What to Do When Your Cat Is Sick: HEAD and EPIPHORA (TEARING)

The Classic Comprehensive Handbook of Cat Care

What to Do When Your Cat Is Sick: HEAD and EPIPHORA (TEARING)



The eyes are very important and delicate organs. Mild and unobtrusive conditions can rapidly become severe, and many untreated conditions can cause irreversible damage. Don’t ignore even minor evidence of irritation. Unless you are sure of the diagnosis and treatment, any minor eye problem that doesn’t clear quickly (within twenty-four hours) as well as any obvious change you see in the eye should be brought to the attention of an expert. Do not use anything in the eye not specifically labeled for ophthalmic use, and do not use a preparation in the eye just because you had it left over from an eye problem you or your cat had in the past. Ophthalmic drugs have very specific uses, and the use of a drug in a condition for which it was not specifically intended can cause serious injury or complication.


Epiphora is the abnormal overflow of tears from the eye. It has many causes because tearing is the eye’s response to irritation. Among the causes are allergy, infections, conjunctivitis, corneal injuries, and plugged tear ducts. In cats, excessive tearing unaccompanied by other signs of illness is sometimes associated with mild respiratory infections. In Persian cats, in particular, epiphora is mainly a cosmetic problem caused by the abnormal, extreme facial shortening of some individuals and the shallow tear pool created by the protruding eyes. If you can eliminate other causes of tearing in these cats, staining of the fur can be controlled by frequent washing of the affected area and, if necessary, by clipping away stained hair.