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Do Cats Cry When They’re Sad? The Interesting Answer

Image Credit: arvitalyaart, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Emma Stenhouse

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	Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Ask any cat owner if they believe that their cat is capable of feeling emotions, and you’ll likely be met by a resounding yes. Anyone who’s spent time around cats can quickly realize that our feline friends are indeed capable of feeling a wide range of emotions, and there’s science to back us up!

But do cats cry when they’re sad? The short answer is no, not really. If you’re getting the sense that your cat is sad and they also have watery eyes, these are probably separate issues.

Let’s take a closer look.


Cats Do Feel Emotions

Cats do feel a range of emotions and can recognize the emotional state of the humans around them as well.

Researchers found that cats can recognize the facial expressions and sounds made by their human caretakers and equate these to emotions like happiness or anger.

Our cats not only recognize the specific faces of their humans but are also able to differentiate them from unfamiliar humans. Cats can even predict what emotions their owners may be feeling based on the sound of their voice.

While this research may come as no surprise to cat owners, just because cats have emotions doesn’t mean they show the same physical signs that we do, including tears of sadness.

Why Do Cats Have Tears?

crying cat
Image Credit: Scifier, Shutterstock

A cat’s tears don’t equate to sadness. Instead, their eyes are probably watering due due to medical reasons.

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  • Conjunctivitis or pink eye
  • Foreign body
  • Scratched cornea (corneal ulcer)
  • Clogged tear ducts
  • Eye infections
  • Respiratory infections
  • Allergies
  • Eyelid problems
  • Inflammation of the internal tissues (uveitis)
  • High intraocular pressure (glaucoma)

If you see your cat with watery eyes, then this is a sign of a medical problem, rather than them showing an emotion.

Certain breeds of cats with very rounded heads can also have more watery eyes, simply due to the anatomy of their skull.

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Signs of a sad cat

Rather than connect tears with sadness when it comes to our feline friends, there are other signs to watch out for. Sad cats may:

  • Lose their appetite
  • Become withdrawn
  • Stop grooming

Cats can grieve the death of an owner or another cat, find it difficult to transition to a new home, or deal with the addition of a new pet or baby to the family.

These are all valid reasons for your cat to potentially feel sad, but this doesn’t mean that you’ll see your cat crying because of them.

It’s more likely that they may meow, especially if something is causing them pain. Remember that purring can also triggered by painful situations. You know your cat best, so if their behavior seems out of the ordinary and you can’t put your finger on exactly why, contact your vet.

Cat behaviorists can also be helpful, especially if you’re trying to help your cat deal with a major life change that may be making them sad and withdrawn.

sad looking cat lying on a table
Image Credit: avi_acl, Pixabay


What to Do if Your Cat Is Crying

First of all, remember that your cat isn’t crying tears of sadness or any other emotion. Their eyes are simply responding to a an irritiating stimulus like pollen or an eye infection.

If your cat’s eyes are excessively watery, book an appointment to see their veterinarian as soon as possible.

If your cat is showing other signs of potential sadness, including becoming withdrawn or losing their appetite, consider if anything has happened recently to their home environment that may have triggered this. It’s worth speaking to your vet or a cat behaviorist to see what you can do to support your furry friend.

After all, cats soothe and comfort us when we’re feeling sad, so it’s up to us to do the same in return.

Featured Image Credit: arvitalyaart, Shutterstock

About the Author

Emma Stenhouse
Emma Stenhouse
Emma is a freelance writer, specializing in writing about pets, outdoor pursuits, and the environment. Originally from the UK, she has lived in Costa Rica and New Zealand before moving to a smallholding in Spain with her husband, their 4-year-old daughter, and their dogs, cats, horses, and poultry. When she's not writing, Emma can be found taking her dogs for walks in the rolling fields around their home...and usually, at least some of the cats come along, too! Emma is passionate about rescuing animals and providing them with a new life after being abandoned or abused. As well as their own four rescue dogs, she also fosters dogs for re-homing, providing them with love and training while searching for their forever homes.

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