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Watery Eyes in Cats: Why and What You Should Do

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Watery Eyes Cat

Warning: This article, “Watery eyes in cats: Why and what to do”, is purely informative. On CatLicking we do not have the skills to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to bring your animal to the veterinarian if it presents the symptoms of a fever or a disease.

No, your cat’s eyes aren’t wet because he’s sad!

The production of tears is a normal phenomenon in mammals. Physiologically, tears are produced continuously and then eliminated by evacuation through the tear ducts, which maintains a stable quantity of tears on the eyes.

The presence of these tears on the cornea helps protect it from external aggressions, evacuating the microorganisms that come naturally to settle on the eye and that could cause an infection.

A sinking eye means that the production of tears in the eye is more important than the quantity of tears evacuated through the tear ducts.

These tears may retain a clear color but may also become purulent or bleeding (blood-tinged) in appearance.

This symptom is often accompanied by a change in the appearance of the eyelids and a red coloration of the conjunctiva; this is known as red eye.

The Main Causes of Watery Eyes in Cats: Overview

When a cat has watering eyes, the cause must be identified as soon as possible. It can be :

  • Obstruction of the tear duct,
  • An infection,
  • An allergy,
  • A foreign body.

The thing to do depends on the origin of the tearing.

If the cat has watery eyes for more than 24 hours, it is strongly advised to consult the veterinarian as soon as possible.

You must also make the difference between an eye that weeps little and an abundant flow of tears or epiphora.

In case of epiphora, one can suspect an irritation or an obstruction of the tear duct. In the latter case, the tears flow into the inner corner of the eyes and end up making furrows up to the snout.

Apart from an anatomical problem found in brachycephalic cats among others, the cause can be :

  • A mucous plug that can more or less obstruct the canal, preventing the tears to flow normally.
  • An excess production of tears that can be explained by :
    • Conjunctivitis,
    • Irritation,
    • An ulcer on the cornea.

It is well understood that running eyes in a cat should not be neglected because it can make you suspect a sometimes very serious problem.

Watery eyes in cats can have multiple causes

Watery eyes in cats can have multiple causes – Source:

Main Causes of Watering Eyes in Cats in Detail

Aggression of the Cornea

As soon as the cat’s eye feels attacked, a natural mechanism causes a sudden increase in the production of tears.

Therefore, in cats, the eyes can get watery as soon as they are exposed to a strong air current, to dust.

Certain breeds of cats known as “brachycephalic” with very bulging eyes are very exposed to external aggressions.

Examples are the Persian, British and Exotic Shortair.

These cats have eyes that have been sinking a lot since birth.

Their anatomy means that their eyes need to be kept clean throughout the life of the animal.

Presence of a Foreign Body in the Cat’s Eye

Sometimes a foreign body can be lodged on the cornea and against the conjunctiva, or in the eyeball.

In this case, if the sudden production of tears does not allow the foreign body to evacuate naturally, it should be removed mechanically.

Allergic Reaction

The conjunctiva is the mucous part covering the inside of the eyelids. It can be inflamed and cause redness and discharge from the eyes.

In addition to the infectious origins, conjunctivitis can also be observed during reaction to allergenic substances (pollens, toxic fumes, chemical vapors) or exposure to irritating toxic aerosols.

Usually, in this case, both eyes of the animal are affected and runny.


If there is an infection of the corneal surface, there is a yellow to green discharge from the eye. This is known as infectious conjunctivitis.

This may require anti-infective eye treatment.

For example, feline chlamydophilosis, a bacterial disease, is the source of ocular (eye) inflammation and conjunctivitis. Again, a green or yellow discharge is a sign that a bacterial infection is involved.

Runny eyes can also be a sign of an infection of the respiratory system, also called cat flu.

This condition, caused by the feline calicivirus or feline herpesvirus, manifests itself by an overload of the eyes, but also by sneezing, fever, lethargy, nasal overload.

It can also be Coryza syndrome.

This disease is caused by a combination of viral (Herpesvirus, Calicivirus and Reovirus) and bacterial (Chlamydophila, Mycoplasma and Bordetella) pathogens.

A cat suffering from coryza presents generally thick and purulent eye discharge, nasal discharge, sneezing, often fever, weakness, and sometimes coughing or mouth ulcers.

