A gray cat crying and looking upset.
A gray cat crying and looking upset. Photography © NiseriN | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

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

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

Do cats cry? Not in the way that humans do.

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.

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.

There are a variety of crying cat sounds

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

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.

Do cats cry when they’re kittens?

In addition to the crying mentioned above, kittens will cry out when they’re scared, hungry or cold.

Do cats cry more when they’re stressed or due to changes in their environment?

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 >>

Do cats cry more as they get older?

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.

Is your cat crying because of a health issue?

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 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 a change to 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.

How to help a crying cat

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. 

About the author

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.

Read more about cat behavior on Catster.com:

28 thoughts on “Do Cats Cry? What to Know and What to Do About a Crying Cat”

  1. Pingback: Do Cats Even Cry? What to do if Your Cat Cries

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  5. Good morning,

    I hope you can give me some direction. I have a female cat around 6 months old. She was a stray and came to th house and unfortunately wee. Have nevrrr been to the vet. Last night when I tried picking her up under her chest she cried out and continues this morning. I tried gently touching her to see if I could narrow down where the pain was and it seems like lower back and back legs. She also isn’t eating much ( I put the food directly in front of her for convenance at this point) and has been slow on movement and super drowsy. She’s gotten worse from last night to this morning and is whimpering. She does still like attention surprisingly, I have no money atm. When the. Eat opens I’m going to try to see if they can make a payment arrangement with me. Would you happen to know what this could be and is there a way I could treat this myself?

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  8. Melodie Hudgins

    I got Mickie and Bugsey, litter mates when they were 6 weeks old. Bugsey had allergies and got frequent steroid shots and took cortisone. He also had feline urinary syndrome with frequent flairs trips to the vet special diet. A month before their 9 birthday we lost him due to kidney failure. Mickie grieved so. At night she would walk through the apartment crying so loud I was afraid the neighbors would complain. I would get up love, cuddle and comfort her as best I could. I was grieving too. 2 months later Catness came to live with us. After a week of hissing Mickie fell in love with her new sister and the crying stopped. I believe we both still miss Bugsey

  9. Cats do cry! I keep reading articles that they have no emotion (not true) . Recently my very ill 15 year old boy cat (slowly, painfully dying) had to be put down tears appeared from his eyes. I know he knew he was leaving me (I was inconsolable) and he looked so sad! Cats, and all the numerous pets I’ve had…….indeed exhibit emotion(s). I’ve since read of many other cat/pet owners who have witnessed the same. Real signs of emotion no one can explain scientifically or logically.

  10. My cat cries because of kitty dementia. He gets lost in the hallway coming back from the litterpan. He’s lived in our home all his life and knew it better than the back of his paw but he’s nearly 18 now and has been increasingly doing this for the past two years. He’s fine when I go get him or call out to him that “I’m right here, you’re okay”. He also will cry at the door just after we leave, so we know it’s because he doesn’t want to be left alone. This is a very smart cat, always was smart, but is now slowly going blind and getting confused a lot……poor baby.

  11. Hey there, cat in my neighbourhood is crying continuously since 5 days… He is not pet of anyone but a stray animal… Can you please suggest me some ideas or tips regarding this problem

    1. Sounds like he’s calling for his people. This cat was probably dumped poor baby and doesn’t understand they will not answer his cry for them to come get him. Can anyone catch this cat and let a rescue find him a new loving home?

    2. Did you do what the article suggested? If yes and there are no problems, then just take care of him/her and see what happens. Are you planning to adopt him/her? If yes, then take him/her to the vet for a checkup. If it gets really serious, then you might have to take the cat to an animal shelter. There are kill-free policy animal shelters!

  12. I had 2 cats and recently out the older cat down..she was the older of the 2 lived here first. Since she was put down my cat will not stop crying or meowing. They didn’t interact a lot that we knew of but she constantly meows and cries like she misses her or is waiting for her. It’s been 6 weeks now thought she would settle down. Has anyone experienced this before and what did you do?

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  14. Jack – Ditch the Temptation treats as they are empty calories with no nutrition at all and your cat can get a bad kidney disease later on if you don’t give him decent wet food. Also, his teeth could suffer and cause pain if not taken care of. County Shelters can help out with food and also a lot of local pet food stores (I go to Pet Pantry) give samples of good dry food which you can give as a treat! I give my cat non-grain dry food for treats and he thinks he’s getting a deal! I give non-grain wet cat food because he has allergies to grains which is not good at all (grains are just fillers). Cats need the moisture and wet food like in the wild. That is the best for them. There is help online if you google you will find organizations that will help you out with food and care. All the best to you and Rocky!

  15. By the way, the cat looks beautiful now. The iodine therapy worked and he gained weight and grew in a beautiful new coat. He is; however, wary of one of the other cats and prefers to eat in a separate location. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t have any urgency to eat.

  16. I’ve heard some cats will verbalize when they get a trophy (cat toy). Perhaps that is what yours is doing.

  17. Jack, I also have a cat that will only eat Temptations. The box says it is formulated to meet the AAFCO Cat food nutrient profiles for adult maintenance, but I would also like him to eat regular cat food. I have 5 others who are free fed dry (Blue Buffalo, Purina ProPlan and Nutrish) and Fancy Feast. We have tried several upgraded cat foods over the years and they always prefer Fancy Feast. Vet tells me to stay with pate if possible but a couple of them also like the new creamy with a touch of milk versions. Vet said to stay away from gravy. This cat (rescue) nearly starved to death when he quit eating after radioactive iodine therapy for hyperthyroidism. I had to force feed a prescription pate to get him to eat again and then he would eat Fancy Feast Fish and Shrimp. He has since quit and will not eat any of the dry or wet foods but will eat Temptations. Before the treatment, he would eat some rotisserie chicken and the Fancy Feast Fish and Shrimp (blue container). I have tried mixing in the kibble with the Temptations without any luck. If anyone could point me toward a dry food that mimics Temptations, I’d try that. I have never had such a picky eater before. And yes, he won’t eat the food by Bil-Jac which is specifically formulated for picky eaters!

