Do Cats Cry Crocodile Tears? The Truth About Feline Tear Ducts


Cats don’t cry tears in the same emotional way that humans do. However, their eyes may water for a variety of reasons. Some common causes of cat crying include illness, injury, emotional distress, getting attention, heat cycles, loneliness, and while playing. Understanding why your cat’s eyes are watering and their body language can help you respond appropriately.

While cats do not shed tears linked to emotions, their eyes may water due to physical irritation, infection, or injury. Cats also release natural tears to keep their eyes lubricated. Excess tears may spill out and look like crying. Differentiating between normal eye watering and crying due to discomfort is important for any cat owner.

Cats Can Cry from Emotions

Cats experience a range of emotions including sadness, grief, and stress just like humans do. And like humans, cats may cry in response to intense emotions. Cats don’t actually shed tears from their tear ducts when crying emotionally. Instead, they produce extra fluid that builds up around the eyes and may run down their face, giving the appearance of crying (1).

According to pet experts, when cats are feeling sad, stressed or distressed, their eyes may water excessively. This is thought to be due to an increase in the hormone oxytocin which is linked to bonding and emotions in cats. So cats who have lost a companion or are adjusting to a new home may cry more (2).

While cats don’t cry emotionally like humans, excess watery eyes in cats can be a sign that they are experiencing sadness or grief. Paying attention to when your cat’s eyes seem to water can help you determine if they are showing signs of emotional distress.




Crying to Get Attention

Cats often meow or cry for attention from their owners. This attention-seeking behavior can take the form of loud meowing, purring, rubbing against legs, or subtle cries and whines. Cats may engage in this behavior when they want attention, petting, play time, or food. It’s a way for them to communicate their needs and desires. According to The Spruce Pets, some cats “will meow for just about everything: greetings, objections, comfort, the list goes on.”

If a cat is hungry and wants to be fed, they may become more vocal and cry out. As described in one Reddit post, a cat “will constantly walk around the house meowing for attention/play, and if he doesn’t get any, he will begin yowling non-stop very deeply.” Cats quickly learn that crying and meowing results in getting what they want from their human companions. It becomes a learned behavior and strategy for getting your attention. Understanding the subtle cues behind crying for attention vs. other needs can help owners determine the right response.

Crying from Illness or Injury

Cats often cry when they are sick or injured. According to The Spruce Pets, signs that your cat may be crying for medical help include “More meows or crying” which can indicate “your cat is sick, in pain, stressed, or just bored.” [1] Cats are very good at hiding pain and illness, but crying and meowing excessively can be a sign something is wrong.

Specifically, cats who are in pain from an illness or injury will frequently cry out or meow slowly and drawn out as a way to signal they need assistance. As noted by Bolingbrook Veterinary Hospital, “Pain can cause cats to cry in a long, slow way that is much different than their normal vocal communications.” [2]

Some other signs of crying from illness or injury include crying right before vomiting or coughing up a hairball. Hypertension and cognitive disorders can also lead to excessive crying in senior cats. Overall, any prolonged episodes of crying, wailing, or other vocalizations that seem abnormal for your cat warrant a veterinary visit to check for underlying medical issues.

Crying from Loneliness

One of the main reasons cats may cry is due to loneliness, especially in kittens separated early from their mother or in single cats without feline companionship. Kittens learn behaviors and cues from their mothers and littermates during the first 8-12 weeks of life. When separated too early, kittens often cry and become clingy and needy, seeking affection and comfort from human caregivers to replace missing family bonds. Similarly, adult cats evolved as social animals and can feel lonely when housed alone, leading to frequent crying and attention-seeking behavior. A cat crying persistently, following owners from room to room, and demanding constant affection are potential signs they need more social stimulation and feline company.

Crying While in Heat

Female cats who are in heat often vocalize more than usual. This is due to their instincts telling them to attract potential mates. When a female cat is in heat, her estrogen levels peak and she begins ovulating and releasing pheromones. The drive to mate can cause increased meowing, howling, yowling, and other vocalizations as she seeks male attention1.

A female cat in heat may cry or meow loudly throughout the day and night. Her cries can sound urgent, incessant, and distressed as she tries to attract males from nearby areas. Owners often describe the vocalizations as loud wailing or moaning that keeps them up at night. The crying can persist for several hours or days during each heat cycle2.

