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You have probably seen this in your own feline friend: a clear, sometimes reddish-brown liquid runs out of the eye and leaves a mark on the face. Sometimes encrustations form around the eye. If the cat's eye is watering, it will look a bit like they are crying. There can be many causes of this. 

An irritated eye - it's not just something we humans experience. Animals can also be affected. It can be completely harmless, but it can also indicate a serious illness such as feline viral rhinotracheitis This illness can cause irritated, inflamed and watery eyes in cats.  

"Epihora" is the term used for eye discharge in cats. The discharge may be clear and watery, but in the case of inflammation it can also appear mucousy, brownish, or reddish. A healthy cat's eye is always clear, not cloudy or sticky. If your animal squeezes one or both eyes shut, this is a sign of discomfort or pain. A noticeably smaller pupil in one eye is also a sign of a serious change.   

Virtually all cats are very sensitive when it comes to their eyes. They don't like their eyes to be touched, and are even less tolerant when it comes to examinations of this area. So wait for a relaxed moment, either when your pet is dozing on a cushion or your lap, or resting on their scratching post. Scratch and stroke the head and leave your hand there for a while. Then gently pull down the lower lid of the affected eye. Is the conjunctiva noticeably red or irritated and swollen? Can you see tear marks in the fur or crusting around the eyes? Can you see sticky secretions in the eye that almost look like pus? Have you noticed your cat frequently rubbing their eye with their paw?  

  • Cold or warmth and very dry air
  • Sand or dust
  • Contact with sprays and gasses
  • Foreign objects in the eye such as small hairs
  • A rolled lower eyelid
  • Infection caused by fungi, viruses or bacteria
  • Obstruction of the nasolacrimal duct and tear outflow obstruction
  • Inflammation or injury to the cornea, for example after a fight with another cat
  • Glaucoma

Some causes of irritated eyes and conjunctivitis in cats are completely harmless. However, only a vet can correctly identify and treat most of them. And in the case of serious diseases such as glaucoma, it is even recommended that you take your cat to an eye specialist. Ophthalmology is the term used to describe the field of eye conditions in veterinary medicine. Such specialists can examine animals with special equipment and better detect and treat incipient diseases. 

The treatment depends first and foremost on the cause. Your vet will probably prescribe antibiotic anti-inflammatory drugs against bacteria, such as chlamydia, which is one of the causative agents of feline viral rhinotracheitis. These are available as ointments or drops. Both must be administered into the eye several times a day - and unfortunately this is a procedure that can turn the most docile cat into an angry tiger. Neither the ointment nor the drops will burn, but instinct tells an animal that manipulation of the eye means danger, so it will always try to fight back. 

Your first duty as a cat owner is to stay calm. Your pet will notice that you are hatching a sinister plan. So stay cool - but take the drops or ointment out of the fridge in time to make contact with the eye less unpleasant. Sit your pet on a table and take the cat in one arm so that the paws and head are held. Pull the lower eyelid down a little with one hand and drop the liquid or ointment into the conjunctival sac with the other as quickly as you are can. If your four-legged friend begins to thrash around, it might help to wrap them in a towel - or to obtain the assistance of a two-legged friend.  

For other causes, such as a rolled eyelid, known as entropion, a vet will have to intervene surgically. Glaucoma, which is often genetically caused and in which the intraocular pressure constantly increases, is also usually treated with surgery.

Yes: it is mainly animals with very short noses that suffer more and more frequently from irritated conjunctiva and eye discharge. This is especially true of purebred Persians and Exotic Shorthairs, whose noses have become increasingly shorter as a result of breeding. A vet can check with a simple test whether the nasolacrimal duct is blocked. In this case, surgical therapy is usually not possible.  

As a pet owner, you won't want to put your beloved cat through the stress of being transported to the vet more often than strictly necessary. In the case of infections or injuries, however, home remedies will not help. In these cases, only a vet can help. If you notice that your cat is squinting or rubbing their eyes, don't wait longer than two or three days. The only way to help your cat is to make sure that you always keep the eyes clean and wash them gently. Warm water and a lint-free cloth will do the trick. You can also use eyebright or Euphrasia, which is a naturopathic remedy from the pharmacy.  

TIP! Be careful with camomile tea!

Camomile tea or camomile extract may be good for many aches and pains - but not for conjunctivitis. On the contrary: it will only irritate the condition. So steer clear of camomile in this case.  

If your cat's eye is watering, this does not necessarily mean a serious illness, but it should be examined by a vet. They will be able to prescribe the right medication after diagnosis. You can help your pet by washing their eyes with warm water and keeping them clean.