Skip to content

Healthy Cats

Font Size

Causes of Watery Eyes in Cats

There are a number of conditions that cause a watery or mucus-like discharge to overflow the eyelids and run down the sides of the face, staining the hair. Cats do not cry as people do, so this is not a factor to be considered as one of the causes. In all cats with a runny eye, the cause should be determined so that proper treatment can be given.

First, it is important to determine whether the eye is red or irritated. Irritating eye disorders are characterized by excessive tearing along with a red or painful eye. However, if the eye is not red, then a blockage in the tear drainage system is the problem.

Recommended Related to Cats

Cats and Scratching: Practical Tips for Owners

Cats like to scratch. They scratch during play. They scratch while stretching. They scratch to mark territory or as a threatening signal other cats. And because cats’ claws need regular sharpening, cats scratch on things to remove frayed, worn outer claws and expose new, sharper claws. Unfortunately, all this scratching can cause a lot of damage to furniture, drapes and carpeting!

Read the Cats and Scratching: Practical Tips for Owners article > >

Keep in mind that excessive tearing or a sticky, puslike discharge from the eyes or nose is frequently associated with feline viral respiratory infections. This possibility should be investigated before the eye alone is treated.

Nasolacrimal Occlusion

In cats with this condition, the discharge is due to an overflow of tears caused by a blockage in the tear draining system. Inadequate tear drainage should be considered if the cat has a persistent eye discharge without redness.

A cat may be born with an inadequate tear drainage system. However, in most cases, nasolacrimal occlusion is the result of scarring from eyelid injuries acquired in cat fights. Other causes are chronic infection in the duct system and plugging of the ducts by thick secretions, dirt, or grass seeds.

To see if the drainage system is open, a veterinarian stains the pool of tears near the inner corner of the eye with fluorescein dye. If the dye does not appear at the nostril, the tear duct is blocked on that side. Nasolacrimal probes are inserted into the duct opening, and various flushing techniques are used to show the point of obstruction. The flushing often removes the blockage and opens the duct.

Tear Stains

An overflow of tears, accompanied by unsightly staining of the hair below the eyes, occurs in some cats with short noses, large, prominent eyes, and flat faces. The problem is seen most often in Persians and Himalayans, and other breeds with shortened muzzles. These breeds are subject to chronic eye irritations and infections that produce tearing. Their facial structure usually causes a narrowing of the nasolacrimal duct and a shallow tear lake at the inner corner of the eye. All these factors may contribute to the problem.

Today on WebMD

cat at table
What's safe for them to eat?
Maine Coon cat breed
What they do and why cats have them.
Kitten in litterbox
How to solve them.
cat meowing
Why some cats are so talkative
cat on couch
Kitten using litter box
sleeping kitten
sad kitten looking at milk glass

Love your pets, hate your allergies?

Get tips for relief.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

cat at table
muddy dog on white sofa
Maine Coon cat breed
Pets: Behavior Problems in Cats