Can Cats Cry Tears?

When it comes to watery or teary eyes, the reasoning is very rarely emotional for your cat.  I’ve seen my cats have “tears” maybe twice in their lives.  I did some research to see if there was a reason behind it.

So, can cats cry tears? 

A cat’s eyes might get teary or watery in response to the following: 

  • injury to the eye area
  • clogged tear ducts
  • illnesses that cause eye discharge
  • irritants getting close to or in their eyes
  • allergies (yes that’s right – cats have allergies too!)

While there are some cases reported by concerned humans that their cats have shed tears or been particularly emotional during or after traumatic events – cat tears are usually a physical response, not an emotional one.

There’s no science-based studies or evidence that shows cats cry emotional tears of:

  • joy
  • sadness
  • pain
  • grief

(This is a bit of a controversial statement – we will talk more about it at the bottom of this post!)

If you’re anything like me, you may often ponder about what your cat is thinking, how they are feeling or why they are bouncing around your house at 3 am. While that last one can be chalked up to nocturnal energy, a lot of pet owners are left wondering “why” when it comes to a lot of cat behaviors. 

Seeing the world through your cat’s eyes can be a bit confusing…yowling, licking, strange sleeping habits and even eating plastic are just a few of the things about cats that baffle us, humans.

Cats are mysterious creatures to us humans who dote on them – and cat tears are one of the bigger questions. 

cat crying tears

Can cats cry tears?
Does this mean my cat is sad?
Is there something wrong with my cat if she has actual tears in her eyes? 

I’m going to answer those (and all other cat-tear related questions) at the bottom of this post – let’s get a little deeper into this question. 

Eye Discharge or Tears?

Here is something important to note…these are two separate things. 

There is a difference between tears and discharge! And that difference could help you and your vet determine what the problem is. 

Excess tears will be clear. Discharge can be a milky, sticky, puss-like substance. 

If your cat has eye discharge, there are a few things that could be causing it…

🐈 Upper Respiratory Infection(s)

This is one of the more popular reasons behind puss in your cat’s eyes. Symptoms can include milky, sticky and pus-like eye discharge. 

🐈 Conjunctivitis

Also known as “pink eye”. This is when the light pink colored lining around your cat’s eye gets inflamed. 

The other symptoms of this include:

  • fever
  • diarrhea
  • trouble breathing (though that last one isn’t very common).  

🐈 Corneal Disorder(s)

A cat’s cornea, like a human’s, can become inflamed or injured. If you notice a cloudiness to your cat’s eyes, along with excessive blinking and increased tear production (not discharge) – your cat may be suffering from a corneal issue. 

If you have established that your cat has tears, instead of discharge, coming from their eyes – you can begin to narrow down the cause of that. 

According to Ari Zabell from Banfield Pet Hospital (based in Vancouver, Washington), the reason for your cat’s teary eyes will fall into two categories:

Either something that blocks the normal flow of tears and moisture OR something that causes excess tears and moisture.

It could be a health concern (such as an illness or injury) or it could be something environmental (such as your cat being exposed to something they are allergic to or some irritant that has gotten into their eyes.) 

small grey cat with brown tear stains on face

 

Is a cat crying tears a health concern?

The first thing you will want to do if you notice your cat’s watering and teary eyes is to check if it could be a health-related concern (because if it is, that would require immediate attention by your veterinarian.)

To be on the safe side, if your cat is shedding excess tears – loading her up into her travel bed and toting her to the vet might be your best bet, just to rule out any of the following issues. 

Here are some things you need to consider…

🐈 Injury

Has your cat suffered an injury to her face/eye area lately?
A scratch from a tree branch or another cat could be the reason for your cats watering eyes.

🐈 Blocked Tear Ducts

Another common reason for cat tears could be a blocked tear duct. Like us humans, cats have ducts that produce tears (and keep eyes moist). Tears typically drain through the nose and when a duct is blocked, these tears have to spill out through the eye ducts – usually in large amounts…which is why it seems like your cat is crying.

How do you unblock a cat’s tear duct? Your vet will be able to tell you more information on the simple procedure for unblocking tear ducts in cats.

🐈 Eye Infection

Your cat’s tears could be a sign of an infection. Be on the lookout for some of the other signs of eye infection (such as squinting, redness, green/white discharge with the tears and any other obvious changes in your cat’s eye appearance. 

🐈 Disease

If your cat is sneezing, has a fever, nasal discharge or excess salivation – your cat could have a disease.

