Why Is My Cat’s Third Eyelid Showing? 5 Vet Reviewed Reasons & Advice

Cats do not see the world in the same way that humans do. Their eye anatomy is different, and their eyes glow due to a reflective membrane at the back of their eyes that helps them see well in the dark. They have two eyelids (one above the eye and one below) like we do, but they also have what’s referred to as a third eyelid, or nictitating membrane.

We don’t usually see a cat’s third eyelid unless they are just waking up from a long nap or are otherwise looking around lazily. Then, you might be able to glimpse their third eyelid before it slides back into place. However, certain problems and conditions outside of these normal circumstances can result in its sustained appearance, like if the cat is dehydrated or injured.

So, why would your cat’s third eyelid be showing? There are common causes that are worth exploring.

The 5 Reasons That a Cat’s Third Eyelid Is Showing

1. Eye Disease

Any type of eye disease can cause your cat’s third eyelid to show itself either sometimes or all the time.

Specific issues that could result in a cat’s third eyelid showing include:

  • Entropion (turning in of upper, lower or both eyelids leading to corneal irritation and possibly ulceration)
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Corneal ulceration
  • Glaucoma
  • Eyelid mass

If you suspect that your cat is suffering from an eye disease or ailment, it is important to schedule a checkup with your veterinarian as soon as possible. The longer a problem is left to fester, the harder it could be to treat and correct.


2. Dehydration and/or Old Age

Both old age and dehydration can cause loss of tissue around the eyes, which in turn, can cause the third eyelid to prolapse, becoming visible more often or all the time. Rehydration can help restore eyelid performance, but the cause of dehydration may be much harder to treat.  For example, a cat suffering from dehydration due to chronic kidney disease will continue to be dehydrated due to inappropriate fluid loss through excessive urination. Many other systemic diseases can cause dehydration in cats, so an examination with your veterinarian is warranted.

For an older cat, generalized weight loss can cause the fat pad behind the eye to reduce in size, causing the eye to sink inwards and the third eyelid to raise up in turn.  Veterinarian guidance and care are necessary to assess the cause of the weight loss and third eyelid exposure.


3. Nerve Damage

When a cat suffers from nerve damage, it can cause one or both third eyelids to at least partially prolapse. Damage to the facial nerve, either from infection, inflammation or neoplasia (growths) can cause the dysfunction of the third eyelid.  If a third eyelid showing is due to nerve damage, other signs of nerve damage are likely to appear, including pupil size changes and loss of facial muscle movement.  If you notice any of these symptoms, take your cat to the vet for assessment.


4. Gastrointestinal Issues

A fairly common reason for a cat’s third eyelids to show are gastrointestinal problems.  This is known as Haw’s Syndrome and the third eyelid protrusions are usually present in both eyes and are accompanied by diarrhea. The cause is unknown, but viral infections have been linked to the syndrome.


5. Injury

Any kind of injury to the eye could cause a cat’s third eyelid to show temporarily until the affected area heals. Certain injuries could cause permanent damage, even if the third eyelid prolapse is temporary, so it’s always a good idea to have the injury checked out by a trusted veterinarian.

In Conclusion

There are many different reasons that your cat’s third eyelid might be showing and not sliding back into place. Some are more serious than others. The best course of action to take if your cat’s third eyelid remains visible is to see a veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Hurry Up!

How Many Stray & Feral Cats Are There in the US? 2023 Facts

Appearing in over a third of U.S. homes, domestic cats are so well-accepted that most of us don’t...

Air Travel with Pets Made Easy: Your Comprehensive Guide

Are you a pet owner planning a trip but unsure about traveling with your beloved furry friend? Air travel...

Top 10 Dog Friendly Things To Do In San Diego

From beaches to dog parks to restaurants, shopping and more – San Diego is a terrific pet friendly city!...

Ain’t Nothin’ But Hound Dog Breeds

When you hear “Hound Dog,” your first thought may be of Elvis’s famous song. Despite what the King of...

Pet Essentials for a Happy Companion

Ahoy there, fellow pet lovers! Are you ready to unleash the secrets of keeping your furry friends wagging their...

What To Do If Your Dog Or Cat Is Stung By A Bee

<img class="dpsp-post-pinterest-image-hidden-inner dpsp-post-pinterest-image-hidden-single" src="data:;base64, Exploring new places with your pets often includes spending time outdoors. And being out in nature means you’re more likely...

Why Is My Cat Bleeding? A Full-Body Overview (Vet Answer)

The post Why Is My Cat Bleeding? A Full-Body Overview (Vet Answer) by Dr. Marti Dudley, DVM (Vet) appeared first on Catster. Copying over...

Vancouver’s Top 5 Dog Friendly Things To Do

Planning a pet friendly trip to Vancouver and looking for fun things to do with your dog? Whether you love the bustle of the...

TSA Dog Adoption: Adopting Former TSA Pups

Did you know that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) trains adorable dogs to help with important tasks such as sniffing out explosives and firearms...

Quality Pet Accessories for Playful Companions

Hey there, pet parents! 🐾 Your furry, feathered, or scaly friend deserves the best, right? We hear you! In this blog post, we're diving...

How to Avoid the Top 5 Holiday Pet Travel Mistakes

It’s a wonderful time of the year! Far-flung friends and families will gather to reconnect, celebrate traditions, and enjoy each other’s company. And millions...

Working at Home With a Cat: Olga’s Pressure for an Early Dinner

Happy holidays, everyone! We are a day late on publishing my most recent story on account of the holiday season, so thank you for...

How to Cat Proof Your House: Preparing Your Home for Cat Adoption

Ever heard that age-old saying about curiosity and the cat? Well, it couldn’t be more true. Cats are naturally inquisitive creatures, always on the...

Pet Essentials for a Happy Companion

Ahoy there, fellow pet lovers! Are you ready to unleash the secrets of keeping your furry friends wagging their tails with joy? We've got...