As well as being beautiful to look at, we all know that the eyes are an essential part of any cat. And the most important part of a cat’s eye is the coating, which protect it from a range of problems, otherwise known as the tear filter. When something goes wrong, the best red flag that the tear filter can produce is discharge.

When your cat has watery eyes or their eye produces discharge, this is usually a sign that something isn’t right and that they are trying their best to fight something off. In this article, we’ll be discussing the main causes and treatments of cat eye discharge. We’ll also be letting you when how you can treat an eye infection at home, and when you need to see a vet, so read on to learn everything there is to know about the most common cat eye infection issues and cat watery eye issues.

What Symptoms Should I Keep an Eye Out For?

When you find yourself wondering “why is my cat’s eye watering?”, there are several potential causes. Because of this, it’s not worth leaving it up to chance when it comes to something as important as your cat’s eyes, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and have your vet check your cat out if they are exhibiting any of the following symptoms:

  • Watery discharge
  • A closed or partially closed eye (it may also resemble a black eye at a glance)
  • Face rubbing or itching
  • Excessive crusting around the eye
  • Inflamed, red/pink or blood-shot eyes
  • A clouded eye
  • Thick clear, yellow, white or green discharge

The first things to consider with something like this are the obvious questions of, could they have allergies causing these problems? Or could their breed be prone to watering eyes?

Curious cat

Common Causes of Cat Eye Discharge

  • Allergies

Allergies are probably the most common and frustrating cause of these types of symptoms (and can also cause skin conditions which run alongside cat watery eyes). As allergies are difficult to pinpoint and are a long-term problem that you will have to look after. Your cat could be allergic to a wide variety of things such as:

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

With allergies, it is best to seek the advice of your vet early on, as they can determine the cause of the allergy and help you to plan treatment for them.

  • Breed

A very typical breed for developing eye problems is the Persian, although many other flat-faced breeds are known to struggle with eye problems. In fact, the constant flow of tears can cause something called tear staining, in which they develop red or brown streaks from the eyes running down their face, this is caused by irritation to the skin and pigmentation found in the liquid.

  • Environmental Issues

Environmental issues refers to cat eye watering that is caused by an external problem not related to allergies (which is an internal reaction to external triggers). These environmental causes can come from a huge range of factors, such as in-turning eyelids (causing fur to irritate the eye itself), or ingrown eye lashes.

These can sometimes be short-term problems, which are easily remedied using our tips below, such as an eyelash falling into the eye or dirt and debris being present. It can also refer to a scratch from another cat that has been acquired during a fight, which may heal up on its own. However, long-term problems (lasting 48 hours or more) will need to be remedied by a vet.

  • Infection

Discharge is a common sign of infection, with different viscosities and colors indicating different types of infection. By identifying the different types of discharge that is being produced, you can get an idea of what could be the cause. For example, clearer discharge or mucus is typically a sign that your cat has caught a virus.

Another possibility is yellow or green mucus, which is often a sign of a bacterial infection, which can be cleared with antibiotics in several forms such as eye drops or creams and can be cleared much quicker than a virus. You’ll need to get these from your local vet, so make an appointment as soon as you notice this discharge, as untreated infections can lead to blindness.

Finally, the main cause of inflamed red, pink or bloodshot eyes is conjunctivitis, or better known by many as pinkeye, is possibly the most common cause of watery eyes in felines, as it is in humans. If one or both eyes appear to be inflamed and producing water discharge, it’s likely your cat has contracted this particular eye infection.

  • Ulcers

If your cat is suffering from a cloudy eye that waters continually, it is very possible that your cat could be suffering from an eye ulcer, otherwise known as a corneal ulcer. This is not something to be taken lightly and should be dealt with as quickly as possible. Eye ulcers, when left untreated, are a major causes of sight loss.

How Can I Treat My Cat’s Eye Infection at Home?

Most treatments will need to be undertaken by a vet – especially given the more extreme cases.
There are simple fixes and in more severe cases minor procedures that can aid in the correction of these problem areas.

That said, there are many common ways to help treat cat eye discharge without the need for invasive treatment or medical bills that come with visits to the vet. In these cases, we always recommend erring on the side of caution – and do make an appointment if you are concerned at any time, during home treatment.Black and white cat lies on scratching posts

Treating Cat Watery Eyes Due to Breed

The best way to help a flat-faced breed that may have this issue would be to keep on top of their facial grooming, in order to keep the hair out of their eyes and prevent the gathering of dirt. It is also good practice to get into the routine of cleaning their eyes using lukewarm water on a cotton pad, to clear away sleep debris and soothe the skin.

Treating Allergies in Cats

Allergies are very common in cats, and the humble antihistamine is a great way to combat flare-ups. However, it is often much better to try and withdraw as much contact with the trigger as is possible. For example, if you suspect food may be the cause, then changing over to a no-filler alternative may help reduce the symptoms. Similarly, if you suspect pollen, you can try to keep your feline friend indoors, to limit contact with high-pollen areas, at certain times of the year.

Treating Environmental Causes of Cat Eye Discharge

The best way to treat environmental causes is to use a fresh piece of medical gauze or cotton, dampening the chosen fabric and running a fresh piece over each eye. This will help to move the environmental cause of the cat watery eye, and give your cat some much needed respite, while soothing the area.

This tactic can also work well for allergies too, as it can help to remove the allergens from around the eye area and give the eye a break from the trigger.

While these treatments are handy for the mild cases of water eye, it is always important to keep an eye on how the problem progresses. If you find that, after treatment, your kitty’s eyes are still watering, or you suspect a cat eye infection, be sure to head straight back to the vets for a full examination. This is because continual watery eyes in cats can also be a sign of something more serious at work that may need looking into.

Dr Tracy Douglas
General Practice Veterinarian, currently working at the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Dr. Douglas began her veterinary career as a Veterinary Nurse in Highton Veterinary Clinic, Highton Victoria, and then as an Emergency Veterinarian in Uintah Pet Emergency, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tracy is particularly interested in surgery, neurology and internal medicine, which gives her a well-rounded knowledge on animal health and well-being. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Melbourne, while her undergraduate bachelor of science is from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.


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