of the eye. She said that many people may not even realize there's a strand of cat hair floating in the cat's eyes unless they are doing "up close" grooming. Teresa said one could use liquid tears, such as Systane or ReNu, or a plain saline solution to help flush out irritating bits. Tearing and draining is a natural process but if it becomes excessive, one should determine if it is an irritant or other issue that may be the cause. Teresa said that some Persian Cats may have some physical properties that may make them more predisposed to "weepy" eyes.

Physical Examination of Cat's Eyes

2 silver shaded Persian cats, Truffle and Brulee,. looking toward camera
Truffle (L) and Brulee (R)

The shape of the face of the face of Persians, Himalayans, and other Brachycephalic breeds are more susceptible to eye discharge. Excessive discharge may need to be examined by a vet to determine the cause. A yellow of green discharge is not normal and requires immediate attention from a veterinarian.

A person should be very careful when examining the eyes of a cat. One should never insert anything into the eye, even if he believes there is something in the eye. It's important to take cats to a wellness checkup at the veterinarian one to two times a year where the vet can examine the eyes on a regular basis. When taking your cat to the veterinarian, "be prepared to provide any background or medical history (such as any previous injury to the eye, history of treatments or medications used, any signs of vision problems, and vaccination history) that may help with the diagnosis of any eye problems." (Merck, 2019). Veterinarians may use a test called the Schirmer Tear Test to ensure that the eyes are producing enough tears to keep the eyes moist. If a veterinarian suspects a scratch or ulcer, he may place a small drop of fluorescein stain into the eyes. Pressure in the eyes can be measured with an instrument called a tonometer. Additional tests a veterinarian may perform is swabbing to do a culture to test for bacteria or fungi, turning the eyelids inside out to examine the underside, and flushing the nasolacrimal tear duct. 

A possible source of excessive tearing and chronic sniffing in cats may be the herpes virus. Most cats tend to get herpes and get over it, while others suffer the effects throughout their lives. 

Treatment of the Eyes

Tortoiseshell Persian, Praline, laying on her back
Sweet Praline - 2010

If you have a cat with excessive tearing, staining, or an ulcer, your veterinarian may recommend one of the following treatments.
  • Use of artificial tears. Artificial tears helps relieve dryness and discomfort. 
  • Eye wash solutions. Eye wash solutions, such as Tomlyn's Sterile Eye Wash, can help relieve discomfort and itching.
  • L-Lysine. Even thought there are few clinical research studies on the effects of using L-Lysine in cats who may suffer from the feline herpes virus, many veterinarians, groomers, and Persian owners use it with success. Tomlyn has three different L-Lysine products you may choose to use: Immune Support Daily L-Lysine Supplement, Fish-Flavored Lysine Powder, Immune Support L-Lysine Nutritional Supplement Chews, and Immune Support Daily L-Lysine Supplement, Maple-Flavored Lysine Gel.
  • Terramycin Ointment. A veterinarian may recommend Terramycin Ointment which is an Antibiotic ointment to treat conjunctivitis (pink eye) and secondary bacterial conditions with eyes. Many breeders and Persian owners keep a tube of this ointment on hand for times when flareups may occur.

Living with Persian Cats

2 silver shaded Persian cats, Truffle and Brulee, on chair
Truffle (L) and Brulee (R) with their pupils in a vertical slit because of the sunlight

Persian Cats have huge beautiful eyes that require daily care to keep them healthy and disease free. If you choose to live with a Persian Cat, be prepared to develop a daily routine to help with excessive tearing and staining. It's important to begin developing these routines when the Persian is a kitten.

I live with two beautiful Silver Shaded Persian Cats, Truffle and Brulee. They each have different needs with the care of their eyes. Truffle and Brulee are both doll-face Persians and don't have the extreme flat faces like many of the show Persian Cats. I begin each day by removing dried debris from the corners of their eyes with my fingernails or an eyebrow brush before cleaning, always being careful around the eyes.

Truffle has very little drainage with her eyes, but she had an eye ulcer a couple of years ago from a scratch and that eye tends to drain and stain at times. I use liquid tears with Truffle and always have a tube of Terramycin on hand in case she gets the beginnings of an infection. She does have some problems with staining on that side of her face and I use the Eye Envy to clean the stains.

Brulee has a flatter face and has had numerous upper respiratory infections. Both of her eyes drain on a daily basis and some days are worse than others. I clean her eyes on a daily basis with warm water, eye wash solutions, Eye Envy Solution and Powder. If I use the Eye Envy on a regular basis, there is little to no staining. However, if I miss a few days, she has a lot of buildup and staining. Sometimes, there is a need to clean the fur around her eyes several times a day.

The veterinarians think the girls may have a form of the feline herpes virus which causes them to tear and stain more frequently during different times of the year. Their veterinarian, Dr. Keisler, suggested I try L-Lysine with the girls to see if it would help. Dr. Keisler told me there was little research available on the effect of L-Lysine for treatment of the feline herpes virus, however, anecdotally, she's seen effective results with her patients and her own cats. I am in the process of trying some of the Tomlyn products to see which one they will eat (chews, gel, and powder) and if it will help relieve the excessive tearing.

silver shaded Persian, Truffle, and Tomlyn products
Truffle and the Tomlyn Products for L-Lysine Supplement and Eye Wash


