Just like humans, cats produce tears. It’s instinctual for us to wonder if our cat is sad when we see tears running from their eyes. Are they sad when eating? Are they in pain?
Cats don’t cry for emotional reasons like humans do. However, there are some physical causes of your cat’s eyes watering when they eat.
Why do my cat’s eyes water while he eats or after?
So your cat isn’t sad when they cry. Then what is the cause? There are a few reasons why your cat’s eyes may water while or after they eat. These include food allergies and blocked tear ducts.
Why Cats Produce Tears
Cats need water to keep their eyes moist and to remove debris, just as humans do. The tear ducts produce tears, which keep the eyes moist. If you’ve ever experienced dry eyes, you know how important it is for the eyes to stay moist. When the eyes are dry, it causes discomfort.
When something irritates the eye, tears are released to flush out the irritant. This also occurs in humans. If you get a speck of dirt in your eye, your eyes will produce tears. These tears remove the dirt, before it can damage your eye.
Normally, a thin film of tears stays on the eye. The excess tears flow into the tear ducts. These tears are then routed to the back of the nose and throat. When your cat has runny eyes or frequent crying, there’s something going wrong with this process.
Signs Your Cat Has Watery Eyes
You may notice your cat’s eyes watering during or after their meal. However, this isn’t always the first sign cat owners notice.
When tears run down the face often, it can cause tear staining. The tears oxidize due to the oxygen in the air. The process is similar to the way metal rusts when wet. It also creates a rust color on your cat’s fur.
This is more obvious on white or light-coated cats, but it can occur no matter what color your kitty is.
It’s normal for kittens to produce tears when eating. Eating activates their salivatory glands, which cause the kitten to produce saliva, or spit. When the salivary gland is activated, it can cause your kitten’s eyes to water.
Kittens get crusty eyes more easily than adult cats. They are also more prone to infection and having insects lay eggs in their eyes. They produce tears more often to help combat these issues.
If your cat’s eyes only water before or after eating, they may have a food allergy. Cats can be allergic to both environmental allergens, like dust, as well as foods. Both types of allergy can cause watery eyes.
However, if the issue seems to center around dinnertime, you can suspect a food allergy is to blame. If they have frequent bouts of tearing up, not only during or after eating, an environmental allergy may be the cause.
The most common food allergies in cats are dairy, beef, fish, and chicken. Unfortunately, these ingredients are in most cat foods.
In addition to watery eyes, cats with food allergies will have skin or coat problems. It’s common for the allergy to cause itchy skin or a rash. Problem areas include the face, ears, belly, groin, legs, and paws.
Many cats will overgroom themselves due to the itching caused by the allergy. This causes lesions on their skin, which exacerbate the problem.
Irritants Near Feeding Area
It’s possible that the problem isn’t the food itself, but the area where your cat is being fed. They may be allergic to something in the area. This can include dust, pollen, and even household cleaners.
If you notice that the issue began after making a change in the house, this might be the cause. Have you begun using a different floor cleaning solution? Have you used a different product to clean your cat’s bowl? Has your cat’s bowl or where it is placed changed?
Wind can also cause eye irritation. If their bowl happens to be near a fan or open door or window, you may need to move it out of the draft. Their eyes will water when exposed to wind to keep the eye clean and moisturized.
Blocked Tear Ducts
Excess tears normally drain through the tear ducts, instead of coming out of the eyes. When a cat produces a normal amount of tears, but has watery eyes, blocked tear ducts are to blame.
The blocked ducts don’t allow the tears to travel down into the nose as they should. Think of it like a sink. When the sink is plugged, the water builds up. Eventually, it begins spilling over the side of the sink. When the sink is unplugged, the water drains as it should. There’s no water on the floor.
A blocked tear duct can be caused by several things. Flat faced breeds like Persians are prone to structural abnormalities. The tear ducts can be narrow or blocked, which causes tears to overflow.
Eye infections or corneal ulcers can also cause blocked tear ducts. If an eye infection is the cause, you will notice crusting or swelling of the eye as well.
Lastly, fighting or injury can damage the tear duct.
Should I be worried if my cat’s eyes water when eating?
If your cat’s eyes frequently water when eating, you should get them checked by the vet. It shouldn’t be considered an emergency situation. However, it can be a sign of a problem or illness that requires treatment.
If you have a kitten, the excessive tearing is probably nothing to be concerned about. However, it’s not a normal occurrence in adult cats.
What to do about my cat’s eyes watering when eating?
If your cats eyes are watering when eating, there are things you can do. This includes home treatment as well as a veterinary examination. It’s unwise to treat your cat at home without having them examined by the vet, because there can be serious underlying causes.
You’ll need to get your cat a checkup, but what can you expect from your vet? First, they will ask you questions about the eye watering. These will include when it began, how often it occurs, and if it occurs at specific times.
In addition to their eyes watering while eating, be sure to note any other times the issue appears. This can give your vet clues as to the underlying problem.
Your vet may want to run tests to determine the cause. The test to check for a blocked tear duct is very simple. They will put colored drops in your cat’s eye. The dye should then appear in their mouth. This is because the solution should run through the tear ducts, into the nose and mouth cavity.
If the tear duct is blocked, the dye will appear on the cheek instead. It can’t travel through the tear duct as it should.
They may also perform allergy testing. If a food allergy is suspected, a food trial will be conducted. This is also known as an elimination diet. Common food allergens will be eliminated by feeding your cat a specialized diet.
After two weeks, the vet will check to see if symptoms have improved. If the symptoms are gone, a food allergy is the culprit. Now, it’s time to figure out which foods your cat is allergic to.
Foods are reintroduced one at a time. You’ll need to monitor them for signs of allergies when the food is added back to their diet. If they are allergic to a food, it is eliminated from their diet. Then, a new food is introduced. The process repeats until you’ve tested all common food allergens.
If environmental allergies are suspected, a blood test can be performed. This will reveal any common environmental allergens your kitty is allergic to. You can then work to eliminate or minimize their exposure to them. If this isn’t possible, allergy medication can be prescribed.
The vet will also perform an exam of your cat’s eyes. They will check for infection, damage to the eye or tear ducts, and abnormalities of the eye lids.
A warm compress can help your kitty’s eyes, particularly if they have a blocked tear duct. Use a clean rag and wet it with warm water. Be sure that it’s warm, but not so hot it’s uncomfortable. You can also use cotton balls or a handkerchief. Cotton balls have the advantage of being small, which makes your cat less likely to object to the treatment.
Place it right below your kitty’s lower eye lid. Hold the compress there for at least 5 minutes. This will dilate the tear duct. In some cases, this will clear the blockage.
If you suspect allergies are the problem, use a cool compress instead. Place it directly on your cat’s eye. Be sure that the temperature is comfortable. The coolness will help relieve any inflammation and swelling in the eye, and it can also help with itching. However, if it’s too cold, your kitty will be very uncomfortable.
Keep It Clean
Keeping your cat’s face clean can also benefit them. When tears build up on the face, it can cause tear staining. This is a cosmetic issue, but one many pet owners wish to avoid.
Wet fur can also lead to infection, however. This is another reason why it’s important to keep your kitty’s face clean.