Unlike people, cats do not cry, so any case of watery eyes in felines should be treated as a potential problem. Cat runny eyes only develop when there is something wrong with your feline friend.

Cat watery eyes often develop when something causes mucus-like discharge or water to overflow the eyelids. A cat runny eye will make it look as if your cat has been crying. If you notice that, it might be a good idea to contact your veterinarian to keep your companion healthy.

What Causes Watery Eyes in Cats?

The first thing you need to do when you notice a cat watery eye is to look to see whether the eye is red or irritated. Irritated eyes are usually red and often painful to the cat. You may also notice tearing; if you do not see a rip, the tear drainage system could be blocked. Some Conditions That Can Cause Cat Watery Eyes Include:

Nasolacrimal Occlusion

This occurs when the tear drainage system gets blocked but there is no redness. The usual cause of this problem is injuries to the eyes or the eyelids that the cat gets while fighting. Infections and plugged tear ducts can also cause this problem. If you suspect this, you will have to go to the veterinarian because the vet will need to stain the tears with fluorescein dye to see what is happening and possibly to use a probe and flushing techniques to clean out the ducts.


Tear Stains

This problem occurs when tears stain the hair below the eyes. It is more common in breeds with short muzzles, such as Persians and Himalayans. There is no cure for this problem, but it can be cleared up with an antibiotic if you take the cat to the vet. Some cat owners put low doses of an antibiotic called tetracycline in cat food as a long-term treatment. The cat’s appearance can be improved by clipping the facial hairs.


Feline Upper Respiratory Infections (URI)

These infections can be caused by the herpes virus or by bacteria. The cat will usually have other symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, and a runny noise. The viral infections have to clear up on their own; bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics.



This is an inflammation of the membrane that blocks the tear draining system. It is usually caused by a herpesvirus or chlamydophila. This will require veterinary treatment because it can lead to vision problems or blindness if left untreated.


Other Causes of Cat Runny Eyes

  • Allergies can cause cat watery eyes. Common allergies in cats include grass, pollen, fabrics, smoke, and cigarette smoke. Allergies are usually accompanied by itchy skin and rashes.

  • Hereditary defects. Some cats are born without a proper tear drainage system or misshapen eyes, which can lead to runny eyes. Some cats’ bodies may produce too many tears.

  • Fights with other cats can lead to injuries to the eyes that cause them to water.

  • A runny eye can also develop if foreign objects such as a bug, a pebble, or a splinter gets trapped in your cat’s eye.

Diagnosis of Cat Watery Eyes

Your veterinarian is the only person who can determine the cause of cat runny eyes and provide proper treatment. The vet will have to conduct a physical examination of the eyes. She may also perform blood tests and other lab work in order to test for an infection or allergies. The test is necessary to determine if the eyes are infected and if the infection is bacterial, viral, or fungal.

How to Treat Watery Eyes in Cats

Veterinarians have a number of methods of treating cat watery eyes. The treatment will depend upon the cause of the condition. Treatments for the problem include:
  • Removal of foreign objects from the cat’s eyes with tweezers and other instruments.

  • Surgery to remove deeply embedded objects.

  • Saline eye drops used to treat conjunctivitis.

  • Antibiotics might be applied directly to the eye, added to the cat’s food, or administered directly in pill or liquid form.

  • If allergies are the cause, the vet might prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids.

  • If the eyes are inflamed, the vet might prescribe steroidal eye drops.

  • There are some home treatments for cat runny eyes, including soaked tea bags applied directly to the eyes. Such treatments should only be used if the discharge from the eyes is clear.

  • A saline solution will be used to clean the area around the eyes.


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