Behavior
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Do Cats Cry? What to Know and What to Do About a Crying Cat

Do cats cry? And if cats do cry, is it the teary-eyed crying that we humans experience or something else? Let’s talk about what cat crying is and how to help a crying cat.

Denise LeBeau  |  May 3rd 2018


The world of cat behavior may seem mystifying. However, if you take the time to pay attention, how your cat is feeling is quite apparent. There are many ways that cats convey their emotions and needs to their people and each other. Feline vocalizations have been documented and analyzed by scientists and behaviorists so we can understand our cats better. Babies, some sacred statues and according to one pop star, doves may cry, but do cats? Let’s find out more about cat crying and what to do about a crying cat.

Cat crying: It’s not tearful

A kitten crying or looking upset, annoyed or tired.

If your cat has watery eyes, it’s usually because of an injury or illness. Photography © 2002lubava1981 | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

A cat’s eyes may tear and water, but this isn’t an emotional reaction. Cats resoundingly do not cry the way humans do. In an article from Parade magazine, veterinarian Dr. Sheri Morris of Oregon emphasizes that cats do tear up, but it’s exclusively in response to an injury or illness, usually associated with their eyes. Irritants like disinfectant cleaners or allergies could also be the culprit. If your cat has persistently watery eyes, a trip to the vet is best.

Certified Cat Behaviorist and author Mieshelle Nagelschneider echoes Dr. Morris’ assessment that cats’ eyes don’t open the floodgates when in pain or upset. Rather, cats vocalize when something is bothering them.

There are a variety of crying cat sounds

A kitten crying or making sounds with mouth open.

Cat crying is usually expressed vocally. Photography © Martin Poole | DigitalVision / Getty Images.

In the popular YouTube video, 7 Sounds Cats Make and What They Mean, there are two segments that sound a lot like a cat crying. The portion on yowling sounds like a cat crying out in distress. According to the video, the crying can be a considered a warning to cats encroaching on claimed territory. The yowling could also be interpreted as an invitation to mate (talk about mixed signals!). The final segment shows mewling kittens — their cries should be familiar to every mother. “We’re over here,” they seem to scream.

Kittens will also cry out when they’re scared, hungry or cold. Illness (such as thyroid or kidney disease), loneliness and stress can also cause cat crying. Stress can’t be stressed enough as a cause of crying cats. Seemingly innocuous alterations in a cats’ environment can cause stress — sure you love the new sofa, but is it an invasion of malicious intruders? Some cats aren’t sure!

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Even aging can cause excessive vocalization. Senior cats, like people, experience cognitive dysfunction and can become disoriented. Mental confusion can certainly lead to a cat crying out to his people for help.

Is your cat crying because of a health issue?

With so many reasons for cat crying, it’s important that pet parents be aware about their feline’s mental, physical and emotional states. A cat who is sick or injured can’t just say, “It hurts when [and] here,” but if your cat is excessively crying there is a reason, and it could be a medical issue. Dr. Jean Duddy, DVM, indicates that an escalation of a cat crying can be a real cause for alarm.

If you think your cat is crying, check him out:

  1. Pass your hand over his body (checking for any wounds, lesions and lumps).
  2. Check his mouth, nose and eyes for discharge.
  3. Make sure he’s breathing normally.
  4. Examine his private parts for anything unusual.
  5. Investigate his litter box.
  6. Is he or she intact?

Is your cat crying due to changes in his environment?

If your cat doesn’t seem physically hurt, it could be his environment that’s causing him to cry. Here’s how to get to the bottom of the issue:

  1. Have you added anything new to your home? A new roommate, sofa or floor plan could cause panic!
  2. Did you switch up your brand of kitty litter?
  3. Has the litter box or food been moved? (This is important if there are now stairs involved – cats can suffer from arthritis and other ambulatory problems as they get older)
  4. Do you have new neighbors with free-roaming pets?
  5. Is his dinner different?
  6. Remember: Cats, unlike most dogs and people, can get anxious and stressed from even the smallest of changes to their homes, routines and communities.

Next steps for handling a crying cat:

Whatever you do, do not reprimand your cat for crying! If the crying persists for a long time and you can’t identify the issue, take him to the vet. In the case that your cat is not neutered (or spayed, if your cat is a female), get him fixed immediately.

For many cats, the anxiousness of something new will subside over a few days. It may help if you put him in a secure, safe spot — your bedroom with the door closed and his favorite toys, cat tree and comfy bed for a few days should help him readjust. If you’ve moved his necessary items (litter box/food bowl) to a different floor, return them to their usual spot. Consult a behaviorist if the situation worsens.

Remember, there will be some instances where the caterwauling is just your cat’s way of saying, “Pay attention to me.”

Tell us: Does your cat cry? What causes or has caused your cat to cry?

Thumbnail: Photography © NiseriN | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

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