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Abbey Cat gets an Eye Infection

I look after a dwindling feral cat colony. It's dwindling because I have an active trap-neuter-release program.

feral cat with eye infection

Of my original herd only 3 remain the other 2 (There might be another that rarely comes) joined the colony this year.

While feeding the cats. I noticed one of the older cats (around 10 years) had dirty eyes. It's not easy to see because I really cannot get really close to some of them, she is quite wild and because it's the end of winter they are still quite furry. It looked like a nasty eye infection.

Eye infections is not particularly common in grown cats but tiny kittens often get them when they first open their eyes. When they open their eyes the lids are a bit sensitive and it's good to check them out when they are about 2 weeks old. In this case Abbey was a fully mature, almost matronly neutered lady cat.

She seemed listless and was squinting. I took a few zoom photos and was lucky to get a shot that clearly showed her eyes running. Most photos were fuzzy since I did not dare use a flash.

Her eyes were dirty and runny and looked very sore.

Although quite wild, Abbey is smart and calm. She had surprised me with kittens a few years back. See photos of her and her kittens and read her story here.

Unless the cats are quite sick or hurt I try not to disturb them too much. I de-worm them regularly by putting medicine in the food but otherwise I don't do much. It's stressful to be trapped and hauled to the vet. They have food and water everyday and I maintain a kitty condo which is fully occupied in winter. In this case the eye infection looked nasty and she is not as young as she was. I was worried that permanent damage would result in her going blind. I was not able to trap her for a few days.

cat house

I was lucky that she was not feeling well and was using one of the nest boxes. There is a photo of the same nest box being used by another cat. This is Spot and here is her story. I watched and after she went in I screwed a piece of plywood onto the front porch of the box and it was not very long before another cat came out of the box and stood on the porch trying to get out. I had trapped him along with Abby! I carefully moved the plywood aside and let him out.

eye infection

After bringing the large nest box in a closed room, I put it against my puppy crate (I have cut an opening on the side) and Abbey went out of the nest box into the cage. I took a photo of her eyes using a zoom. Her eye was running and she did not open her eyes much. Because of the pussy looking crud I suspected an eye infection. In the photo I think she has been grooming so there is not much showing except her eyes were running and everything was very pink and inflamed looking.

It was relatively simple to get her to go into a carrying cage. I do this fairly easily because I have a piece of plywood cut to the size of the crate and I can push the cat towards a side opening where I have tied the carrying crate. Not as easy as I make it sound but I can do it now without too much fuss. Now I could haul her to a vet. I had to call around because my normal vet was closed for Easter and most vets don't want feral cats around. My 2 standbys are Bathurst Dupont and Village Gate. These are people who really care about animals. They also understand about ferals. Village Gate was able to accommodate us so away we went.

At the VET

The vet boldly emptied the carrying case onto his table and realized she really was feral. I think he thought she was just a bit wild. "Oh, a REAL feral!" he said and called his assistant to come in with big leather gloves. I had already my gloves on and had her immobilized. We wrapped her in a towel so she could not do much except to try and bite, which she tried with energy. She promptly peed and more! She was frightened and sick and her life was clearly not going very well.

The vet examined her, took her temperature and weighed her.

By this time she was quite calm. Quite frightened but doing as well as a wild animal could be expected to. The vet put a little calibrated piece of absorbent paper on her eye and measured the amount of tears. He also checked the pressure in her eyes. He put in some fluorescent drops and looked in with UV lighting. This shows any scratches and other damage.

I had a moment of deja vu with all these tests because I had had exactly the same things happen when I hurt my eye with a corner of a sheet of paper. Imagine a paper cut on your eye.

The vet also took a fecal sample to check for worms. This later came out negative. Since I de-worm the cats regularly I was less surprised than he was that it was negative.

He also took a swab and took several rubbing from her eyes, nose, and inside her mouth. She did not approve of the mouth swabbing and bit the short end of the swab off and ate it.

He offered a treat, which she quickly ate off his finger!

