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 cry? Let’s find out more about cat crying and what to do about a crying cat.
So, do cats cry? 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 you’re noticing a crying cat with 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.
The next question you have after, “Do cats cry?” is probably, “What does cat crying sound like?” 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.
In addition to the crying mentioned above, kittens will cry out when they’re scared, hungry or cold.
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!
Feeling stressed yourself? Check out these proven stress relief strategies >>
Aging can cause excessive vocalization. Senior cats, like people, experience cognitive dysfunction and can become disoriented. Mental confusion can certainly lead to a crying cat who is calling out to his people for help.
Do cats cry due to health issues? Illnesses (such as thyroid or kidney disease) can cause cat crying. 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 your cat doesn’t seem physically hurt, it could be a change to his environment that’s causing him to cry. Here’s how to get to the bottom of the issue:
Another question that follows, “Do cats cry?” is — “What can I do to help a crying cat?” Well, 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 your cat 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.
This piece was originally published in 2018.
Denise LeBeau is a writer, editor and photographer with almost 20 years of experience of creating content for animal-related issues, endeavors and events. She worked at Best Friends Animal Society for 12 years where she had two columns in the Best Friends Magazine, and held multiple content creation roles including web managing editor and outreach campaign editor. Denise has been an ongoing contributor to Catster since 2014, writing for the magazine and website. The self-professed poet laureate of the pet set is currently the manager of development for an animal welfare agency, where she works with a team to create content across media platforms. She lives in Hampton Bays with her two rescue Siamese mixes – Flipper and Slayer, and her LBD (little brown dog), Zephyrella.