Tear stains on a cat’s face can be a common but unwelcome sight. The dark brown stain marks Kitty’s fur, crusts over, smells bad, and is sticky, too. It’s unsightly, but is it unhealthy?
The lighter the fur, the more noticeable it can be - what causes stains, are some breeds more susceptible, and how can you get rid of the discoloration? Don’t worry, it’s not because Kitty was crying!
If you're worried about your cat having tear stains, then this article is for you. We're going to talk about the common causes of tear stains in cats and offer actionable solutions too.
What causes tear stains in cats?
The proper name for excessive tearing is epiphora. When a cat’s tear drainage system isn’t working, excess tears overflow onto his fur.
Some cats are born with a defect; some acquire one during a fight with another cat. Allergies or chronic eye infections can also do damage. Even the shape of a cat’s face comes into play - Persians, Himalayans, and other breeds with flat faces have more stain issues than cats with elongated facial features.
So, what to do if you notice tear stains in a cat?
1. Sudden onset? Talk to your vet first
Any changes in a cat's behavior or any change in feline appearance could indicate a problem. If your cat has recently developed tear stains then the first person you need to talk to is your veterinarian.
If Kitty’s eyes are red or if there is a yellow-green discharge, that’s an infection. An ingrown eyelash or hair can also be a problem.
Upper respiratory infections, especially the ones associated with the feline Herpes virus, can also cause eye discharge.
Before treating the cat for the cosmetic effects of eye discharge, head to the vet’s office for a checkup.
If the issue is a blockage, the vet may be able to flush the duct and remove it. This, of course, won’t work if the problem is scar tissue from an injury or after a fight with another cat.
In young animals, tear stains are sometimes associated with teething.
Don't let that stop you from calling the vet. You should never take a chance with a potential eye infection.
2. Consider changing the food
Next, check the ingredient list on the food Kitty is eating. If food dyes are listed, try a dye-free food. Beet pulp is often listed. It’s not harmful but may contribute to staining issues.
Don’t forget the treats - they can have the same kind of problem ingredients.
Changing your cat's food should never be taken lightly. Make sure the diet is fully balanced and age-appropriate. If your cat is on a prescription diet - don't make any changes without consulting your vet first.
And remember to make the change gradual. Add some of the new dye-free food into the mix - slowly increasing the amount of new vs. old food on a daily basis.
3. Remove the crust - gently!
Once acute medical issues have been ruled out, you may still be left with a cat that has tear stains due to nasal abnormalities. If that's the case, you must include eye care in your grooming routine.
If Kitty has residue and crust around the eyes and on her face, you can use a specially-adapted fine comb to remove that. For many dog and cat breeds, this is a routine part of show grooming.
4. Use a special eye-cleaning solution for cats
Once a week - or as often as needed - wipe Kitty's eye area to prevent residue build-up.
Avoid baby wipes or anything that might hurt the delicate feline eyes. Used one of the following instead:
- Sterile gauze pads and a specially formulated eye solution
- Designated pet tear stain remover wipes
- Sterile saline eye wipes
5. Preparing for a show? Try this
When dealing with stubborn tear stains on white fur, some breeders need to pull out the big guns. Always Bright Eyes offers a set including liquid, powder, and even an applicator to make tear stains disappear.
You may not need this if you're not showing your cat but we thought we'd mention that too, just in case.
Tear stains be gone!
Just keep in mind that cosmetic solutions should never replace proper veterinary care. Cats should not have tear stains and if yours does, talk to your veterinarian and get a diagnosis before you do anything else.
Feline eyes are special -- let's help our kitties keep them clean and healthy!
Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!
Note: We may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page.