What is strabismus / nystagmus? Strabismus refers to crossed eyes, or misdirection of one eye. One eye is turned inward toward the nose or outward away from the nose. Nystagmus is more commonly called “quivering eye” and refers to involuntary fluttering or jerky movements of the eyeball.
How does my cat get strabismus / nystagmus? A cat can have one or both of these conditions. An eye injury or a disease that affects the vestibular system could also cause strabismus or nystagmus. Nerve damage to the eye muscles or inner ear diseases can create imbalance and may result in the eyes trying to adjust and become cross-eyed or quiver. Either condition may be symptomatic of a larger problem. In some cases, however, cats are born with these conditions.
How do I know if my cat has strabismus / nystagmus? Both conditions are very easy to detect. When your cat looks directly at you, his eyes will appear crossed or one eye will deviate in another direction if he has strabismus. If your cat has nystagmus, his eyes will move slowly in one direction and then quickly toward the other. In the case of nystagmus, it is important for your veterinarian to rule out other possible causes before confirming this diagnosis.
What can I do about strabismus / nystagmus? The cause determines the treatment. If the condition is inherited, it is regarded as a cosmetic problem that does not adversely impact your cat’s vision or quality of life. In these instances, no treatment is necessary. However, if these conditions develop due to an eye injury or disease, a veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting strabismus / nystagmus? As an inherited condition, you are advised to select kittens from professional breeders who work closely with veterinarians to weed out cats with these eye conditions from their breeding programs.
Are there certain breeds that get more often strabismus / nystagmus? Yes, Siamese, Himalayans and flame-point Persians are more susceptible to these eye conditions than other breeds. In Siamese, the cross-eyed look is called medial or convergent strabismus.