Can Cats Cry When They Are Sad ?

We know for a fact that cats can cry. The question here is to identify whether or not there is any emotional cause to 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 very special connection between us and our cats: we can identify their mood through their behavior, body language, way of moving… but the crying ? Is that a thing, really ? 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.

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 an 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 in two types: positive and negative with various intensities.

Recent research proved that every mammal including cats have 7 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 cat’s emotions in order 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 a eye inflammation. 3 reasons can explain this phenomenon:

  • Infection: Feline coryza, 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 / or antiviral will be given to your cat.
  • Anatomic problem: It can be an eyelid malposition creating an inconfortable rubbing on the cornea. This is solved by a micro surgery. It could also be a blocked tear duct.  Tears are usually drained to the nose through those tiny permeable duct. When clogged, the tears are evacuated through the eye(s). Your vet will be able to unblock those duct under anesthesia.
  • Trauma (injury to the cornea): Is more frequent if you have several cats because they can more easily hurt each other while playing.

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 loose 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 certainly 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 really 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 in activity 
  • 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 properly 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.

Their sadness will mainly be expressed by a change of behavior that it is necessary to identify as fast as possible in order to turn it around and make your cat happy again. Try and identify what changes in his environment could be the cause for his sadness. It can be anything from the loss of one of his buddies to a 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, it is essential that you 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.

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