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
  • Plastic food bowls

Tear staining can occur 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 that run down the cat’s face. The bacteria on the fur and exposure to air cause these damp areas to turn reddish-brown.

When to see a veterinarian

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 trying to eliminate the staining when it occurs. Carefully trimming the fur around the eyes may also help.

How to remove tear stains from a cat’s face

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


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio

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