Most likely, a respiratory disease. These conditions can often lead to more serious symptoms and require urgent vet care. 

If your cat’s tears are accompanied by sneezing, fever, nasal discharge, or salivation, your cat could be suffering from a feline respiratory disease like feline herpesvirus.

These conditions can lead to more serious symptoms like ulcers and require veterinary care.

sad cat cat veteran

Could There be an Environmental Cause?

Once you have ruled out any noticeable physical causes for your cat’s tears – consider their environment.

Could there be something causing your cat’s eyes to water? 

Dirt, irritants, allergens and other foreign particles could be the cause of your cats watering eyes. It might even be her new fluffy bed that is causing the problems!

Much like humans, when there is something foreign in the eye area (whether it be some dirt from rolling around in your garden or some lint from laying in your hamper) – a cat’s body will produce excess tears to flush out the intruder. 

Ask yourself the following questions about your cat’s environment:

  • Has your cat had access to anything or anywhere that she doesn’t normally go?
    Maybe new laundry detergent in your laundry room or a new aerosol spray in your bathroom could have triggered an allergic reaction.
  • Is there anything noticeable in or around your cats eyes that could be causing a problem (such as small twigs, pieces of plant or grass, etc)?

A Very Common Theory… Cats Cry Because of Emotions

There is no scientific evidence that proves a cat could cry emotional tears.
But this has actually been a topic of debate for pet owners for a long time.

Cats are anything but subtle… they will always show those feelings.

When your cat is happy they might:

  • purr
  • rub against your legs
  • they’ll play nice with you

If your cat is sad, they may be more withdrawn, not want to eat and play and become generally less energetic.

Your cat likes to express her emotions in a vocal or physical way like meowing, yowling or maybe even clawing your favorite couch seat in protest to you being gone 57 minutes longer than usual that day. 

These actions are all signs of a cat’s emotions. 

While cat emotions are sometimes hard to read, there are many ways you can understand your cats’ behavior…watch the video below to learn about some of the more common things your cat does and why!

 

While some articles will tell you for sure without a doubt that your cat is not crying emotional tears, there are a lot of anecdotal stories from real pet owners that suggest otherwise. 

A lot of people speculate and insist that a cat CAN produce real tears due to an emotional reaction. 

Whether you believe your cat to be showing emotions through their tears or not – it’s always a good idea to check for other signs of medical distress (such as lethargy, loss of appetite or any other physical changes that could arise due to medical concerns. 

Below is a video of a mommy cat mourning the loss of her kitten.
*Warning: video does contain a deceased animal*

 

Let me know in the comments below what you think of this…because I really do believe she could be mourning the loss of her sweet kitty with real tears.

When to Seek Vet Assistance

If your cats watering eyes persist and you aren’t sure of the cause, it’s best to seek advice from your vet. 

Your veterinarian will likely know what to look for if it is a health concern given your cat’s history and medical records.

If your vet has ruled out a health concern or injury, they will be able to give you some insight into what other things could be causing your cat’s teary eyes. 

cat with swollen eye cat veteran

Related Questions

⚙ Can cats cry?

Yes.
A cat can produce tears or water from their eyes for multiple reasons. 

⚙ Why is my cat crying tears?

Long story short…

It is most likely a physical thing causing your cat’s excess tears – a medical condition or an environmental cause.

A cat could be crying tears for a multitude of reasons, including (but not limited to):

  • allergies
  • illness
  • disease
  • eye injury
  • an emotional response

⚙ Do cats feel sadness?

Cats do feel sadness. 

A cat (much like a dog) can interpret our facial expressions and sense tone of voice and while they aren’t familiar with our scope of emotions, they can also experience feelings. 

⚙ Can cats cry tears when they are in pain?

According to research, we’re the only ones that cry tears when we have emotional pain or joy.

As I’ve talked about in this post, it’s a very common thought, however, that a cat can and will emit tears as an emotional response. 

There have been countless stories of this happening – ultimately it is your job as a pet owner to gather the information and try to understand the reasoning behind your cats watering eyes.

Start by eliminating the physical/health concerns, then move on to the environmental concerns.

I’d love to know what you think about the possibility of a cat crying tears for an emotional reason…
do you think it’s possible, do you have any experience with this?
Let me know in the comments below.

 

Sources:

Cat Tears: What’s Normal, and What’s Not (Catster)

Eye Discharge in Cats (PetMD)

Cat Eye Discharge: A Comprehensive Guide (HonestPaws)

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