Do dogs cry when they miss their owners?
Do Cats Cry? A Feline Behavior Expert Explains What To Do When Your Cat Is Feeling Blue
Cats don’t shed tears when they cry, but that doesn’t stop them from vocally expressing sadness or pain. Learn why your cat is crying and how to help them feel better.
By Janelle Leeson Reviewed by Amy Shojai, CABC Updated August 22, 2022
Reviewed by Amy Shojai, CABC
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profile of a cat with a tear coming from his eye and the Feline Fine logo on the image
Credit: Christian Lechtenfeld / EyeEm / Getty
Wondering if your cat will shed a tear if you’re gone too long? Or worse—when his breakfast is late? Cat behavior consultant Linda Hall knows all about sadness in cats and how to cheer up your feline friend. She’s the co-founder of Cat Behavioral Alliance and she helps cats and their parents work through feline emotional distress. Hall knows first-hand that cats don’t shed tears like we do, but that cats do cry.
«Inky would roam the house crying,» Hall shares of her grand kitty after losing his human dad, Sebastian. Luckily, Hall was equipped with the right tools to help Inky mourn and, in time, get back to his happy, frisky self. «Just as you would if you were in pain or sad about something, sometimes cats just need time and for someone to love them,» she tells Daily Paws.
Your cat won’t shed a tear over one less treat, but he might cry when he’s lonely or mourning a family member.
Do Cats Cry Tears When They’re Sad or in Pain?
Cats don’t cry tears when they’re sad or in pain. But Halls says whether your cat is experiencing emotional or physical pain, they’ll exhibit behavioral changes that could include vocal crying. The sound of a cat crying is typically longer in duration and lower in frequency than day-to-day cat chatter. If your cat is sad, Hall says you might spot these signs:
- Increased vocalization
- Decrease in appetite
- Decrease in activity and an increase in sleep
- Change in litter box use
- Change in grooming habitats
A change in behavior could point to either emotional or physical distress. So, Hall suggests a proactive once-a-month check-in. «Every month go down the cat from head to toe, checking for abnormalities or sore spots. If your cat hisses, he’s not cussing you out. He’s telling you that he’s scared, anxious, or something you just touched hurts.»
Excessively watery eyes aren’t a sign that your cat is crying from sadness or pain. Usually, a cat crying tears points to a medical concern like conjunctivitis, a blocked tear duct, or another common eye infection. So, it’s best to call your vet for a check-up.
What It Means When Your Cat Is Crying
Meowing isn’t your cat’s first choice when it comes to cat-to-cat communication. Instead, cats communicate with each other through scent, body language, and touch. If your cat is crying, he’s telling you something is amiss.
If you’ve installed a pet cam only to find your cat crying when you’re away, he could have separation anxiety. Other forms of anxiety could be brought on by a change in schedule, a new pet, or moving.
Hall confirms what many cat parents already know—cats bond deeply with their two- and four-legged companions. If there has been a recent loss of a family member, your cat could cry when they’re sad and missing their friend.
Feline Cognitive Disease
Feline cognitive disease is like dementia in humans—except that it typically affects cats 10 years or older. Especially at night, cats become confused and cry for their humans to help. Installing nightlights could help your senior cat find their way around and reduce nighttime yowls.
«It’s estimated that over 95 percent of cats over 10 years old have arthritis. So, if you have a senior cat, crying could mean pain,» Hall says. Telltale signs of arthritis in cats include avoiding the stairs, difficulty jumping, and other mobility changes.
Other Medical Conditions
Any sudden change in behavior calls for a trip to the vet to rule out underlying health concerns—crying included. Older cats with hearing loss may cry more than usual, and cats with high blood pressure from heart or kidney issues have been known to vocalize.
How to Help Your Cat Feel Better If They’re Sad and Crying
Inky mourned the loss of his cat dad for a few months. At first, he cried every day, taking three months in total to grieve. If the thought of Inky (or any cat) feeling blue melts your heart, Hall says there’s a silver lining. Just like humans find ways to comfort themselves and others, we can do the same for our favorite floof.
