Curious if your cat will shed tears when you're away for too long? Or worse, when their breakfast is delayed? Linda Hall, a cat behavior consultant, is an expert on feline sadness and how to uplift your furry friend’s spirits. As the co-founder of the Cat Behavioral Alliance, she guides cats and their owners through emotional distress. Although cats don't shed tears like humans, Hall knows that cats do cry.
Hall recounts her experience with her grand kitty, Inky, who would roam the house crying after losing his human dad, Sebastian. Fortunately, Hall possessed the necessary understanding to help Inky mourn and eventually return to his cheery, playful self. "Just as you would need time and love if you were in pain or feeling sad, sometimes cats simply require the same," she explains to Daily Paws.
While your cat won't shed tears over a missing treat, they might cry when they feel lonely or when they're grieving the loss of a family member.
Do Cats Shed Tears When They're Sad or in Pain?
Cats do not shed tears when they're sad or in pain. However, according to Hall, whether a cat is experiencing emotional distress or physical discomfort, they will exhibit behavioral changes that may include vocal crying. The sound of a cat crying is typically longer in duration and lower in frequency compared to their regular meowing. Hall provides some signs that might indicate sadness in your cat:
A change in behavior could indicate either emotional or physical distress. Therefore, Hall recommends a proactive monthly check-up. "Every month, thoroughly examine your cat from head to toe, checking for any abnormalities or areas of tenderness. If your cat hisses, they are not cursing you; they are indicating fear, anxiety, or that the touched area is painful."
Watery eyes are not a symptom of sadness or pain. Usually, when a cat has teary eyes, it signifies a medical issue such as conjunctivitis, a blocked tear duct, or another common eye infection. In such cases, it's best to consult your vet for a check-up.
What It Means When Your Cat Is Crying
Meowing is not a cat's primary means of communication with other felines. Instead, cats communicate through scent, body language, and touch. When your cat cries, they are trying to convey that something is wrong.
If you have set up a pet camera and notice your cat crying when you're not around, they might be experiencing separation anxiety. Other forms of anxiety can be triggered by changes in their routine, the introduction of a new pet, or a move.
Hall confirms what many cat owners already know – cats form deep bonds with their human and animal companions. If a family member has recently passed away, your cat may cry due to sadness and missing their friend.
Similar to dementia in humans, feline cognitive disease mainly affects cats that are 10 years or older. Cats with this condition often become disoriented and cry for help, particularly at night. Installing nightlights can assist your senior cat in navigating the surroundings and reduce nighttime yowling.
"It's estimated that over 95 percent of cats over 10 years old suffer from arthritis. So, if you have an older cat crying, it could be a sign of pain," Hall explains. Indications of arthritis in cats include avoiding stairs, difficulty jumping, and other mobility changes.
If there is a sudden change in your cat's behavior, including crying, it's essential to visit the vet to rule out any underlying health concerns. Older cats with hearing loss may cry more frequently, and cats with high blood pressure resulting from heart or kidney issues have been observed to vocalize.
How to Help Your Sad and Crying Cat Feel Better
Inky mourned the loss of his cat dad for a few months. Initially, he cried every day and took three months in total to grieve. If the idea of a blue-hearted Inky, or any cat for that matter, tugs at your heartstrings, Hall offers a glimmer of hope. Just as humans find ways to comfort themselves and others, we can do the same for our beloved feline companions.
"The first step is always visiting the vet to rule out any underlying health issues," Hall advises. Then, focus on providing your cat with their favorite things: quality time, stimulating toys, and a special treat.
"Spend time with your cat. If you need to be away often, ask a friend, relative, or professional pet sitter to pay them a visit," Hall suggests. Inform them that your cat is feeling down and suggest talking to your cat if they're not up for socializing. Try to maintain normal routines as much as possible.
During Inky's grieving period, Hall played special music for him constantly. "It's called Music for Cats by David Teie, and we recommend playing it when you are gone for a while or if your cat experiences anxiety," she explains.
Sound isn't the only sensory cue that can soothe cats. "Scent plays a significant role in a cat's identification. Leave your cat's favorite blanket on your bed so they can wake up and smell your scent or that of another loved one." Above all, Hall emphasizes the importance of being loving and understanding.