Separation of the Inner Lining of the Eye in Cats

By PetMD Editorial on Feb. 12, 2009

Retinal Detachment in Cats

Retinal detachment is a disorder in which the retina separates from the innermost lining of the eyeball. This can be caused by a variety of genetic and non-genetic factors, and in some cases is a result of a more serious underlying medical condition. There are some forms of treatment, although retinal detachment may lead to permanent blindness.

The condition described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how retinal detachment affects dogs, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

Cats experiencing a detached retina may show signs of blindness or reduced vision. In some cases, the cat's iris may stay dilated and will not adjust properly when exposed to light.


While retinal detachment can happen in any breed and at any age, it is more common in older cats. Some animals are born with congenital defects that cause retinal detachment to occur immediately or in the long term. If both retinas are detached, it is most likely a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition. Glaucoma, for instance, is one such condition. Exposure to certain toxins can also cause the retina to detach.

High blood pressure (hypertension) in cats has been shown to be a causative factor for retinal detachment. Other metabolic causes can include hyperthyroidism, characterized by increased levels of thyroid hormone; hyperproteinemia, which is increased protein in the blood; and hypoxia. Other causes can include trauma to the eyes, ocular neoplasia (tumor growth on the eye), and inflammation of the blood vessels in and surrounding the eye.


Your veterinarian will conduct a full eye exam and order a complete blood work-up on your cat to examine whether the retinal detachment is due to a more serious underlying medical condition.



Treatment for a detached retina will be determined based on the severity and cause of the medical condition. There are some surgical techniques that are available to reattach the retina, and there are also techniques that can assist in the regeneration of retinal tissue.

If surgery is deemed unnecessary, your veterinarian will treat the underlying medical cause for the retinal detachment by prescribing your cat medication.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will recommend that you restrict the cat's activity post-surgery. There are several possible complications that can occur, including blindness, cloudy lens formation (cataract), glaucoma, and chronic eye pain. In order to quickly identify these complications, your veterinarian will monitor your cat's blood cell counts and recommend frequent follow-up exams.

It is also possible that the retina cannot be reattached, or that the cat's blindness is irreversible. In these cases, your veterinarian may equip you with lifestyle management training skills to improve the overall quality of life for your pet.


There are currently no known preventive measures for a detached retina.

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