The Third Eyelid in Cats: Understanding Potential Health Indicators

Third Eyelid in Cats

The third eyelid in cats, also known as the nictitating membrane, is a thin, translucent layer of tissue that can be seen in the inner corner of a cat’s eye.

While it’s usually hidden from view, there are instances where a cat’s third eyelid becomes noticeable, prompting concerns among pet owners.

In this blog post, we will explore the significance of the third eyelid in cats, why it may become visible, and what to do if you notice this phenomenon.

What Is the Third Eyelid in a Cat?

The third eyelid, also known as the nictitating membrane, is a semi-transparent eyelid positioned in the inner corner of a cat’s eye.

It serves as a protective layer, maintaining the eye’s moisture and safeguarding it from debris.

Typically not easily visible under normal conditions, certain factors may cause it to become noticeable, indicating potential health issues.

Understanding the role of the third eyelid is crucial in recognizing and addressing potential concerns with a cat’s eye health.

Why Is My Cat’s Third Eyelid Showing?


The visibility of your cat’s third eyelid can be attributed to various factors, each shedding light on potential health issues, including:

Eye disease

Infections or inflammation in your cat’s eyes can lead to the protrusion of the third eyelid.

This occurrence may be a response to the discomfort caused by the underlying issue.

If you notice changes in your cat’s eye appearance, such as redness or discharge, it is crucial to seek prompt veterinary attention.

High body temperature 

Elevated body temperature, often associated with fever, can affect your cat’s third eyelid, causing it to cover the eyes.

Monitoring your cat’s overall health is essential, especially during instances of fever.

If you observe signs such as lethargy, reduced appetite, or other indicators of illness, seeking veterinary care promptly is crucial. 


Older or dehydrated cats may experience the prolapse of the third eyelid.

Adequate hydration is fundamental for your cat’s health, and visible changes in the eyelid may serve as an indicator of dehydration.

Encouraging increased water intake and providing a balanced diet can aid in maintaining hydration levels. 

Nerve damage

Damage to the nerves in your cat’s face and neck can contribute to the protrusion of the third eyelid.

This condition emphasizes the importance of identifying and addressing the underlying cause of nerve damage for the overall health of your cat.

Nerve damage may result from various factors, including trauma or certain medical conditions.

Gastrointestinal issues

The protrusion of the third eyelid can be linked to gastrointestinal issues such as parasites or digestive problems in your cat.

Regular veterinary check-ups and deworming play a crucial role in preventing and addressing these issues, promoting your cat’s digestive health.

Gastrointestinal problems can affect nutrient absorption and overall well-being.

Respiratory infection

Visible changes in the nictitating membrane may signal a feline upper respiratory infection.

Early detection and appropriate treatment are vital to alleviate respiratory issues and prevent potential complications.

Respiratory infections can affect your cat’s overall respiratory health, and prompt veterinary care ensures a targeted approach to address the infection and support your cat’s recovery.

Haw’s Syndrome

Haw’s Syndrome refers to the idiopathic protrusion of both third eyelids.

While the exact cause may be unknown, it underscores the importance of veterinary evaluation to rule out underlying health concerns and ensure your cat’s well-being.

Diagnostic tests and a comprehensive examination can help determine if there are any hidden health issues contributing to this condition.


What to Do If You See Your Cat’s Third Eyelid?

If your cat’s third eyelid is visible, it is crucial to promptly seek veterinary attention.

This occurrence may signal an underlying health problem that necessitates professional assessment and treatment.

Your veterinarian can conduct a comprehensive examination to identify the cause and administer the necessary care for your cat.

Addressing the issue early on can contribute to the well-being of your pet and prevent potential complications.

What Are Some Home Remedies For a Cat’s Third Eyelid Showing?

While there are some home remedies that may help alleviate symptoms associated with a cat’s third eyelid showing, it’s important to note that these remedies should not replace professional veterinary care.

Here are some home remedies that may help:

Warm compress

Using a warm compress on the affected eye can be beneficial.

This involves soaking a clean cloth or cotton ball in warm water and gently applying it to the eye.

The warmth can help reduce inflammation and encourage healing.

Ensure the compress is not too hot to avoid discomfort.

Saline solution

Keeping the eye clean is crucial.

Use a saline solution to gently wipe away any discharge from the eye.

Soak a cotton ball in the saline solution and delicately clean the affected area. This helps prevent infection and promotes a healthier eye environment.

Colloidal silver

Some sources suggest using undiluted colloidal silver on a cotton ball to wipe your cat’s eyes.

Colloidal silver is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties and may aid in the healing process.

However, it’s important to exercise caution and consult with a veterinarian before using this remedy.

Chamomile tea

Applying a cooled chamomile tea bag to the affected eye can offer soothing relief.

Chamomile is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce irritation and inflammation.

Ensure the tea bag is cooled to a comfortable temperature before gently placing it on the eye.


Is Cat’s Third Eyelid Showing an Emergency?

The visibility of a cat’s third eyelid is a matter of concern, particularly when coupled with additional symptoms like squinting, discharge, or changes in behavior.

Although it might not always be an emergency, it is advisable to prioritize caution and seek guidance from a veterinarian.

Consulting a professional helps rule out any underlying serious conditions, and timely intervention is crucial to address potential health issues.

This proactive approach ensures the best possible outcome for your cat’s well-being.

If you observe your cat’s third eyelid showing, it’s recommended to schedule a prompt veterinary assessment for a comprehensive examination and appropriate care.


The third eyelid in cats is a distinctive anatomical aspect that provides valuable clues about a cat’s health.

When this eyelid becomes visible, it signals the need for careful attention and professional evaluation to pinpoint and resolve any underlying issues.

By remaining observant and taking a proactive approach to monitoring your cat’s health, you play a crucial role in preserving their ocular and overall well-being.


Can a cat’s third eyelid become visible due to stress or fatigue?

While stress or fatigue can impact a cat’s overall condition, the visibility of the third eyelid is more commonly associated with physical health issues or ocular abnormalities. It’s important to consider potential medical causes when observing this phenomenon.

Are certain cat breeds more prone to displaying a visible third eyelid?

While the visibility of the third eyelid is not inherently linked to specific breeds, individual cats may exhibit variances in the prominence of their nictitating membrane. Regardless of breed, any noticeable changes in the appearance of the third eyelid should be evaluated by a veterinarian

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