Do cats Cry? – The whole truth about Cat Tears

Posted by Nov 6, 2017 |

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Author Amira

Hi there!

I’m Amira, founder and editor at Cattention.

This website is dedicated to share useful but entertaining information and help You understand Your cat’s actions, behavior and needs.

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The article in 30 seconds:

  • Cats do have a very rich emotional life but they do not express their feelings through tears.
  • They can shed tears but only for medical reasons such as eye irritations, blocked tear ducts, infections, allergies, diseases or eye injuries.
  • Cats show their emotional side through their behavior: they purr when they are happy, they hiss when they are angry, and they meow when they are sad.
  • If you suspect that there is something wrong with your cat’s eyes, seek professional help at once.

For us, cat owners, it is crucial to understand our cats’ emotions. We typically feel a very special connection between us and our cats and can identify their mood through their behavior and body language.

But what about their tears? It can be quite a worrying situation to see them cry which will definitely raise a lot of questions.

  • Do cats cry? Are there actual tears?
  • What does it mean? Why do cats cry?
  • Is it emotional or something else?
  • How do cats cry? And, how do we help?

If you have ever wondered about these questions, you are at the right place. In this article, you can get to know the answers about crying cats and the possible reasons for cat tears to be shed.

Do cats cry? – The emotional answer

Although you might be expecting a straightforward answer to your simple question: “do cats cry”, it is more complicated than you think and difficult to answer as it is a quite complex matter when it comes to cats. No, but yes. Let me explain.

When we think about the act of crying, the first thing that typically comes to our mind is emotions. Our eyes tend to water when something bad happens in our life. In fact, tears are a natural, visual response to a strong emotion that symbolize rejection, sadness, grief, pain or sometimes even joy.

So, we do cry because of emotional matters but what about cats? Do they have emotions like us? Can they be sad to the point that they show it through crying tears? Do cats cry?

In reality, cats do have a very rich emotional life. They can definitely experience sadness, and they can even become depressed. However, the degree of emotion that humans and other species of animals experience are not the same. It is very difficult to identify to what extent cats are sad, fearful or happy, but their emotions are real and can be positive or negative with various intensities.

On the other hand, this does not necessarily mean that they can express their feelings through crying tears. In fact, there is no evidence supporting that cats cry tears as a response to some emotional matter. They can do a heartbreaking, very sad meow, but it is not like crying. It is not like tears are shed rolling down their face.

So, the short answer is nowhen it comes to emotional crying, cats do not cry. While they certainly do have feelings such as grieving, depression, being unhappy or sad, they will never shed tears to show those feelings.

All in all, cats do have emotions, but their tears are a different story.


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Can cats cry tears? – The truth about cat tears

Even though cats do not cry emotional tears, it does not mean that they do not shed tears at all. They do but not for emotional reasons.

Since cats have tear ducts they do have the ability to cry. However, their tears are entirely used for keeping their eyes lubricated and maintaining optical health. In fact, cats with low tear production are diagnosed with dry eye that requires eye drops treatment to keep the eye lubricated. Though, in optimal health, tear ducts release tears with every blink which act waters the eyes and delivers nutrients to the eyes’ surface.

On the other hand, tearing is also a natural reflex to help protect the eyes by flushing out any irritant and cleansing the surface of the eyes. For instance, just like for us, when cats have foreign matter in their eye, the eye works to remove it through tears.

So, yes, cats can cry. And, while there are several situations in which they may do so, none of them relate to emotions. Their tears do not reflect sadness or grief. Instead, they are only associated with an unpleasant physical issue or ocular discomfort.

Why do cats cry? – Reasons behind cat tears

Although cats may not cry as an emotional response, they can shed tears for medical reasons. Just like us, when we sense a foreign body in our eyes, suffer from medical condition, experience some irritation or allergen agent, our eyes will get wet and shed tears as a defensive physical response. Similarly, cat tears can be caused by several different reasons.

The most common reasons why cats cry tears:

  • Eye irritation: Foreign bodies, dirt, dust or debris can irritate the cat’s eyes because of which extra tears will be produced to flush out and remove the contaminant.
  • Blocked tear ducts: Tears normally drain through the nose. However, when this becomes blocked, the tears are evacuated through the eyes.
  • Ocular infections: Cat tears can be a sign or sometimes a result of any infections. In this case, the discharge can even be a pus-like, thick and gooey substance.
  • Allergies: Some chemicals, allergens, dust particles or even certain food can trigger allergic reaction and irritate a cat’s organism resulting in tearing eyes.
  • Upper respiratory disease: Apart from sneezing, fever, nasal discharge and salivation, watery eyes are also one of the symptoms when a cat suffers from feline respiratory disease.
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye): Conjunctivitis or inflammation of the moist tissues in a cat’s eye can cause the eye to discharge fluid.
  • Trauma or injury: Scratches (due to rough play or fight) on the surface of the cat’s eyes can also lead to excessive tearing.
  • Structural issues: Some cats (mostly the flat faced ones) are more prone to watery eyes than others.

