Unlike people, cats do not cry, so any case of watery eyes in felines should be treated as a potential problem. Cat runny eyes only develop when there is something wrong with your feline friend.

Cat watery eyes often develop when something causes mucus-like discharge or water to overflow the eyelids. A cat runny eye will make it look as if your cat has been crying. If you notice that, it might be a good idea to contact your veterinarian to keep your companion healthy.

What Causes Watery Eyes in Cats?

The first thing you need to do when you notice a cat watery eye is to look to see whether the eye is red or irritated. Irritated eyes are usually red and often painful to the cat. You may also notice tearing; if you do not see a rip, the tear drainage system could be blocked. Some Conditions That Can Cause Cat Watery Eyes Include:

Nasolacrimal Occlusion

This occurs when the tear drainage system gets blocked but there is no redness. The usual cause of this problem is injuries to the eyes or the eyelids that the cat gets while fighting. Infections and plugged tear ducts can also cause this problem. If you suspect this, you will have to go to the veterinarian because the vet will need to stain the tears with fluorescein dye to see what is happening and possibly to use a probe and flushing techniques to clean out the ducts.


Tear Stains

This problem occurs when tears stain the hair below the eyes. It is more common in breeds with short muzzles, such as Persians and Himalayans. There is no cure for this problem, but it can be cleared up with an antibiotic if you take the cat to the vet. Some cat owners put low doses of an antibiotic called tetracycline in cat food as a long-term treatment. The cat’s appearance can be improved by clipping the facial hairs.


Feline Upper Respiratory Infections (URI)

These infections can be caused by the herpes virus or by bacteria. The cat will usually have other symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, and a runny noise. The viral infections have to clear up on their own; bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics.



This is an inflammation of the membrane that blocks the tear draining system. It is usually caused by a herpesvirus or chlamydophila. This will require veterinary treatment because it can lead to vision problems or blindness if left untreated.


Other Causes of Cat Runny Eyes

  • Allergies can cause cat watery eyes. Common allergies in cats include grass, pollen, fabrics, smoke, and cigarette smoke. Allergies are usually accompanied by itchy skin and rashes.

  • Hereditary defects. Some cats are born without a proper tear drainage system or misshapen eyes, which can lead to runny eyes. Some cats’ bodies may produce too many tears.

  • Fights with other cats can lead to injuries to the eyes that cause them to water.

  • A runny eye can also develop if foreign objects such as a bug, a pebble, or a splinter gets trapped in your cat’s eye.

Diagnosis of Cat Watery Eyes

Your veterinarian is the only person who can determine the cause of cat runny eyes and provide proper treatment. The vet will have to conduct a physical examination of the eyes. She may also perform blood tests and other lab work in order to test for an infection or allergies. The test is necessary to determine if the eyes are infected and if the infection is bacterial, viral, or fungal.

How to Treat Watery Eyes in Cats

Veterinarians have a number of methods of treating cat watery eyes. The treatment will depend upon the cause of the condition. Treatments for the problem include:
  • Removal of foreign objects from the cat’s eyes with tweezers and other instruments.

  • Surgery to remove deeply embedded objects.

  • Saline eye drops used to treat conjunctivitis.

  • Antibiotics might be applied directly to the eye, added to the cat’s food, or administered directly in pill or liquid form.

  • If allergies are the cause, the vet might prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids.

  • If the eyes are inflamed, the vet might prescribe steroidal eye drops.

  • There are some home treatments for cat runny eyes, including soaked tea bags applied directly to the eyes. Such treatments should only be used if the discharge from the eyes is clear.

  • A saline solution will be used to clean the area around the eyes.


Please Log In or add your name and email to post the comment.

  • CasperDec.14 16:26
    Our cat Orange has opaque eye watering. He's a bit sluggish. He lays himself down on the sofa and really doesn't get up unless it's feeding time or he sees an other cat in the garden. What should I do?
  • TaraAug.20 06:43
    I'm staying at my boyfriends house and his cat gets watery eyes. We thought nothing of it till I just recently brought my cat here to live with us then she started having watery eyes. Do you think it could be something they are allergic to??
  • AVCOct.14 10:16
    @ : Please take her to a vet, Tara! Good luck!
  • Carl SchultzJul.1 13:11
    Constance, I have my lovable oowder puff Gizmo who at 7 years starting sneezing and had runny eyes I took her to the vet and she got both treatments you described, her eyes cleared, but the sneezing didn't stop, after 2 weeks or so the watery eyes came back, this may be an untreatable viral infection , but her appetite and general behavior seems good, I don't believe it is life threatening I hope she is a kong fluff ball, and chronically cleans herself meaning she barfs up a kot if hair balls, so I have taken to grooming on a regular basis. Hope everything works works out for her, avoid the vet for this situation my non-professional advice, we have 2 more cats and they have no symptoms all are indoor cats, we at one point had 12. My calico Cleo inherited a herpes virus fro her mother a barn cat, her eyes throughout her life would periodically exhibit this, she lived to be 16 or 17.
  • KimMar.25 07:17
    My cat has this esp when he eats. He had the dye put in his eyes to see if it ran out of his nose twice, it didn't, so when we had him neutered the vet arranged to flush his tear ducts under the anaethesia. He couldn't find the tear ducts, he said it is a bit rare but he said the cat is in no pain so unless we wanted to have him referred to a feline ophthalmic surgeon he suggested if we were happy to leave him he reckons he should be fine. The cat washes the area him self or if it's a bit dusty I do it with a tiny piece of sterile gauze. Cats healthy, Happy, and as curious as any cat can be. he had a hearty appetite and can jump 4 times his size at only 6 months. next year he is learning the piano and taking French lessons!! He's a darlin.
  • Constance MaysJan.3 01:44
    In the past my cat Little Bit of Love had severe upper respiratory problems She's not sick and has not been in this condition for more than 6 months However she has had watery eyes with no apparent illness or sneezing or nasal discharge She already had eye ointment because had abit or yellow discharge She already had a Convenia antibiotic injection and they eyes stopped watering for only two weeks Now her eyes are watering again They only water slightly and in no way does she appear sick I'm racking up vet bills because I have 6 cats total None of the other cats have had watery eyes at any time What do you think I should do for her?
  • Daelin Jul.16 18:03
    I don't think we ever saw this problem with our two cats, who lived to be 17 and 18 years old. I wonder if it is mostly due to the fact that they were indoor cats that we strictly kept from venturing outdoors. They also weren't very social, so they didn't get a lot of exposure from strangers.
View All Comments /Add Comment