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Why is my kitten crying?

Kitten meowing
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If your kitten has been meowing a lot, you may be asking “why is my kitten crying so much?” Cats use vocalizations to communicate with their human caretakers, so some crying is perfectly normal for your kitten. However, if you feel that your kitten’s crying has become excessive, it may be a sign that there is a problem you need to address.  

Too much crying is not only a nuisance, but can also mean that your cat is uncomfortable or in need of something, which may be as simple as giving them a little extra of the best kitten food if their meowing is the result of a rumbling tummy.  Check out these four most common reasons why kittens cry, and see if any of them sound like your kitten!

Crying for attention

The most common reason why kittens cry is because they are seeking attention from their owners. Kittens are active and highly curious creatures that are constantly on the go, and they want to be part of whatever you’re doing, too! As pet owners, we frequently reinforce this behavior by simply petting, talking to, or picking up our kittens when they cry. By giving our kittens this type of positive reinforcement, we teach them that crying is a great way to get our attention. Even negative attention, like yelling or scolding, is still attention and can inadvertently reinforce the crying behavior.  

To help curb this attention-seeking behavior, make sure you’re spending plenty of time one-on-one with your kitten every day - using the best kitten toys to play and bond can be a great way of doing this. If your kitten is still constantly crying for attention and being a nuisance, resist the urge to react – either positively or negatively – as this will only reinforce the behavior. Instead, wait until your kitten is quiet and calm before you reward her with some cuddles for good behavior.

Crying for food

Cats are notorious for their late night demands for food. If your kitten is crying, it may be because she is hungry. Young kittens naturally know that they should cry to let their mothers know they are hungry. If your kitten is crying for food, it is important to first make sure that you are feeding your kitten enough food for her current age and weight, and that you are feeding a kitten food that is complete and balanced to ensure she is getting all the nutrients she needs as she grows. If you’re unsure what or how much to feed, your veterinarian is a great resource to guide you.  Your veterinarian can help you choose the best kitten diet and can also advise you on how many calories to feed per day to ensure your kitten is getting plenty of nutrients for growth.  

If your little one has already eaten their main meals, been given a few of the best kitten treats and still continues to beg for food, be careful not to reward this behavior by giving your kitten more food – this only teaches her that begging for food works! Instead, ignore the behavior or redirect her onto another activity, like playing with her favorite toy. It can also help to use an automatic feeder to dispense measured portions of food at specific times of day, so that you are no longer the source of the food and your kitten will be less likely to bother you for a snack.

Crying due to pain or discomfort

Ragdoll cat meowing

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A less common, but no less important, cause of crying in kittens is pain and discomfort. Your kitten may be crying because she doesn’t feel well, she is in pain, or she’s simply uncomfortable in some way. If you suspect your kitten may be in pain, it is important to take her to the veterinarian right away. Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination, and may recommend some additional testing such as x-rays to look for injuries or blood work to rule out certain illnesses. 

Once the cause of your kitten’s discomfort has been diagnosed, your veterinarian can prescribe pain medications and other treatments to help get her back to her old self again. It may even be something as simple as your little one's new chompers starting to push through, in which case a few of the best kitten teething toys may be all that's needed to resolve the crying.

Never give your kitten over the counter pain medications or any medication not specifically prescribed for her.  Many of these medications can be toxic pets, especially to tiny kittens!  Always consult your veterinarian before giving your pets any new medications, supplements, or home remedies.

Crying due to boredom

Similar to crying for attention, crying due to boredom and a lack of mental stimulation is one of several common kitten behavior problems. Kittens need exercise and active play time with you daily to keep them healthy and mentally stimulated. Kittens also need plenty of environmental enrichment – such as toys, climbing structures, scratching posts, hiding places, and other things to explore – to keep them active and entertained. 

If your kitten is crying due to boredom, providing more one-on-one play time with you and increasing her environmental enrichment should solve the problem. For ideas on how to keep your kitten busy, learn how to play with a kitten or check out the OSU Indoor Pet Initiative for great suggestions to keep your indoor cat from getting bored.

Why is your kitten crying? There may be many reasons

A kitten may cry for many reasons, such as to seek attention, to beg for food, because they are ill or in pain, or even because they are bored. Your kitten’s cries are often perfectly normal behavior, so don’t worry too much if the crying behavior is not excessive. However, if your kitten’s vocalizations are extreme or if you think your kitten might be in pain, don’t hesitate to take your kitten to a veterinarian for evaluation. Your veterinarian is your best resource to help you determine whether your kitten is crying too much and he or she can help you find and address the underlying cause of the problem.

Elizabeth Racine, DVM

Dr. Elizabeth Racine is a small animal general practice veterinarian covering all things pet health and wellness.  Her special interests include veterinary behavior, nutrition, and internal medicine.  As a freelance writer, Dr. Racine has written content for major companies in the industry such as the American Kennel Club, Merck Animal Health, Bayer PetBasics, Elanco, and CareCredit.  In her free time, Dr. Racine enjoys playing trampoline dodgeball, hiking with her beagle Dasher, and spending time with her three mischievous cats.  Dr. Racine can be found at www.theveterinarywriter.com and at https://www.linkedin.com/in/eracinedvm/