Is It Normal for Cat’s Eyes to Water

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As a cat owner, you care deeply about your pet’s well-being and recognize even subtle changes in their appearance or behavior. One common concern many cat parents share is when their feline companion’s eyes start watering. Is it a sign of a serious problem or simply a normal occurrence? In this blog, we’ll delve into the reasons behind cat eye watering and when to consult a veterinarian. We invite you to call Glenwood Pet Hospital in Erie, PA, at (814) 864-3019 for any concerns regarding your cat’s health.

Understanding Cat Eye Watering

Cat eye watering, also known as epiphora, refers to excessive tear production or impaired tear drainage from a cat’s eyes. A small amount of tear production is normal, as it helps keep the eyes lubricated, washes away debris, and protects the eye surface. However, when the tears overflow or you notice persistent watery discharge, it might indicate an underlying issue.

Normal vs. Abnormal Cat Eye Watering

  • Normal Eye Watering: Occasional tear production that clears up quickly without other symptoms is usually nothing to worry about. This can occur due to environmental irritants like dust or pollen.
  • Abnormal Eye Watering: If the discharge persists or is accompanied by symptoms like redness, swelling, squinting, or pawing at the eyes, it’s essential to investigate further.

Common Causes of Cat Eye Watering

Several factors can contribute to cat eye watering. Let’s look at some of the most common causes:


Cats can develop allergies to environmental factors like pollen, mold, dust mites, or household cleaners. Allergy symptoms in cats include sneezing, itching, and watery eyes. If you notice your cat’s eye watering is seasonal or triggered by specific changes at home, allergies may be the culprit.


Conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye,” is an inflammation of the conjunctiva (the mucous membrane covering the white part of the eye). It often leads to symptoms like redness, swelling, and watery discharge. The condition may be caused by infections, allergies, or irritants.

Corneal Ulcers or Injuries

The cornea, the transparent front layer of the eye, can suffer scratches, ulcers, or other injuries. These issues can cause eye watering, squinting, redness, and sensitivity to light. Immediate veterinary attention is necessary to prevent complications.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Cats with upper respiratory infections often exhibit symptoms like sneezing, nasal discharge, and watery eyes. Infections can result from viruses (like feline herpesvirus) or bacteria (such as Chlamydia or Mycoplasma).

Blocked Tear Ducts

A blocked or malfunctioning tear duct can cause tears to overflow from the eyes. This is more common in certain breeds, such as Persians or Himalayans, due to their facial structure. A veterinarian can assess whether a tear duct issue is contributing to your cat’s eye watering.

Eyelid Abnormalities

Cats with eyelid abnormalities, such as entropion (inward-turning eyelids) or ectropion (outward-turning eyelids), often experience eye irritation and excessive tearing. These conditions may require surgical correction to prevent discomfort and eye damage.

Foreign Bodies or Irritants

Cats sometimes get foreign objects like dust, hair, or plant matter stuck in their eyes. This leads to irritation and tear production. If the watering persists, it’s crucial to have a vet examine the eye to rule out any lodged debris.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Cat Eye Watering

A thorough veterinary examination is vital in identifying the cause of your cat’s eye watering. Here’s how a veterinarian at Glenwood Pet Hospital will approach the diagnosis:

  • Physical Examination: A comprehensive eye exam is conducted to observe the affected eye(s) and look for signs of redness, swelling, discharge, or other abnormalities.
  • Tear Production Test: The Schirmer tear test measures the amount of tear production to identify dry eye conditions.
  • Fluorescein Stain Test: A special dye called fluorescein is used to detect corneal ulcers or scratches.
  • Cytology or Cultures: Samples of eye discharge may be collected to identify the presence of bacteria, viruses, or fungi contributing to the condition.

Treatment Options for Cat Eye Watering

The treatment for cat eye watering depends on the underlying cause. Your veterinarian may prescribe medications for your pet such as antibiotics or antivirals to take care of an infection. Eye drops may also be used to provide relief for dry eye. In cases of blocked tear ducts, flushing them with saline solution can help restore normal tear drainage. In more serious cases, surgical procedures may be necessary to correct structural issues like entropion, ectropion, or eyelid masses. 

Preventing Cat Eye Watering

While some causes of cat eye watering are unavoidable, there are preventive measures you can take:

  • Gently clean around your cat’s eyes using a damp cloth to remove discharge.
  • Keep your home free from strong chemicals, dust, and allergens.
  • Ensure your cat is up to date on vaccinations to prevent infections that can lead to eye watering, such as feline herpesvirus or calicivirus.
  • If you own a breed prone to eye issues (e.g., Persians), work closely with your veterinarian for regular eye examinations and appropriate grooming practices.

When to Call Glenwood Pet Hospital

If your cat’s eye watering is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, it’s crucial to consult Glenwood Pet Hospital promptly:

  • Persistent redness or swelling
  • Squinting or pawing at the eyes
  • Discharge that is thick, yellow, or green
  • Visible injury or ulcer
  • Changes in vision or eye shape

Protecting Your Cat’s Eye Health

Cat eye watering may or may not be normal, depending on the underlying cause. Understanding the signs, potential causes, and treatment options can help you provide the best care for your feline companion. If you’re concerned about your cat’s eye watering, call Glenwood Pet Hospital in Erie, PA, at (814) 864-3019 to schedule an appointment. Our experienced veterinary team is dedicated to ensuring your cat receives the best care possible.

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