A cat’s eyes produce tears like the rest of us, and they work similarly – protecting, cleaning, and lubricating the eye’s surface (also known as the cornea). While tears play an essential role in the health and function of your cat’s eyes, there is such a thing as having too many tears – which can be dangerous.
If you’re sitting there asking yourself – “Why are my cat’s eyes watering so much?” – then don’t worry. We will break it all down for you below.
Why Do the Eyes Produce Tears?
Before we delve into some of the reasons for and causes of watery eyes in cats, let’s first understand the science behind where tears come from and why they’re so crucial to eye health.
For starters, tears have three layers: water, oil, and mucus. The lacrimal glands (top outer edge of the eye) produce the watery layer, the meibomian glands produce the oily layer, and the mucus glands and conjunctiva produce the mucus layer. Each layer has a different function.
The inner layer (mucus) helps tears stick to the cornea (surface of the eye). The middle layer (water) helps clean, moisten, and nourish eye tissue. The outer layer (oil) prevents tears from evaporating before they work their magic.
Believe it or not, your cat’s tears function in the same way your tears function!
Most Common Causes of Watery Eyes in Cats
If you’re anything like me, you start to panic whenever you see your cat’s eyes watering excessively. Are they tears of joy? Is my cat anxious or depressed? Is it the result of a medical condition? Should I be worried? The questions start to pile up, and anxiety levels rise, but when do we get some answers?
While excessive tearing is nothing to worry about in some cases, it can cause concern in others. To help you get to the bottom of it, here are the seven most common causes of watery eyes in cats.
We all know that feeling when we get something stuck in our eye, and we can’t stop scratching it (don’t do that, by the way!), but did you know your cat goes through the same thing? When this happens, the eye naturally produces more tears to whisk away whatever’s irritating the eye.
If their eyes are watering and have an eye shut or squinting, they might have a foreign object stuck somewhere in the eye. If not removed, the foreign object can scratch the front surface of the eye (corneal abrasion) and result in further vision problems – especially if they’re scratching at or rubbing the eye.
If your cat can’t get it out or is scratching at their eye, take them to a vet to have the foreign object adequately removed.
Epiphora is an eye symptom that’s characterized by excessive tearing. The two primary causes include an increase in tear production or a decrease in tear drainage. While this can happen from time to time without it being a cause for concern, some cases may require treatment.
The most common forms of treatment include prescription eyedrops, surgery, and keeping the cat’s face clean – exact treatment will depend on the primary cause of epiphora.
If your cat’s eyes are watering excessively, you’ll start to notice a sticky discharge leak under the eye – tears can also stain your cat’s fur. Ensure you use gentle wipes when cleaning your cat’s eyes, especially near the eyes.
Your cat isn’t immune to allergies – in fact, they can be allergic to many of the same things as humans! If your cat’s eyes are watering, you’ll know it’s allergies if it’s accompanied by sneezing and itching.
Some of the most common allergens to cats include pollen, dust, cleaning products, mold and mildew, certain perfumes, and other chemicals – if it can make you sneeze, it can make them sneeze, too!
If your cat is experiencing an allergic reaction, take it to the vet for the correct prescription and do your best to limit exposure to whatever triggered the reaction.
An eye ulcer (or corneal ulcer) is a small wound that forms on the front surface of the eye, also known as the cornea. It’s one of the major complications of having a foreign object in your eye or scratching at the eye too aggressively.
Some of the most common symptoms of eye ulcers in cats include seepy discharge leaking out of the eye, cloudy eyes, inflammation around the cornea, and a sensitivity to bright light.
If you suspect your cat has an eye ulcer, seek medical help immediately – they might be in great pain!
Also known as ‘pink eye,’ conjunctivitis is often characterized by eye-watering and inflammation around the eye, making it appear red and swollen. It’s not so much a disease but more of a symptom of other illnesses – such as an infection or allergic reaction.
No other eye condition is more common in cats than conjunctivitis – most cats will experience it at least once in their life, if not multiple times. The good news is it usually clears up on its own, and treatment isn’t necessary.
If your cat is showing signs of pink eye and is in pain, don’t hesitate to schedule a visit to your local vet.
If your cat’s eyes are watering and you notice a sticky discharge leaking out the corner of their eye, they might have an infection. You can usually tell what type of infection it is by the consistency or color of the mucus-like discharge – clear means viral, while green or yellow means bacterial.
In addition to watery eyes and discharge, common symptoms of an eye infection include swollen eyes and redness around the eyes. Your vet can run a series of tests to confirm the infection and prescribe antibiotics when necessary.
Dry Eye Syndrome
I know what you’re thinking – how can watery eyes be a symptom of dry eye syndrome? Well, it’s actually the result of a vicious cycle that can only be stopped when treatment begins.
Excessive tearing is the body’s natural reaction to dry eyes – the eyes become dry, so the lacrimal glands flood them with tears. If not controlled, the tearing can interfere with your cat’s ability to see properly.
When to Schedule a Vet Appointment
Your cat’s eye health is important to their overall quality of life, but most cat owners aren’t trained to diagnose and treat eye disease in cats – which is okay. What we can do is identify symptoms and take our observations to the veterinarian.
If your cat’s eyes are watering excessively and it’s accompanied by a green or yellow discharge, shutting the eyelids, squinting, visible pain or discomfort, pink eye, redness, or inflammation around the eyes, contact your local veterinarian immediately – your cat can use their help!
In the meantime, give them a few extra scratches and shower them with love – they need it!