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Excessive Tear Production & Tear Staining in Cats

What causes tear staining in cats?

Also known as "epiphora", tear staining is caused by an abnormal overflow of tears from the eyes, which often results in unsightly staining of the fur around the eyes.  There are several causes for this including:

  • Infection
  • Irritants (such as cigarette smoke or chemicals)
  • Allergies
  • Foreign matter
  • Abnormal eyelashes (known as distichiasis)
  • Abnormal tear ducts


This can be seen in any breed of cat although it is seen more often  in Persian and Himalayan cats. Their facial structure usually causes a narrowing of the nasolacrimal duct and a shallow tear lake at the inner corner of the eye. All these factors may contribute to the problem.

The eyes continually produce tears which run down the cat's face. The bacteria on the fur and exposure to air cause these damp areas to turn a reddish brown.

Should I see a vet?

Yes, any eye discharge warrants a visit to your vet. He will be able to examine the eye and overall health status of your cat, and treat the problem accordingly.

If you own a Persian and the cat has no medical problem with the eye (other than epiphora) then there may be little you can do other than try to eliminate the staining when it occurs. Carefully trimming the fur around the eyes may also help.

How do I remove tear stains from my cat's face?

There are commercially available products which will help with tear staining. Your veterinarian will be able to advise on the best product for your cat.

Also see:

Cat eyes   All about blue eyed cats   Cat questions