Causes of Watery Eyes in Cats

James Glover
by James Glover
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QuestionMy cat sometimes looks like she is crying - she has liquid coming out of her eyes. What does that mean? (Sierra trigueiro - California)

Answer

There are many causes of unusual discharge from the eyes - nearly every opthamological problem in cats causes the eyes to water, and without a physical examination it is impossible to be specific. I will assume that the discharge is clear and watery.

Sudden onset or temporary clear discharge from the eyes can be caused by injury (although this is unlikely if the discharge is from both eyes), allergic reaction or an upper respiratory tract infection - just like when humans get watery eyes when suffering from a cold. If your cat has a respiratory infection he is likely to also develop a wet nose. If your cat has become lethargic, or there has been any change in his toilet or eating habits it is likely that the wateriness is just an exterior sign of an underlying illness.

Chronic eye watering can be due to a range of causes, including conjunctivitis, ulcer, cataract, glaucoma or distichia. Given that both eyes are affected, it is unlikely to be most of these causes and most of these symptoms would be accompanied by other symptoms such as cloudiness or redness of the eye. It is also possible that your cat suffers from an inherited defect in which a malformation of the tear ducts blocks the normal flow of tears. This condition is actually called "Watery Eyes" and is often accompanied by stained fur around the eyes.

You can try treating your cat with a twice-daily saline eye drop (specifically for cats) to help cleanse the eye and tear ducts. If your cat suffers from a reaction to an environmental stimulus (for example an allergy) this treatment should offer mild relief. If the discharge continues or you notice any change in behavior you should have your cat thoroughly checked by your vet.

Disclaimer: This service is meant to provide advice only and is not meant to replace an appointment with a registered veterinarian. Users should always seek a second opinion. Unfortunately we are only able to answer several questions per week so not everyone gets a published answer. And, unfortunately we can't answer by email.
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