Can Cats Cry When They Are Sad?

Do cats cry when they are sad? Well, there is no real evidence that cats can cry because of sadness. Measuring and quantifying emotions are difficult and the subject of emotion itself is very complex.

Even though this article is not disproving the notion that cats cry when they are sad, it is safe to say that when cats are crying, it is their way of expressing distress.

Although it cannot be disproven that these tears are emotional in nature, it can certainly be proven if this distress is caused by a medical condition that needs to be looked at by a veterinarian.

cat crying image

It is especially urgent if the tearing is accompanied by squinting, redness of the eyes, or the presence of other ocular discharge.

Medical Reasons

Eye problems in cats are not common. But when they occur, they are usually chronic in nature. Irritants like pollen and dust, however, are common and may also cause the cat to tear up.

When a cat seems to be crying because of tears flowing down its face, the problem usually lies in the cat’s nasal duct. Cats have two ducts where tears can flow through. The lacrimal duct guides tears into the eyes while the nasal duct drains the tears through the nose.

When tears are flowing down the face, it means that there is an overproduction of tears and/or the tears are not draining properly.

There are several reasons why the cat is producing a lot of tears. Tears are essential for the health of the eyes. This anti-bacterial layer keeps their eyes moist and clears foreign particles on the surface. Overproduction of tears means that the cat is clearing a lot of debris or another medical condition is present.

Since the cat is usually at floor level, there are a lot of things that can inadvertently irritate their eyes. Carpet cleaner powder or detergent can be found on the ground in homes and when outdoors, pollen or dust can serve as irritants. Even cigarette smoke can cause their eyes to be irritated. These fine particles can also be inhaled and cause irritation in the respiratory system of the cat.

The excess fluid that is created to clear away these foreign particles will continually drain through the nasal ducts. Over time, there may be particles that could accumulate a large enough obstruction to clog the duct.

When the drainage duct is clogged, the lubricating fluid has nowhere to go but to flow down from the space between the eyes and the eyelid.

Of course, genetics can also play a role. Sometimes the cat is born with narrow nasal ducts and sometimes they are born without them. Cats born this way are teary-eyed because they can’t drain the tears through their nasal ducts. Cat breeds with flat faces are also prone to developing duct blockages.


A blockage in the lacrimal duct, however, will not cause the cat to accumulate tears. On the contrary, it will cause the eyes to be dry because the tears cannot flow to lubricate the eyes.

Flushing the ducts in an operation could remove the blockage but surgery may be required for those with narrow ducts or those with closed ducts.

Aside from foreign particles, eye inflammation or conjunctivitis caused by bacteria or viruses can cause a watery discharge that may look like tears and is usually accompanied by squinting. This can be chronic and can go for years in a cat’s life.

Conjunctivitis and other infections can also cause the inflammation of the nasal ducts which lessens its capability to drain and also clogs it with an overproduction of mucus.

Feline Respiratory Disease is another infection commonly caused by the feline herpesvirus which can also cause conjunctivitis. In this case, there will be an infection in the upper respiratory tract of the cat involving the nose, throat and sinus area.

This is usually accompanied by sneezing, fever, or nasal discharge. This virus is very contagious and can be transmitted from saliva or other secretions from the nose or eyes coming in contact directly with another cat or indirectly via food and water bowls or toys.

You can try to clean your cat spaces with bleach solutions but since there are a variety of ways of transmission, you can never be 100% sure that your cat is not infected. Another method for prevention is to have your cat vaccinated and boosted regularly.

If your cat does get infected, using broad-spectrum antibiotics even though the disease is viral will prevent secondary infections. The virus will usually incubate for 1 week before the cat shows any symptoms followed by about 2 weeks of illness. During this time, the cat will be infectious. Don’t be scared, however, because these viruses do not affect humans but still, don’t forget to wash your hands after touching an infected cat.

A scratched eye from accidents or fights with other cats can also cause the eye to secrete fluids.

sad and crying expression of a cat

Emotional Reasons

Going back to the question: Can cats cry tears? Well, they certainly can cry tears, but it remains to be seen if their emotions have something to do with it.

Cats can certainly express their feelings in a way that their human friends can perceive. A content cat will play with its owner and friends while an angry cat will hiss and slash if not let alone.

Of course, cats can also feel sadness. They will try to hide, sleep all day (more than usual) and not groom. They will lose appetite in food and lose interest in play. Noisy cats turn quiet and quiet cats start to meow a lot. For a perceptive owner, even their calls will be a little bit different when they are depressed.

Of course, these symptoms also signal the presence of medical conditions but one cannot be absolutely sure that cats cannot feel emotions and it is impossible for them to cry when they are sad.

Many people see their cats crying on situations that coincide with a scenario that the cat might feel grief, like the death of a loved friend. Of course, it might just be coincidental but one cannot definitely say that it is not because the cat is sad.

Which Is It?

When we see our cat crying, hugs, kisses, and pure love may not be enough to solve the problem. You also can’t let them be because this ocular discharge may cause tear stains that when oxidized turns into something that looks like blood and may become crusty if left to dry. This can cause irritation and the damp area may also cause infections.

For the safety of the crying cat, the most logical path to take is to look into its medical conditions first before addressing any emotional problems like sadness and grief.

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