Why Your Cat’s Eyes Are Watery

Why Your Cat’s Eyes Are Watery

Medically Reviewed by Taylor Froiland, PharmD, RPh
Written by Adam McCown, PharmD

Our cats can often be emotional, getting angry at us if we touch them in slightly the wrong way, not eating if we leave them alone, or hiding from us if we even look at them in a manner they don’t like. However, if your cat is crying, meaning their eyes are watering, then it could be a sign of some underlying health issue.

Now, just to state the obvious, your cat’s eyes are not watering for emotional reasons. Humans are the only animal that is known to actually cry when something is wrong or sad. However, many animals will create tears in order to lubricate their eyes or as an immune response. Cat watery eyes may be caused by a wide variety of reasons, some of which are harmless, others which might require a visit to the veterinarian’s office.

Should Cats Have Watery Eyes?

When things are normal and your cat is healthy, tears from their eyes drain into their nose. This is similar to in humans, which is why your nose will often run when you are crying heavily. When it comes to a cat, if they appear to be crying, it is usually an indication that the flow of tears from their eyes to the nose is blocked. The excessive tears in the first place may be produced by things like inflammation, allergies, a tumor, or simply something being in their eye.

Cat watery eyes are more common in certain breeds than in others. This is because different breeds may have different shaped faces or eyes that can predispose them towards tearing up. For example, Brachycephalic cats (or flat-faced cats) often experience watery eyes, because when a cat has a flat face, a small nose and large, round eyes, the tears tend to spill over the eye rims. Watery cat eyes and the resulting tear stains (those unsightly brown streaks under the eyes) are common in cat breeds like Exotic Shorthairs, Himalayans, and Persians, for instance.

Cat Eye Discharge

If your cat’s eyes are watering or tearing up, you should check to see if there are any other abnormal symptoms or issues. Take a close look at their eye and the surrounding area to see if there is any swelling, redness, pus-like discharge, or if they are constantly pawing at and scratching it. These symptoms may be signs of something more serious going on with your pet.

Here are some health conditions that may be the cause of your cat’s watery eyes or discharge:

  •       Feline upper respiratory infection – A common cause of feline eye discharge is one of various respiratory infections. These may include feline calicivirus, a contagious respiratory disease, pneumonitis or rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus), bacteria, and protozoa. If these infections progress to a serious stage, then you may see a sticky pus discharging from your pet’s eye.
  •       Pink eye – Yes, your cat can get pink eye just like you can. This condition can cause inflammation of the light pink lining around your cat’s eye and may cause both eyes to look red and swollen. Additionally, pink eye can cause your cat to have a clear, thick mucus discharge from their eye.
  •       Corneal disorders – If your cat’s eyes are watering excessively, it could be an indication that their cornea is inflamed, hurt, or ulcerated. In addition to increased tear production, you may also notice your cat blinking excessively or that their eyes are cloudy.
  •       Allergies – If your cat’s eyes tend to become watery around the same time year after year, it could be the result of an allergy they have. Similar to humans, our felines can be allergic and react to pollen, mold, mildew, dust, perfumes, cleaning products, and certain medicines. 

Other causes of cat eye discharge could be trauma, feline infectious peritonitis, something lodged in their eye, or third eyelid issues.

When Should I Visit the Vet?

If your cat does not usually have watery eyes and you suddenly notice them tearing up, the best course of action is to give your vet a call or bring your cat in for an exam. You should do this whether your cat has a clear, watery discharge, or a thicker, mucus-like discharge. A visit to the vet is especially warranted if your cat seems irritated and they are scratching or pawing at the eye, or if they are blinking more than usual.

Your vet will inspect your cat’s eyes and possibly give them a full body exam to try and determine what the underlying cause of the tears are. They will evaluate the eyes, look for damage to the structure, measure the pressure of their eye, and assess the production of tears and their normal flow. Once they determine what is and isn’t normal for your animal, the vet will be better able to determine what the cause is.

Treatment for Discharge from Cat Eyes

Treatment of watery cat eyes depends on the underlying cause. In many cases, the tears can resolve themselves on their own. If it is caused by an infection, then your vet may prescribe a course of antibiotics. Often, your vet will send you and your cat home with eye drops or ointment to help relieve any inflammation.

Whatever the treatment may be, always make sure that you follow your vet’s instructions to the letter and administer the medication as directed. Remember that you can fulfill all your cat’s prescription medication needs conveniently online at Express Vet Pharmacy. We’re here to help!