Can Cats Cry? The Truth About Feline Tears

Emma Fulton Emma Fulton 3 Min Read
photo by WhiskerWitty

It’s commonly thought cats cry tears when grieving, similar to human expressions of sadness. But do felines actually shed tears in emotional states? While cats have complex feelings like humans, their external reactions tend to differ from ours. Cats find unique outlets for inner emotions like joy, anxiety and grief. So do cats cry real tears when upset? The answer is more complex than a simple yes or no.

Understanding Cat Emotions

When observing our feline companions, we might be tempted to interpret their behaviors through our own human lens. But how accurate is our perception?

Human Perception vs. Reality: Believe it or not, cats are quite attuned to our emotional states. They don’t just see us as food providers; they form genuine bonds. They recognize our moods and often retain poignant memories of family members. It’s a deep connection that goes beyond the surface.

Emotional Expressions: So, if cats are emotional, why don’t they shed tears like we do? The answer lies in their unique ways of expression. Instead of tears, a distressed or anxious cat might meow more frequently or reduce its grooming habits. These subtle behavioral changes are their equivalent of our tears – their silent cries for attention or comfort.

Grief and Adaptability: Like us, cats aren’t immune to the pangs of grief. Significant changes, be it moving to a new environment or the loss of a feline friend, can affect them deeply. Their reactions can vary – some might seek solitude, while others become more attached. As their caregivers, understanding and supporting them during these transitions is crucial.

The Science Behind a Cat’s Tears

Cats, with their enigmatic eyes, often leave us pondering their innermost thoughts. However, when those eyes tear up, it’s crucial to understand the underlying reasons, which are more medical than emotional.

Medical Reasons Behind Watery Eyes: When a cat’s eyes appear watery, it’s typically a sign of certain medical conditions. Eye infections, allergies, or blocked tear ducts are common reasons for this. These conditions can cause discomfort, and consistent tearing warrants a veterinary visit.

Breed-Specific Tendencies: Some cat breeds, especially those with rounded faces like Persians or Exotics, have a predisposition to produce more tears. This increased tear production is a result of their distinct anatomy, leading to potential tear duct issues.

Purring as a Response: The comforting hum of a cat’s purr is often linked with contentment. However, this isn’t always the case. Some theories suggest cats might purr as a mechanism for pain relief. If a cat purrs while displaying signs of discomfort, such as watery eyes, it’s an indication to investigate further.

Understanding the reasons behind a cat’s tears and their unique ways of expressing discomfort is essential for their well-being. As responsible cat owners, staying informed and observant ensures our feline companions remain in the best of health.

Identifying Sadness in Cats

Being attuned to our feline friends’ behaviors can help us identify when something’s amiss. Though cats aren’t prone to shedding emotional tears, they certainly have their ways of signaling distress or sadness.

Behavioral Signs: Just like us, cats show their emotions through behavior. A sudden loss of appetite can be a red flag. Similarly, if they’re withdrawing from their usual haunts or shunning social interactions, it’s worth noting. Reduced grooming can also be a tell-tale sign. Cats take pride in their grooming routines, so neglecting it can indicate emotional turmoil.

Environmental Factors: Our homes are more than just four walls to our cats; they’re their entire world. Changes, even if they seem minor to us, can be monumental to them. A rearranged living room, a new pet, or even a change in our work schedules can unsettle them. Monitoring their reactions to such shifts can give us insights into their emotional well-being.

Consultation: If you’re observing unusual behaviors consistently, it’s not just about being an over-cautious pet parent. It’s about ensuring their mental and physical health. Consulting with a vet or a cat behaviorist can provide clarity. They’ll offer guidance on addressing any underlying issues or recommend ways to improve their environment.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

When it comes to our feline companions, we can’t be too cautious. Their well-being is our responsibility, so recognizing the signs that indicate a need for professional care is crucial.

Watery Eyes as a Red Flag: If you notice your cat’s eyes tearing up more than usual, don’t brush it off as a quirky behavior. Excessive tearing could indicate underlying medical issues like eye infections or allergies. This warrants immediate attention and a trip to the vet for a proper diagnosis.

Other Concerning Symptoms: Watery eyes aren’t the only red flags you should be aware of. Other symptoms that should raise your antenna include sudden weight loss, loss of appetite, lethargy, or changes in litter box habits. Odd vocalizations or excessive scratching can also be signs that something’s not right.

Being a vigilant cat owner means staying alert to these symptoms and not waiting for them to escalate. When in doubt, it’s always better to consult a vet. Your cat might not be able to say they’re feeling off, but they’re relying on you to pick up on their cues.


While it’s tempting to think cats cry emotional tears, their physiology simply doesn’t produce them. Cats have evolved other, more subtle ways of expressing feelings like grief, anxiety, or distress. The key for cat owners is learning these behavioral signals, and providing supportive care during difficult times. If uncertain, consult your vet or a cat behaviorist. With understanding and patience, cats can adapt and return to their happy selves in time. Just don’t expect them to ever shed tears!

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