Is your cat crying? Vet lays out what it means and what you can do

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Nobody wants to hear their cat crying. It can be tough to hear your kitty upset and not know what to do. We get it. It can help you know that crying can come in the form of tears and audible meowing and howling.

You may feel a little better knowing that your cat is not crying tears of sadness unless you’ve run out of the best cat food. Although these tears are not tears of emotion, excessive crying can indicate something more serious is going on.

But don’t worry, vet Dr. Joanna Woodnutt is here to cover all things cat crying from reasons why to what you can do and everything in between. 

Dr Joanna Woodnutt BVM BVS BVMedSci MRCVS
Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS

Dr Joanna Woodnutt qualified as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham where she then went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands. She really took to the consulting side of things and helping clients with medical problems such as dermatology, behaviour and nutrition - anything that involved helping clients understand their pets better. 

Why is my cat crying?

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 Is your cat sad? You may have wondered that after hearing your cat’s heart wrenching cries. While cats do have tear ducts that can produce tears, just like humans, it is not known how much sadness they feel. They also don’t show it by producing tears.

When a cat cries tears, you might worry that they’re sad. Dampness and a loss of hair around the eyes, red eyes, and a build-up of tears in the eye are all signs that your cat has been producing tears. They’re not ‘crying’ in the human sense of the word, but this is an important symptom that shouldn’t be ignored.

Why is my cat crying tears?

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All cats produce tears to lubricate their eyes. Tears are continuously produced by the tear gland and are drained away through a hole in the bottom of the eye that leads to the nose (the tear duct). 

If your cat is crying tears, that suggests they’re either over-producing tears due to irritation, or the hole that drains the tears is blocked. Some reasons for cat crying could be things like eye irritation, blocked tear ducts, or a foreign object in the eye. If you’ve ever wondered ‘Can cats have allergies,’ the answer is yes and this could be another reason for kitty tears.  

Why is my cat crying so loud?

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 On the other hand, if your cat is crying verbally with loud meows, there are different possible causes. Your cat might be meowing loudly due to pain, or during a cat fight. 

Female cats may also meow loudly while they’re in heat – this type of meowing will be accompanied by a strange swaying motion. Some diseases cause cats to start meowing more than usual as well which can be one of the symptoms of the most common illness in cats

These illnesses could include feline cognitive dysfunction, hyperthyroidism, or high blood pressure to name a few. For pet parents navigating anxiety in cats, they may also notice excessive crying.  

What does it mean when cats cry at night? 

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 Cats are more active at dawn and dusk, which means you might be more likely to hear your cat meowing at night. In general, a cat crying at night isn’t specific to any one reason and it could be caused by any of the reasons listed above. 

However, cats that are becoming night blind may be fine during the day and only cry at night. Cats that are crying due to fighting with other cats may also only cry at night when other cats are more likely to be around.

What to do if your cat is crying?

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If you notice your cat’s eyes watering, you should consider whether they need to see a vet. Any cat that is crying tears should see a vet within the next 12 hours – many eye conditions that cause tear production can result in blindness if left untreated. 

On the other hand, if your cat is yowling, you should consider any other possible symptoms. Are they agitated? How is their appetite? Has this come on suddenly? If they’re female, are they spayed? 

There are lots of possible reasons for cats to start crying and if you aren’t sure, it’s best to talk to your vet to rule out some of these problems. If your cat is older than 10, many of these diseases are a lot more likely, so even if meowing is the only symptom you should definitely book a vet visit within a few days, and sooner if you’re worried. 

How to navigate excessive meowing in cat 

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How you can stop excessive meowing in cats will depend on the cause. For instance, crying due to being in heat won’t stop until a cat is neutered or mated. Although the cat will naturally stop her season eventually, she’ll come back into season very quickly if she isn’t neutered, meaning she’ll carry on crying until she’s spayed. If you are considering neutering your pet, check out these 11 tips from a vet to make the process smoother. 

Excessive vocalization due to a disease won’t improve either – it’ll only get worse. Unless you’re sure your cat’s crying was due to communicating or fighting with other cats, you should book a vet visit to find the cause. They’ll be able to suggest medication or behavioral modification to prevent yowling.

How to stop a cat crying at night?

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If your cat is crying at night, you’ll need to rule out some common conditions before trying to stop them. You should take them to see a vet, who will help you to make sure nothing is physically wrong. Once that’s done, you can start trying to change their behavior. 

The first step is trying to tire them out more during the day using playtime. You should also instigate play in the evening when your cat is naturally more active. 

You can work on some training sessions to help tire your kitty out mentally during this time, if you decide to go this route be sure to check out our tips for training your cat to help. You may also want to invest in one of the best cat puzzle feeders, to burn more kitty energy. 

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 Nina Ottosson Petstages Buggin' Out Puzzle & Play Cat Toy is designed to keep your kitty busy and maintain a good feeding pace. You can use it daily or fill it with treats to give your cat a good mental workout as well.  

If you found this article helpful and are after more helpful advice, check out our solutions to the most common cat behavior problems. 

Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS

After graduating as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham, Dr Joanna Woodnutt went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands. She quickly developed a love of consulting and helping clients with medical problems such as dermatology, behaviour and nutrition - anything that involved helping clients understand their pets better. Jo started writing about pet health in 2017, realising that it meant she could help even more pet parents. Since then, she has written for countless online and print publications and is a regular contributor for Edition Dog Magazine. Jo now lives in the Channel Islands with her husband Ian and terrier Pixie, and they are expecting their first child very soon.