We're excited to announce that two of our readers have the opportunity to win Immune Support L-Lysine supplements (chews, powder, and gel) and Eye Wash from Tomlyn. No purchase necessary. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States 18+ years, except where prohibited by law. The giveaway will run from October 10-28 and end at 11:59 pm ET. Two winners will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter (powered by Random.org) and notified via email. Winners will have 48 hours to claim their prize; failure to do so will result in forfeiture of the prize and a new winner will be randomly chosen. To qualify for the giveaway, a comment must be left on our blog post.  Other entry options are available after a comment is left.  Please check your email and be sure to add sweetpurrfections@sc.rr.com to your address book! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Banks, Martin S.; Sprague, William W.; Schmoll, Jurgen; Parnell, Jared A. Q.; and Love, Gordon D. August 7, 2015. Why Do Animal Eyes Have Pupils of Different Shapes? Science Advances. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/7/e1500391

Barr, Molly. October 7, 2019. Personal Interview. Mythicbells Persian Cats. www.mythicbells.com

Brown, Jackie. July 9, 2019. Cat Eye Discharge – What’s Normal and What’s Not. Catster. https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/cat-eye-discharge-whats-normal-and-whats-not

Calderone, Julia. June 30, 2018. Here’s Why Cats Have Such Strange, Haunting Eyes, Explained by Science. Science Alert. https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-why-cats-have-such-weird-eyes

Gelatt, Kirk N., VMD, DACFO. 2019. Eye Structure and Function in Cats. Merck Vet Manual. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/eye-disorders-of-cats/eye-structure-and-function-in-cats

Keiger, Teresa. October 7, 2019. Personal interview. Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) Allbreed Judge.

Kelley, JaneA. July 26, 2017. 4 Cool Facts About Cat Eyes. Catster. https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-facts-cats-eyes

Would you like to comment?

  1. Just from the photos, and before I even read all the info about Persian eyes, I could tell how well you take care of the girls' eyes. And it's so necessary for this breed. With me, my human just has the occasional eye booger to contend with!

  2. Such beautiful eyes and of course beautiful girls!

  3. Terrific post; so informative! Angel has a small lump in the corner of one eye, but the vet says there is nothing to be done unless it changes color or grows, which it hasn't in 15 years. Feline eyes are huge for the size of their skull, which is why we humans are attracted to them, at least partially.

  4. Great informations ! Our humans had Persians 20 years ago, and we can tell that Truffle and Brulee have beautiful healthy eyes : you take very well care of them. Eyes and fur in Persian cats need particularly good quality care. Purrs

  5. These two cuties have perfect eyes. XO

  6. Our vet also suggested we give our Casper, who has watery eyes and might suffer from feline herpes, L-Lysine chews daily. He loves them!

  7. This is such a terrific post! Caring for my cat's eyes has definitely been a journey. She doesn't tear up like a persian does but she has definitely need l-lysine before. Occasionally herpes flares up and eyes get squinty and runny. Luckily for us it's an easy fix but some kitties aren't so fortunate. I really appreciate you getting the word out about taking care of a cat's eyes. We actually had no idea before we got ours that it was a thing people needed to do.

  8. There is nothing more beautiful than cats eyes

  9. I didn't know this about Persian cats. What a wonderful public service announcement.

    Thank you for joining the Feline Friday Blog Hop.

    Have a purrfect weekend. My best to your smart mom. ♥

  10. oh my look at those eyes! I did not know that such care has to be done. You are a good Momma!

  11. Persians are, of course, high maintenance kitties. If they don't have to have their eyes cleaned, they DO need to be petted and spoiled something wicked!

    Your two girls are perfect.

  12. Truffle and Brulee have such gorgeous eyes! My Maltese used to have terrible tear stains, but thankfully she doesn't anymore. Changing her diet seemed to help her a lot.

  13. Eye gunk is one of the reasons I love a black Persian - even if he’s gunky it doesn’t show. But luckily he’s not so prone to icky Persian eyes, we just clean him off in the morning, he doesn’t drain enough to need the eye envy style products. Now, icky Persian ears, that’s another story ;)

  14. Everykitty needs some special attwntion. And we are glad for ours. And yours.

  15. I'm glad you posted on this topic. I'm so used to your girls that I forgot many breeds have eye issues. You take such good care of your girls though, that it's easy for readers to forget or just not know about these problems in Persians and other breeds.

  16. Grr-eat article, Miss Paula. I just want to look into Truffle and Brûlée's all day. Mew Mew. Mom says, "Valentine's eyes don't get the staining and build-up as much as the white Persian kitty I had before him. But Val does get seasonal allergies which can can sometimes reactivate the herpes virus and make his eyes weep more. In general, though, his eyes don't require to much fuss."

  17. My family members all the time say that I am wasting my time here
    at net, but I know I am getting know-how all the time by reading thes fastidious articles or reviews.

  18. I already commented ... but for the last 6 months, Bear's been tearing up more. When he was a year or two old, he got regular eye infections (I had eye ointment to clear them up) - then they just stopped. But his teariness now is only in one eye and it doesn't require treatment. I keep forgetting to do more than mention it to our vet (I mentioned it last time and the vet said if it cleared up on its own and the discharge wasn't green or yellow, not to worry)- but reading this post again reminded me that I need to.

  19. Awesome! No words. You always go one step beyond.

    There is so much great, useful information here. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    Read our guide if you wish.

    Thanks again :)

  20. Thank you for this post. My kitten is very flat faced and comes home next week. While I knew how to use the powder and cleaning stuff from eye envy in theory. Having this video you posted was amazingly helpful. My little boy is all white and so this was a great resource. Also my other cat is on Tomlyn L-Lysine treats because of scarred tear ducts and they've helped her SO much


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