Some signs that vocalizations are related to being in heat include: a swollen vulva, rubbing against objects, raising hindquarters, and attempts to escape outdoors to find a mate3. If your cat is not spayed, pay attention to these vocal cues indicating she is in heat and ready to mate.

Crying While Playing

Cats often cry or meow while playing, especially with toys or their owners. This vocalization serves as a form of communication and interaction. When a cat cries during play, it shows excitement, encourages play, and bonds with the other playing partner whether feline or human.

Cats may meow repeatedly when playing with toys, especially if they want attention from their owner. The meowing demonstrates the cat is enjoying the play session and wants to continue interacting. It invites praise, treats, or having the toy tossed again to prolong the fun. Some cats even bring their toy to their owner while meowing, showing off their “kill” and asking to play more (Source).

When cats play together, crying is part of their social bonding and communication. Kittens meow when play fighting with their littermates or older cats. This helps regulate the intensity of play and signals no aggression is intended. Adult cats also vocalize during play as a way to interact and avoid any misunderstandings (Source).

So when a cat cries or meows during play, it is not from distress but serves as an important interactive signal. It shows excitement, avoids conflict, and brings cats closer together through communication and bonding.

Interpreting Crying

Cats have a variety of vocalizations they use to communicate, including purring, meowing, growling, and hissing. Crying or meowing is one way cats try to get their human’s attention and communicate their needs. However, interpreting the meaning behind a cat’s crying requires paying close attention to the context and their body language. There are some clues to help decipher the reason behind a cat’s crying:

The type of meow can indicate different needs. Short, plaintive meows often mean a cat is stressed, scared, in pain, or looking for companionship. Long, drawn-out meows tend to signal distress, discomfort, or boredom. Urgent, loud meows can convey impatience or food-seeking behavior. Soft, friendly-sounding meows are more often used as a greeting.

The timing and location provide information. A cat crying at its empty food bowl around mealtimes is likely asking to be fed. Crying by the door could mean a desire to go outside. Crying when their human leaves indicates sadness at the separation.

Body language is very telling. Cats demanding food or attention will stare intently at their human and walk back and forth. Scared or hurt cats may shrink down and hide. Cats wanting to play will wiggle their backside and flick their tail playfully.

Frequency and duration of crying provide clues. Occasional crying is normal cat communication. Frequent or prolonged crying can signal an urgent or chronic issue that needs attention.

Understanding the context and observing subtle body language cues while a cat cries will help decipher their specific reason and need. This allows their human to respond appropriately.

Responding to Crying

When your cat cries, it’s important to respond appropriately based on the situation. Here’s some tips on how to respond to cat’s cries:

If your cat is crying for attention, it’s best not to respond by giving them attention as this can reinforce the behavior. Instead, try distracting them with playtime or treats when they are quiet. You can also use devices like automatic laser toys to keep them occupied when you’re not available.

For cries due to illness or injury, take the cat to the vet right away. Cats are very good at hiding pain so any obvious signs of discomfort warrant medical attention.

If your cat seems lonely, spend more interactive time with them through play sessions, brushing, or cuddling. You can also consider getting a companion cat so they have a feline playmate.

For cries during mating seasons, keep cats indoors and away from potential mates. Talk to your vet about spaying or neutering to prevent this behavior.

Crying during play is normal and you can let them interact. But be sure to redirect aggressive or overstimulated play with toys instead of hands.

Try to understand why your cat is crying by observing their body language and considering what happened right before the cries. This will help you address the underlying issue. Overall, be patient, meet their needs, and don’t accidentally reinforce crying.


In summary, cats can cry for a variety of reasons. Their cries can signify emotions like loneliness, the need for attention, illness or injury, or being in heat. Crying while playing is also normal cat behavior. It’s important for cat owners to pay attention to the context and other signs to interpret the meaning behind their cat’s cries. Providing comfort, medical care, or simply playing with a lonely cat can help address the underlying issue. While cats may not shed tears from emotions like humans, their cries are an important form of cat communication. Understanding the motivations behind cats’ cries leads to better care and bonds between cats and their human companions.

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