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My Cat Has Watery Eyes — Is This Normal?

  • 4 min read

After a long day, looking into your sweet little kitty’s bright eyes can instantly put a smile on your face. But if his eyes are watery, goopy, or squinty it could be cause for concern. Recognizing common cat eye problems will help you keep your kitty healthy and happy.

Healthy eyes allow your cat to navigate his world. When illness or injury affects your cat’s eye, his quality of life may suffer. Luckily, many eye issues will heal on their own. Others, however, are more serious and may require eye medication. Whenever your cat is showing signs of sickness or injury it’s highly advised to take them in for further examination by your local veterinarian. Just like if your cat was vomiting or having an allergic reaction to his cat litter, you wouldn’t wait to seek help from a professional. Understanding feline eye problems can help you determine when your cat needs to see a vet.

Here are a few of the most common causes of cat eye problems.

Irritants

Sometimes cat eye problems are caused by irritants in your kitty’s environment. If your cat has watery eyes, it is usually because of something they are coming into contact with that is causing their issue. Examples of potential irritants include dust, cleaning chemicals, tobacco smoke, and strong fragrances.

If you notice your cat has eye discharge and is squinting or sneezing often, look around your home for things that might be bothering him. Remove the potential irritants from your cat’s environment and see if his symptoms improve.

Many clay litters are scented and very dusty, so your kitty’s litter box is a great place to start. PrettyLitter, a silica gel litter, is virtually dust- and fragrance-free. If you suspect your kitty’s current litter is irritating his eyes, switching to PrettyLitter may give him some relief.

Feline Conjunctivitis

Humans aren't the only ones who get conjunctivitis (commonly known as pink eye). Our feline friends can get conjunctivitis, too. If you’ve ever had pink eye, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Unfortunately, the condition — which causes watery, inflamed eyes — can be just as bad for cats as it is for people.

Fungal, viral, or bacterial infections may cause feline conjunctivitis. Trauma to the eye, allergens, or chemical irritants can also be to blame. If your kitty comes down with pink eye, your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics or steroids for him.

Corneal Ulcers

The clear outer coverings of your cat’s eyes are his corneas. If the tissue of the cornea becomes damaged — such as by a scratch or a piece of debris — a corneal ulcer results. Corneal ulcers can occur at any time to any kitty. Symptoms include eyeball inflammation, watery discharge, sensitivity to bright light, and a cloudy cornea.

If your cat is noticeably irritated by his eye problem, you should take him to the vet. Your veterinarian will examine your kitty’s eye and determine if the problem is a corneal ulcer. For severe cases, antibiotics may be prescribed. Cat eye problems like this are extremely common. Mild cases will often heal on their own.

Cataracts

Cataracts — milky, cloudy areas in your cat’s eyes — block light from reaching the back of the eye, which can result in loss of vision. Cats of all ages can get cataracts, though old age sometimes plays a role.

The most common cause of cataracts in cats is inflammation of the eye’s uvea. Typically, cataracts aren't noticeable until they begin to impair vision. If your kitty begins bumping into furniture or has trouble finding his litterbox or food bowl, he may have cataracts. For some cataracts, surgery is a treatment option.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Feline upper respiratory infections (URIs) can also cause cat eye discharge. Upper respiratory infections are usually tied to other cat eye problems — including feline calicivirus and conjunctivitis — or to viral or bacterial factors.

Aside from eye discharge, symptoms of URIs include sneezing, nasal congestion, and a runny nose. In severe cases, your kitty may have difficulty breathing. You can treat most URIs yourself at home based on your cat’s symptoms. Your vet may also be able to prescribe medication to help your kitty feel better in no time.

Glaucoma

As in humans, feline glaucoma occurs when fluid in the eye is not able to drain properly. Essentially, the backed-up fluid causes extra pressure to build up in the eye. If the condition goes untreated, it can lead to partial or complete blindness.

If your kitty seems to have eye pain, or if he has a watery, red, and bulging eye, call your vet immediately. The damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible and can really hinder your cat’s vision, so the sooner you get your cat to the vet, the better.

Treating Cat Eye Problems

Your vet can help determine if you should bring your cat in for a checkup. They may also recommend simple at-home treatments like gently wiping away your kitty’s eye discharge with a damp cotton ball. Unless prescribed by your vet, avoid using eye drops or eyewashes to treat your cat’s watery eyes.

Watch your cat closely to see if his behavior has changed at all since his eyes began watering. If he is acting cheery, there’s a good chance his eyes are only slightly irritated. The problem will often resolve itself within a few days.

As a pet parent, your cat’s well-being is a top priority. If your kitty is displaying symptoms of common cat eye problems, don't hesitate to give your vet a call. Often, the issue isn’t anything too concerning, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Whether your cat is suffering from an eye infection or a cataract problem, it's essential that you take your cat to the vet if you suspect your kitty has eye issues. In some circumstances, the affected eye can even affect your cat's vision.

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