  18. My kitty Savannah didn’t just cry but rather made a loud sobbing cry after I finally returned home from an unexpected 6 day hospitalization. A friend and my sister came by to feed her along with other kitty duties. The night I came home I took a shower, Savannah came in bathroom, could not see me behind curtain and her crying sounds were damn near human sobs. I was in tears behind the curtain. A few minutes later, she and I were reunited. I’ll never forget that sound or her ongoing love.

  19. I don’t feed my cat any treats other than a spoonful or two of cat milk a couple of times a day (at lunch, since she thinks that if I get to drink my milk she should get to drink hers, and at my bedtime – which may or may not be her bedtime).

    You need to be careful not to allow your cat to become addicted to the cat equivalent of potato chips, which is what a lot of cat treats are.

    My current cat is not fed human food other than a very occasional bite of salmon or ham. She’s a cat, so she gets cat food.

  20. Jack…check out Dr. Karen Becker. She knows everything.
    I used to feed my cats Friskies and those types of canned food and they are the waste part of food. It seems to me he is hungry and wants canned food but he wants a better quality food. Poor guy. Cats KNOW when a food is not good. I never make my cats eat something they don’t like. I have financial difficulties and I get the best food I can for them because it does save on vet bills if not now then later. One canned food that is not real high quality but much better than Friskies and 9 Lives is Fancy Feast. I have had 12 cats in 15 years and down to 4 now. They have all liked the pate which can be fed to diabetic cats as well so that means if you feed this to your cat, he will be less likely to get diabetes. Canned food is always better than dry for cats health such as urinary issues. I have had cats that will only eat dry food and some died young and one had to have emergency surgery from stones in the bladder and later got diabetes. Sounds like you have a smart cat and he know canned is better for him. Try the Fancy Feast Liver and Chicken, Turkey, Cod, Salmon and Shrimp, Ocean Whitefish, and Beef and Liver pate only. Those flavors have been the ones that most of my cats would eat over the years. If you can afford human grade canned food that is the best. Try Wellness or Nulo or one of the other brands that provide human grade cat food. Read the ingredients and you will see some are a lot more healthy. Make sure your cat has lots of fresh water daily. Sometimes a cat will have hyperthyroid and that will make them more vocal because they have too much thyroid hormone and their heart races. It kills cats. There is a cure called radioactive iodine treatment and it’s a cure. My cat had the treatment 4 years ago and is going strong. If you wait too long they will get an enlarged heart and kidney failure and other issues. It costs some money but is worth it. Nulo had the best dry food according to one website. I have some of that and leave it out for them then feed canned food twice a day. If your cat only eats canned then he may need 3 cats a day. Good luck.

  21. Steamed McQueen

    Lennie is a 4- yo spay American shorthair and cries whenever she picks up a toy to carry. She is also extremely vocal- much more so than any of her housemates or any other cat I’ve ever had. She checked out fine at the vet. She’s not hungry, cold, scared or in pain. For the life of me I can’t figure out what she wants.

    If you pick her up she immediately starts purring, but will only stay put for so long. As soon as I let go of her she starts crying again.

    I’m at a loss. By all indications she is a perfectly healthy cat. So why does she cry all the time?

    1. belvoir admin

      Hi there —
      She might just want your attention — especially if she starts purring when you pick her up!
      These pieces might help pinpoint exactly what type of sound she’s making:
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-sounds-cats-make-what-they-mean-talking
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/weird-cat-sounds-what-they-mean
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/what-do-different-cat-meow-sounds-mean

  22. My one year old male cat (neutered) Rocky was whining a lot recently for his wet food but he is no longer eating it so I just ignored him until he stopped doing it. He’s a year and a half old now and ever since he was a kitten he would only eat canned food. I have always kept a bowl of dry food out but the most he ever does is pick at it and that’s usually when I’m asleep (I think he tries hiding that fact that he finds it edible so as not to disrupt his normal feedings of canned food). After he started growing up I stopped feeding him the wet food that was labeled for kittens and started feeding him a variety of the 9 Lives brand canned food. After awhile he would not touch the stuff so about 6 or 8 months ago I tried switching to Friskees brand food and he liked the Egg and Tuna flavor so that’s what I kept feeding him. And now, starting about a month ago, he barely touches it. I admit I spoil him and I always let him try whatever I’m eating. He likes shrimp, hates beef, and is 50/50 on chicken. I also give him way too many of the Temptations brand cat treats. At one point I was going through a 99 cent bag a day. So now he wants to live on people food and cat treats. I created a monster out of my love and I want him to be happy but I also want him to be healthy. I don’t have enough money to keep feeding him the way I am now but I’ve considered buying gourmet canned foods just for his well-being. I’ve also considered buying him just plain cans of tuna which he likes but then he won’t get his vitamins.
    Sorry to get off topic but that’s why Rocky cries. He cries for food that he won’t even eat and I’m at the end of my rope and don’t know what to do now.

    1. belvoir admin

      Hi there —
      How about transitioning him back over to cat food by mixing some treats and people food into his cat food? We also suggest discussing this with your vet. Best of luck!

  23. My cat cries when he cannot reach the bugs that crawl inside the walls sometimes. He usually stops when I confirm that even I, a great and masterful object opener, cannot magic the wall open for him to see the bug.

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