Applying Eye Ointments to Cats

By Tammy Hunter, DVM; Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM; Ernest Ward, DVM

The proper administration of eye medications is essential for your cat's prompt recovery. Make sure that you wash your hands both before and after administering the medication to avoid contamination and prevent the possible spread of infection. Before you begin, read your veterinarian’s label so you understand the instructions.

What advice do you have for applying ointment to my cat's eye?

Here are some step-by-step instructions that might make administering your cat's eye ointment easier:

  • Gently clean away any debris around the cat's eyes with warm water and a washcloth before administering the ointment. This can be soothing and prepare your cat for administering the medication.
  • Hold the ointment tube using the thumb and index finger of your dominant hand with the tip pointed downward. You may want to rest this hand on the top of your cat's head to help stabilize your hand or under their chin with the palm of your hand.
  • With your other hand, use your thumb to gently pull down the lower eyelid or your thumb and forefinger to open both upper and lower eyelids. Place the rest of your fingers under your cat's jaw to support her head if you are not using your palm as noted above.
  • Hold the tube close to the eye, but make sure you do not touch the eye's surface with the ointment applicator.
  • Squeeze the prescribed amount of ointment directly onto the eyeball, and then release your cat's head. Your veterinarian will have instructed you on the amount of ointment to apply (typically a one-quarter inch (6 mm) strip of ointment for most ophthalmic medications).

The cat will blink, and the warmth of the eyeball should help melt the ointment and spread it over the surface of the eye. It is normal to see the ointment accumulate in the corners of the eye after administration.

"Cats commonly blink frequently or paw at their eye after ointment has been applied."

Cats commonly blink frequently or paw at their eye after ointment has been applied. If this reaction persists or if the eye appears more inflamed or red after the medication has been administered, consult with your veterinarian immediately.

I'm concerned that my cat won't sit still long enough for me to apply the ointment. Do you have any additional tips that might help keep her calm?

  • If you are administering the medication on your own, you may find it easiest to place your cat in your lap. In addition, restraining your cat by wrapping her in a blanket or towel with only her head exposed may be advisable.
  • The first few times, or if your cat's eye is painful, you may want to have someone else gently hold the wrapped cat while you apply the ointment.
  • Make sure you give your cat plenty of praise throughout the procedure and offer a treat afterward.
  • Always speak and move in a calm and quiet manner. Cats can easily detect your anxiety, so the more relaxed you are, the more they will be at ease.

If you have any questions, please contact your veterinarian immediately. If your cat's eye(s) appear severely inflamed or painful, or if the condition appears to worsen, do not delay in seeking veterinary medical advice.

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