«The first step is always the vet to rule out any underlying health concerns,» Hall says. Then, focus on providing your cat with the things he loves the most: quality time, enriching toys, and a special treat.
«Spend time with your cat. If you have to be gone a lot, ask a friend, relative, or a professional sitter to make a visit with them,» Hall suggests. Let them know your cat is feeling blue and suggest they simply talk to your cat if he’s not up for socialization. Try to maintain normal routines as much as possible.
When Inky was mourning, Hall played special music for him 24/7. «It’s by David Teie and it’s called Music for Cats. We recommend playing it if you’re going to be gone a long time or if your cat has anxiety,» she explains.
Sound isn’t the only sensory cue that can soothe cats. «A lot of cats’ identification comes through scent. So, keep your cat’s favorite blanket on your bed so that they can wake up and smell you or another loved one.» Most of all, Hall says, be loving and understanding.
Does Your Cat Miss You When You Aren’t At Home?
Most Common Signs Your Cat Misses You
Cats will miss their owners when they are gone, but their response to missing their pet parent may vary. Some kitties may express their sadness through purring, meowing, or following their owner around, while others may show no outward signs of sadness. Here you can find the most common hints:
- Meowing and Crying: One of the most common signs your cat misses you is meowing and crying. Your pets may meow to get your attention or because they feel lonely.
- Increased Affection: Kitty may show increased affection towards their pet parents. This could include purring, rubbing against you, and even kneading you with their paws.
- Following You Around: Cats may follow you around the house or even outside if they miss you. This is their way of trying to get your attention and be near you.
- Sleeping in Your Spot: Furry friends may also sleep in your spot as if they are trying to take your place. This could be a sign that your cat misses you and wish you were there with them.
- Loss of Appetite: Cats may lose their appetite. This is because they may be feeling stressed or anxious without you around. But sometimes it’s something more than missing, it could be some health problems, so it’s better to have an insurance alternative for cats in case of emergency.
- Excessive Grooming: Kitties may excessively groom themselves when they miss their owners. This is because they are trying to cope with their emotions.
Reasons Your Cat Notices the Absence of You
- They Miss Your Attention: Cats are very social creatures and crave attention. They will miss you when you’re away because you’re the source of their love and affection.
- They Miss Playing With You: Kitties love to play and interact with their owners. They will miss playing with and chasing you when you aren’t at home.
- They Miss Your Scent: Cats have an amazing sense of smell and will miss your scent when you aren’t around.
- They Miss Snuggling With You: Kitties can be quite cuddly and will miss snuggling up on your lap when you’re away.
- They Miss Having You Around: Cats are creatures of routine and will miss having you around.
How to entertain your cat when you’re not at home
When you are not at home, your cat should be safe and secure. It is recommended to keep your kitty in a room or area of your home that is temperature-controlled and safe from any hazards. Besides all these general and necessary things, you can also help your cat to cope with missing you around in several ways:
- Place a scratching post near a window for your cat to watch the birds or other wildlife.
- Leave a radio or TV on for your furry friend to listen to.
- Provide your cat with plenty of stimulating toys, such as catnip-filled mice, balls, and feather wands.
- Set up a cat tree or kitty condo to give your pet a place to climb and explore.
- Leave a few shallow dishes of water around the house for your kitty to drink from when thirsty.
- Place a few pet-safe plants around the house to provide your cat with some natural greens.
- Invest in an automatic laser toy that your cat can play with while you’re away.
It is difficult to know exactly what cats understand, but they do certainly seem to recognize and appreciate being around people they know and trust. They may not understand the concept of love as humans do, but kitties can certainly sense when someone cares for them and shows them kindness.
There are many ways to show love to your cat, including:
- Spend quality time with your cat by petting, brushing, and playing with them.
- Give your cat treats and catnip.
- Provide a safe and comfortable place for them to sleep.
- Provide plenty of stimulating toys and scratching posts.
- Talk to them in a calming and loving way.
- Give them a massage or brush them.
- Provide a fresh, clean litter box.
- Take them for regular check-ups at the vet.