Coryza can be fatal, especially in kittens or immunocompromised individuals.

Vaccinating cats as young as 2 months of age can effectively protect them against this disease.

Obstruction of the Tear Ducts

When the tear ducts are blocked, tears can no longer be eliminated properly. As a result, the eyes leak.

The tear ducts can become blocked if a small foreign body gets into the tear duct or if there is a tumour in the tear duct.


A shock, a foreign body in the eye, a scratch can generate an ulcer and inflammation of the cornea, resulting in a red eye, tearing, eye pain (the cat then blinks very frequently and tries to rub the eye on all kinds of surfaces…).

Anatomical Causes

The tear duct is a small channel that allows tears to flow from the eye to the nasal cavities.

The canal is located in the internal canthus of the eye (internal angle) and opens into the nasal cavities. Sometimes this canal can be blocked, generating continuous tearing.

Furthermore, in some brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds such as Persian, the shape of the head and eyelids can prevent tears from entering this drainage system.

This also results in continuous tearing even if the tear duct is not blocked.

Finally, a poorly implanted eyelash or an entropion (an abnormality of the eyelid causing the eyelid to roll inwards) can induce friction on the cornea and lead to significant inflammation of the cornea, or even a corneal ulcer.

Watery Eyes in Cats: What to Do?

If your cat has watery eyes, you can clean the eyes with a sterile cat-specific eye lotion. The lotion must be administered directly into the animal’s eye.

Simply look at the color of the tears:

  • A simple dust in the eye usually results in a clear tear. Simply clean the cat’s eyes with a lint-free compress soaked in saline or a suitable lotion and everything will be fine.
  • But if the tears are more or less red, the issue is probably more serious and even in some cases they may be clear despite a serious cause.

Unless you are absolutely sure that it’s just dust that is bothering your cat, the best thing to do is not to touch anything and take your little companion to the vet as soon as possible.

The vet will do additional tests to find out what the problem is. From there, an effective treatment can be put in place.

The eyes are very fragile and sensitive organs. Moreover, they are very complex organs, and each element can be the source of a problem, whether it is at the level of the cornea, the retina, the pupil…

So do not take your cat’s eyes lightly (if I may say so…).

We can never advise enough owners to take good care of their small feline whatever his age, which includes the regular cleaning of his eyes with a very specific lotion advised by the vet.

The lotion is one of the products that can be reimbursed by the mutual health insurance company for cats as soon as the owner of the animal has opted for a formula that includes preventive measures.

By the way, do you know Eusoh? It’s an insurance that reimburses you even for routine visits to the vet, which most other companies don’t do. Click here to discover this new kind of insurance.

No Self-Medication!

If the sterile eye lotions used for the cleaning of the eye can in no case be dangerous, it is not the case of eye drops.

It is not advisable that you administer eye drops yourself without prior consultation with your veterinarian.

Depending on your pet’s eye condition, the use of an unsuitable eye drops can worsen the condition of the eye and lead to very serious injuries!

If your cat suffers from lacrimation, it is necessary to make an appointment with your vet. He will perform a complete ophthalmological examination of your pet.

Following the ophthalmological examination, he will usually prescribe a local treatment consisting of eye drops.

In the case of coryza, an oral antibiotic treatment will be prescribed and, if necessary, an aerosol treatment will be combined with it.

In certain cases of serious corneal ulcers, the healing of the ulcer will require temporary covering of the eye (this is done by suturing the third eyelid to the upper conjunctiva).

Finally, in rare cases, the veterinarian may have to perform a more extensive surgery.

Depending on the cause, eye discharge can be mild or more severe.

Self-medication is always to be proscribed.

In all cases, you must consult your vet without delay to establish a diagnosis quickly, so that the ocular lesions do not have time to evolve and so that your cat receives an adapted treatment and therefore heals as quickly as possible.

Watery Eyes in Cats: One Final Word

Well, that’s it! I hope this article on watery eyes in cats has helped you better understand the cause of this problem and how to effectively combat it.

So, now… Don’t cry next time your cat looks at you with tears in his eyes… He’s not sad, but he probably needs you to take care of him.

Watery Eyes Cat Photo by Daniel Brachlow from Pixabay

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