While excessive eye discharge is typically a normal physical response to a whole series of ailments, be aware that it can also be a sign of a serious health issue.


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How do cats cry? – Cats different ways of showing emotions

Cats are complex creatures who do have emotions (positive and negative as well) but do not express their feelings by crying tears. Instead, they show their emotional side in various other ways. How? There will certainly be a change in their behavior.

  • Sadness, grief, and pain are communicated by excessive vocalization, decreased activity, loss of interest in toys, loss of appetite, and notable change in their sleeping, grooming and litter box routine.
  • Angry or frightened cats usually show increased aggressiveness. They may whimper, hiss, growl, and even scratch, however, it is not unusual that they hide completely.
  • Positive emotions like happiness are shown by purring and playing. A satisfied cat will also rub herself against people and typically engage with humans to seek attention.

Basically, cats do give us signs about their feelings. They act out in a great number of ways, but they do not shed tears of sadness or joy. The closest form of crying is a loud, heartbreaking meow.

How to help a crying cat? – A sensitive act

Resolving a crying cat’s problem depends on the type of crying and the cause of crying.

The emotional ‘meow’ crying:

If you are concerned about your cat’s emotions, apart from excessive vocalization, look for other signs of her feelings. If she ‘only’ appears to be unhappy (and there is no issue with her physical health), try to identify what changes in her environment could be the cause of her sadness then provide her with an entertaining environment.

Interactive toys, scratching posts and climbing areas like cat trees will help her release the frustration by playing, scratching and jumping around. Also, make sure to give her enough attention and affection throughout the day. This will turn her sadness into happiness.

On the other hand, if you see your cat tearing up, make no mistake. It is important to remember that her tears are not expressing an emotion. Instead, they are showing you that something is medically amiss.

The actual, physical crying:

While cat tears are normal to a certain degree, excessive ocular discharge is usually a sign of a problem. Often, the issue is minor but in some cases, it can become serious which will require a visit to the veterinarian. Therefore, it is very important to know the cause and act accordingly.

  • Eye irritation usually resolves on its own. However, if you notice something in your cat’s eye or the tearing persists for more than a day, contact your veterinarian for further advice.
  • If your cat’s tear ducts are blocked, take your cat to the veterinarian who can perform a simple procedure under anesthesia to unblock those ducts.
  • In case of ocular infection, it is advised to call the veterinarian immediately. Infections are typically very painful and can even lead to a perforation of the eye.
  • Scratches to the eye due to play or fight also require veterinary care as they can easily get infected.
  • To avoid allergies, keep harmful chemicals out of your cat’s reach and feed your cat high quality cat food. And, if she has allergic reaction, stop using the product your cat is sensitive towards.
  • If your cat has frequent teary eyes or her tears are accompanied by other symptoms, she most probably has some sort of disease or underlying illness. Since these conditions can lead to more serious problems (even loss of vision), it is essential to contact the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Whatever the cause of your cat’s tears is, do not rush into thinking the worst. Cat tears can be triggered by dust particles or some common allergy where the problem can resolve itself.

However, do not attempt to self-diagnose your cat if tearing persists or occurs on a regular basis. If you suspect that there is something wrong with your cat’s eyes, seek professional help at once to discuss the underlying cause and a suitable form of treatment for your cat’s tears.


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Final thoughts – The whole truth about a crying cat

Cats do cry. However, their tears relate to their ocular health and do not relate to their emotions. Cats’ eyes get watery for a great number of reasons from eye irritations to infections or from allergies to eye injuries, but they are all medical.

When it comes to emotions, cats do not cry tears. Rather they show their feelings through behavior change, particularly through excessive vocalization.

Consequently, the only tears your cat will ever shed will be related to an unpleasant physical problem. And, if she happens to feel unhappy or sad about something, she will let you know by her very sad, heartbreaking meow.

However, no matter what the method or the cause is, always treat your cat’s mental and physical health as your priority and seek professional advice if necessary.