Why Are My Cat's Eyes So Watery?

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on September 09, 2023
3 min read

That coating on your cat’s eyes plays a major role in keeping them healthy.

Known as the tear film, this layer removes debris. It keeps their eyes moist and provides nutrients. It also fights bacteria. Sometimes that watery discharge is a sign that your cat’s eyes are in full fight mode against a threat to their health.

Most of the time, the cause is minor and will clear up on its own. But if you see these signs, a checkup at the vet is in order.

If you see this in one or both eyes, along with a watery discharge, there’s a good chance they have conjunctivitis. You may know it by its nickname, pinkeye.

It's the most common eye problem for cats. An infection, an allergy, or even dust can bring it on. Pinkeye is contagious, so most cats will have it at least once in their lives. They can get it at any age, but it most often affects young animals.

Feline herpes virus also causes pinkeye. A vaccine can't protect them from feline herpes, but it can lessen the symptoms. It's possible that they could have picked it up when they were a kitten. If they have the virus, they are infected for life. But the vaccine can reduce their symptoms.

Easing their stress can prevent flare-ups. If they have an outbreak of herpes-related pinkeye, your vet will prescribe antibiotics and an antiviral drug for you to use.

Pinkeye often clears up without treatment. If you see discharge and your cat seems to be in pain, take them to the vet. They’ll make sure that a more serious problem isn’t causing the symptoms.

Your cat probably has an infection. Lab tests can help your vet figure out what’s causing the problem.

  • Clear mucus suggests your cat has a virus. The vet will tell you to wait and see if it clears up on its own in a week or two.
  • Green or yellow mucus suggests a bacterial infection. You’ll probably get antibiotic eyedrops or ointment to treat it with.

Cats be allergic to the same things people are:

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

Your vet can figure out if your cat has an allergy and recommend the best ways to treat it.

Some breeds have short faces and rounded skulls. This causes lots of tears and other eye problems.

Tears that flow onto their faces stain their hair and irritate or inflame their skin.

There are a number of products on the market to treat these stains, but some have ingredients that aren’t FDA approved. Ask your vet what’s safe to use.

These are signs of an eye ulcer. If you see them, get your cat to the vet right away. If it isn’t treated they could lose their sight. Causes include blows to the head, a scratched eye, an infection, and chemicals.

If your cat’s watery eyes don’t clear up, take them to the vet for a thorough exam. It could be a sign of serious disease. The earlier they are diagnosed, the faster they’ll get better.