Why Are My Cat's Eyes So Watery?

That coating on your cat’s eyes plays a major role in keeping them healthy.


Known as the tear film, this layer removes debris. It keeps their eyes moist and provides nutrients. It also fights bacteria. Sometimes that watery discharge is a sign that your cat’s eyes are in full fight mode against a threat to their health.


Most of the time, the cause is minor and will clear up on its own. But if you see these signs, a checkup at the vet is in order.

Are the tissues around their eyes inflamed and red?

If you see this in one or both eyes, along with a watery discharge, there’s a good chance they have conjunctivitis. You may know it by its nickname, pinkeye.


It's the most common eye problem for cats. An infection, an allergy, or even dust can bring it on. Pinkeye is contagious, so most cats will have it at least once in their lives. They can get it at any age, but it most often affects young animals.


Feline herpes virus also causes pinkeye. Your cat can get shots to protect them from this, but they could have picked it up when they were a kitten. If they have the virus, they are infected for life. But the vaccine can reduce their symptoms.


Easing their stress can prevent flare-ups. If they have an outbreak of herpes-related pinkeye, your vet will prescribe antibiotics and an antiviral drug for you to use.


Pinkeye often clears up without treatment. If you see discharge and your cat seems to be in pain, take them to the vet. They’ll make sure that a more serious problem isn’t causing the symptoms.

Is the discharge sticky or yellow?

Your cat probably has an infection. Lab tests can help your vet figure out what’s causing the problem.

  • Clear mucus means your cat has a virus. The vet will tell you to wait and see if it clears up on its own in a week or two.
  • Green or yellow mucus suggests a bacterial infection. You’ll probably get antibiotic eyedrops or ointment to treat it with.


Do they have an allergy?

Cats be allergic to the same things people are:

  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Dust
  • Medicine
  • Flea-control products
  • Perfumes
  • Cleaning products

Your vet can figure out if your cat has an allergy and recommend the best ways to treat it.

Is their breed prone to tearing?

Some breeds have short faces and rounded skulls. This causes lots of tears and other eye problems.


Tears that flow onto their faces stain their hair and irritate or inflame their skin.


There are a number of products on the market to treat these stains, but some have ingredients that aren’t FDA approved. Ask your vet what’s safe to use.

Is their eye cloudy? Do they rub their head and squint?

These are signs of an eye ulcer. If you see them, get your cat to the vet right away. If it isn’t treated they could lose their sight. Causes include blows to the head, a scratched eye, an infection, and chemicals.

Do the tears go away?

If your cat’s watery eyes don’t clear up, take them to the vet for a thorough exam. It could be a sign of serious disease. The earlier they are diagnosed, the faster they’ll get better.

WebMD Veterinary Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on May 08, 2021




American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: “Cat Care: Allergies.”


Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: “Conjunctivitis.”


Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Corneal Ulcers.”


Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: “Feline Vision Problems: A Host of Possible Causes.”


Kansas State University: “What Do You Do When Your Cat Gets a Common Cold? K-State Veterinarian Discusses Options for These Challenging Cases.”


North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine: “Ophthalmology – Special Services, Technology, & Information.”


Universities Federation for Animal Welfare: “Genetic welfare problems of companion animals: Brachycephaly.”


University of Glasgow, Veterinary Diagnostic Services: “What are the signs of cat 'flu?'”


FDA: “FDA Issues Warning Letters for Unapproved Tear Stain Removers Used in Dogs and Cats.”

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