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Cataracts in Cats

By: Dr. Jennifer Welser

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Various eye diseases can cause a cloudy white appearance similar to that observed with cataracts. Many such diseases result in poor vision or blindness. Your veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist will be able to tell you if the white appearance and vision loss is caused by cataracts, by disease of the cornea – the clear outer covering of the eye, or the retina, which is the specialized light receptor layer in the back of the eye..

There are several causes of cataracts including:

  • Genetic. Cataracts can be inherited, but this occurs only rarely in the cat.

  • Anterior uveitis is the leading cause of cataract development in the cat. Anterior uveitis is an inflammation of the iris and ciliary body, which make up the tissue around and behind the pupil. Uveitis usually arises as part of a systemic illness in the cat, and may be caused by feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, feline infectious peritonitis virus, toxoplasmosis, etc. Uveitis may affect one or both eyes in the cat; therefore cataracts may be either a unilateral or bilateral condition.

  • Trauma. If the eye is punctured or damaged from something like a cat scratch or a stick penetrating the eye, a cataract may form. Some of these cataracts form only at the site of injury, but others can progress to involve the entire lens.

  • Abnormal development of the lens. Nutritional deficiencies, exposure to drugs, toxins, or other agents during the time of development of the eye in the young kitten may induce a cataract.

  • Other less common causes of cataracts in cats include old age, retinal diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy, displacement of the lens, exposure to concentrated microwaves or radiation therapy, electrocution, and certain rare metabolic diseases.

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