why is my cat’s eye watering?

Dog hearing

Cat tears aren’t because they’re thinking sad thoughts

Cats don’t cry like people do, but they still have tears for purely for functional reasons, like washing away debris and keeping the eyes lubricated. Excessive eye watering is called epiphora, and it can have perfectly benign causes or be a sign that your cat needs veterinary care. If your cat’s lovely eyes are suddenly watering much more than usual, please come in and see your vet.

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Cats with certain face shapes or genetic backgrounds — like those with short, pushed-up brachycephalic noses — may naturally have watery eyes.

When to worry about watery eyes

Not every set of watery eyes needs professional care. But if your cat’s tearing is unusually heavy, or it’s happening a lot more than usual, these symptom mean it’s definitely time for professional veterinary care.

  • Squinting
  • Red, raised third eyelid
  • A whole lot of clear discharge
  • Thick yellow or green discharge
  • Rubbing or pawing at the eyes
  • Rubbing eyes against furniture
  • Eye watering that just keeps on happening

Read more about cat eye infections >

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How your vet can help

Your veterinary team will do a complete eye exam to evaluate your cat’s eye structures and eye function. This can include testing your cat’s tear drainage, done by dropping a bit of green fluorescein stain in your cat’s eye to see if it flows out through the nose or out onto their face. They may also measure your cat’s eye pressure, and take a sample of eyeball discharge to look for an infection.

Treating leaky cat eyes will depend on what’s causing the leak. Bacterial eye infections can be treated with antibiotic eye medications, while blocked tear ducts may be opened up and flushed.


Safety first! If your cat needs eye drops, ask your veterinary team how to safely and effectively apply them without undue drama. If there’s simply no way, don’t force it. Ask your veterinary team what they recommend.

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