Neonatal Conjunctivitis

The eyes of a newborn kitten will not fully open until she is 10 to 12 days old. Before the eyes open, behind the eyelids there is a closed space that can become infected if infectious agents or bacteria gain entrance through small scratches around the eyes or through the bloodstream. The closed eyelids of the kitten will bulge out. If an eye is partially opened, it may develop a dry and crusty covering. It is abnormal for there to be any discharge from the eye of a kitten.

Neonatal infectious conjunctivitis can be caused by chlamydophila or by feline herpesvirus. These are both transmitted by the queen to her kittens either at birth or shortly thereafter. Usually neonatal conjunctivitis will affect several kittens in the litter.


Your veterinarian will need to tease the eyelids open to allow the pus to drain out. If this is not done, there could be permanent damage to the forepart of the eye. Once your vet has separated the eyelids, the pus will drain out in large drops. The eyes should then be flushed with either a sterile ophthalmic irrigating solution or boric acid eyewash. To prevent crusted eyelids from pasting shut, they must be gently cleansed several times a day.

Afterward, you will need to medicate with antibiotic drops (for example, neomycin or erythromycin), as your veterinarian has prescribed. Your vet can prescribe antiviral medications if the herpesvirus is suspected. There does exist a vaccine for chlamydophila infections in cats that helps to reduce the severity of symptoms, however it will not fully prevent the disease.

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