While we had her we gave her de-worming medicine in case she had anything, put flea drop on her neck, checked her ears for ear mites (clear) and gave her a dose of antibiotic. I also asked if he would vaccinate her. She had had some shots when I had her neutered but none for about 5 years. He hesitated saying that it was not good practice to vaccinate a sick animal, but under the circumstances he agreed that the benefits outweighed the risks. She was not running a temperature and did not seem in any danger.

I had hoped that a cat eye infection could be treated by antibiotic in the food but I was wrong. It has to be applied directly to be effective. Not an easy task for a wild cat. Having to treat her with ointment everyday for 10 days meant that I would have to keep her in the house and drag her out of her cage twice a day. I was fortunate that this cat knew me a bit, and was a very intelligent animal.

After putting antibiotic ointment on her eyelids he declared her ready to go. He volunteered to wash her bottom using their grooming spray but I declined thinking that she had had enough to deal with and being washed would just be too much. We wiped what we could and put her back in the carrying case.

Abbey comes Home

On the second day her eye has stopped running and we see no pus. Every day she gets a dose of liquid antibiotic. It's interesting she is taking a pediatric version of this. It is butterscotch flavoured but I serve it in tuna juice.

Everyday morning AND night, my ever patient sweety, Nick, helps me put ointment on her eyes. I put on dirty clothes, grab my thick leather gloves, and take her out of the puppy crate. He puts on gloves and smears ointment on her eye lids. For the first few days she peed and pooed as we did this but after that she got less worried and accepted the treatment calmly. Her eyes or eyelids have gotten better, and the angry pink colour of the side of her nose is gone.

2 cats

Jenny the cat checks out the new visitor.

After 5 days her eyes were quite good. The greasy look is due to the ointment we smear on her eyelids twice a day.

She is more active now, eats well, uses the littebox, and caterwauls and sings at night. She is also getting bored which is a great sign. I'm now leaving the door of the bathroom open so she can see out and have some entertainment. I also lifted the sides of the blanket I put on the puppy crate so she can get a better view.

cat on table cat is wrapped in a towel

Abbey getting ready to get ointment in her eyes. I use heavy gloves to get her out and we wrap her in a big towel. She looks very docile today but at first she was much harder to handle. I guess she figured out it's just a bad 5 minutes and we are not going to hurt her. I have a lot of sympathy. I was at the dentist yesterday.

putting ointment in cat's eye back in the cage

After smearing the ophthalmic ointment on her eyelids we put her back in her cage. She is not impressed. The good thing is that I give her a bowl of tuna and cat food which she thinks is quite good.

After the first day I gave her a cushion. At first she was too afraid to step on it but figured it out. Now she goes on it for comfort.

The ointment prescription was for 10 days and we are on day 7. Once that is done we will have a good look at her and let her go if all is well.

He mother lived to be at least 17, probably more. She died last winter of a stroke. A rare thing for feral cats who don't usually live beyond 5.

Releasing Abbey the Feral Cat

Abbey is feeling much better. Her eyes are clear and she is much more active. She sings loudly at night and is no longer petrified every time I come into the bathroom. Her course of antibiotics is done and I don't think there is any reason to keep her for observations. So out she goes. Instead of returning her to the cage after doing her eyes we simply took her outside.

releasing cat after eye infection back in the cage

Release was very simple. While she was still bundled up in her towel, we took her outside and unwrapped her at the opening of her favourite nest box. She slipped in and stuck her head out to check things out. Her half brother was sleeping and ran off. He came right back though to check her out.

Here is a video of her release. Sorry it's jumpy. We were shooting at zoom and it's almost impossible to keep steady. Next time I will get a tripod. YouTube volunteered to steady it so it's improved a lot.

She has settled down for a nap! I thought she wanted to go wandering but I guess all the excitement tired her out. She is not very clean or well groomed. I guess she took a holiday. I expect she will spend some time sorting her fur out now that she in not so worried. After a while she took off.

2 days after she was released. Cat in sunshine

Fast forward 2 days. Abbey had not shown herself after her release and I was worried about her. I usually see her at least in the evenings. She finally showed up. She had cleaned herself and was white and fluffy. This is a photo through a window at high zoom but her healthy eyes are clearly visible. She is all better!