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Can Cats Cry When They Are Sad? | Can Cats Cry Tears

We know for a fact that cats can cry. The question here is to identify whether or not there is any emotional cause of this physical manifestation. Do cats have emotions like us? Do they get sad to the point that they can show it through crying tears? If not, how do they express those feelings?

We, as cat owners, can easily feel this extraordinary connection between our cats and us: we can identify their mood through their behavior, body language, way of moving… but the crying? Is that a thing? Can cats cry when they are sad? Read on to learn more!

Can cats cry “real tears” like humans?

Cats have emotions and thus can feel sadness to a certain extent, but this does not necessarily mean that they can express it through crying tears.

As humans, our eyes tend to water when something bad happens in our life when we feel rejected when we feel sad… Still, some people have a hard time remembering the last time they cried, which shows that even for us, it is a phenomenon difficult to explain.

Can Cats Cry Tears?

If cats cry tears, specialists believe that it is for an entirely different reason. Not that you did anything wrong, don’t worry 🙂 The explanation seems purely physical (in most cases) :

  • irritations
  • allergies
  • clogged tear ducts
  • other diseases

There is no evidence supporting that cats cry tears when they are sad or even happy, hurt, in grief… There are a few reports mentioning cats responding with tears to emotional or physical trauma, but nothing scientifically proved yet.

can cats cry when they are sad

Emotions in cats

In reality, even if it is very difficult to identify to what extent cats are sad, happy, or fearful, ethologists agree on the fact that cats have a very rich emotional life. Those emotions can be divided into two types: positive and negative, with various intensities.

Recent research proved that every mammal, including cats, has seven basic emotional systems that enable them to react according to the information sent from their senses to the brain (fear system, play system, care system…)

Ethologists realized that it is crucial to understand a cat’s emotions to better understand them, but they agree that it is very difficult to evaluate them accurately. They can still rely on this analysis to treat behavioral problems and give a better solution to those problems.

sad cat

The most common reason why cats “cry” tears

It is less poetic, but it’s a reality. If your cat is tearing up, the main reason may well lie elsewhere than sadness. It is indeed more likely that your cat suffers from eye inflammation. Four reasons can explain this phenomenon:


Infections could be the reason why cats are crying tears. They occur when the cat comes in contact with bacteria, viruses, and fungi present in the surroundings. If your kitty has swelling or redness in the eye, she must be suffering from an infection. Feline coryza [1], for example, is a very contagious disease that your cat can catch from another cat or from someone that petted an infected cat. Ocular signs are typically accompanied by respiratory symptoms: sneezing, nasal discharge, cough. In that case, appropriate antibiotic therapy and antibiotic eye drops for treatment and antiviral will be given to your cat.

Anatomic Problem

Another reason responsible for your cat crying tears can be an eyelid malposition, creating an inconfortable rubbing on the cornea. This is solved by microsurgery. It could also be a blocked tear duct.  Tears are usually drained to the nose through those tiny permeable ducts. When clogged, the tears are evacuated through the eye(s). Your vet will be able to unblock those ducts under anesthesia.

Eye Injury or Trauma

One common cause behind the crying of cats is trauma. May be while roaming in the house or neighborhood, your kitty might have a fight with another cat or hurt her with household items. To confirm this, do check the cat’s eye. Are they red or swollen? Is there any bleeding in the eye?

Needs Attention

Your is cat crying tears maybe because she is sad and needs attention. To solve this you should spend time with your kitty by playing and talking to her. It will calm her down and make her happy.

Pink Eye

Cats crying tears could be a sign of your kitty suffering from conjunctivitis, a common eye problem that occurs due to inflammation of the nictitating membrane. There are many causes of pink eye or conjunctivitis in felines including herpes virus, infection, dust, or allergy. If your cat has inflamed and red tissues it is best to take your kitty to the vet.

Irritants or Allergies

Though less common in felines, irritants like dust, deodorant fragrances, or smoke can cause allergic reactions in cats, making their eyes watery, itchy, and red.

In any case, if you notice that your cat has runny eyes, it is essential to make an appointment at the vets as soon as possible, especially if your cat is closing his eye (meaning he is hurting pretty bad!) The more you wait, the more serious the problem could become, your cat could even lose his vision!

How do cats express their sadness?

can cats cry tears ?If cats don’t cry tears, how do they express their feelings when they are sad or depressed? There will undoubtedly be a change in their behavior. Among the signs that should make you react are:

  • Meow-meow: Your cat may become very vocal! It is the closest from crying your cat can get. By making a loud complaint sound, your cat will show you that something is bothering him. Or it may just be the opposite – if he is usually very loud, he might just stop and become very quiet.
  • Decrease inactivity 
  • Eating disorder: Stops eating, eats weird things like plastic or fabric…
  • Sleeping disorder: A cat usually sleeps quite a lot (16 hours average).  A sad cat sleeps even more!
  • Grooming disorder: A sad cat can stop grooming correctly, and that’s usually a very bad sign!
  • Litter problems: Your cat starts peeing in random places
  • Increased aggressiveness 
  • Self-mutilations: Biting/clawing one owns hair out, for example

If you suspect your cat to be sad, try to be attentive to those signs as it can surely tell you that there is something wrong with your little friend.

Final thoughts: Can cats cry when they are sad?

Cats can cry in the sense that they can become vocal to show they are unhappy with a situation. However, there is not yet proof that cats can cry tears like us humans to tell us they are sad. If your cat cries tears, go to the vet, as there may be something wrong with his eyes.

If you think your cat is crying, check him out.

Their sadness will mainly be expressed by a change of behavior that it is necessary to identify as fast as possible to turn it around and make your cat happy again. Try and determine what changes in his environment could be the cause of his sadness. It can be anything from the loss of one of his buddies to new furniture or even the old bathroom carpet that he loved so dearly but that you changed because you didn’t like the color anymore.

Whatever it is, you need to set a strategy to turn this sadness into happiness.

The first thing to do is make an appointment to the vet and check for any potential diseases that are not obvious to identify.

Then, you must provide your cat with an entertaining environment full of toys, climbing structures, and scratching posts that will help them release their frustration by playing, jumping, or scratching. Make sure you give your cat enough attention throughout the day, cats are independent creatures, but the social component is essential for a healthy life.