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Why Is My Cat Crying? 5 Possible Causes and How to Handle It

Here is a guide to help you better understand what your cat is trying to tell you, and when the situation is serious and requires additional attention.

It’s rare for a pet cat to be a quiet creature. At some point in our lives as cat parents, we will probably hear a variety of meowing, screaming, and purring. Sometimes, it will be obvious why our cat is making noise. But there will be other times that we find ourselves asking in frustration: Why is my cat crying?

A cat’s cries can be disturbing for us, even if they aren’t meant to be. A cry is often meant to communicate something to us, so it’s normal to be curious about why your cat is making noise. Here is a guide to help you better understand what your cat is trying to tell you, how to reduce their unnecessary vocalizing, and when the situation is serious and requires additional attention.

The Different Types of Cat Crying

Different sounds can mean different things, so let’s start by identifying the different kinds of vocalizations a cat makes:

  • Meowing
  • Growls and hissing
  • Chirping
  • Purring
  • Moaning

Your Cat Probably Has a Variety of Meows

Excessive meowing is what most people are referring to when they ask “Why is my cat crying?” Meows can come in a variety of different forms, from long, low meows to short, high-pitched meows. The timing and pitch of your cat’s crying might provide some additional clues as to what they are trying to communicate. Meowing is a broad cat vocalization category that essentially includes any sound that isn’t one of the more specific sounds, such as a growl, hiss, chirp, purr, or moan.

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Growling and Hissing Mean Different Things Than Meowing

Hissing and growling are indicative of discomfort, fear, stress, or other negative emotions in your cat. They can be used as a warning sign before a cat lashes out in aggression. We’ve written another blog post about why cats growl, so check that out if that’s the sound you’re hearing most frequently from your feline.

Ever Heard Your Cat Chirp Like a Dolphin?

That stuttering, chirping noise that cats make – often when they’re looking out a window – is one of a feline’s most unique vocalizations. It often communicates frustration when your cat can’t act on their predatory instincts. It’s a totally normal sound that shouldn’t be discouraged, and there’s no need to address your cat when you find them chirping at unattainable prey. They’re connecting with their primal roots!

Purring Is Always a Good Sign

Most pet parents are familiar with the warm, comforting sound and feel of a purring kitty on their lap. This vocalization is meant to sound pleasant, because it communicates that your cat feels contentment. No need to investigate further!

Moaning Can Be a Mating Call

Another category of cat sound that might be interpreted as crying is called “caterwauling.” This shrill, high-pitched howling noise is often used by female cats in heat to communicate their search for a mate. Caterwauling is a pretty distinctive and disturbing sound – some people have compared it to a human scream, and others describe it as a combination of a whine, yowl, and howl. If your cat isn’t spayed or neutered, this might be why your cat is crying.

Why Is My Cat Crying? 5 Possible Reasons

For this article, we are going to refer specifically to excessive meowing, as growling, hissing, chirping, purring, and moaning have different meanings (all outlined above). Here are some reasons your cat might be meowing:

  • They want attention
  • They want to go outside
  • They are hungry
  • They are stressed
  • Age and mental confusion

Your Cat May Be Crying for Attention

Even the most well-attended cat might cry for attention sometimes. If their crying is accompanied by other bids for connection, such as rubbing against your legs, crawling onto your lap, or “head butting” you, this is probably what your cat’s meow is all about. If you notice your cat is doing this consistently, you might need to schedule additional time with your feline friend. Cats may be relatively low-maintenance pets, but they do have needs for daily enrichment through play and affection.

A Cat May Cry to Go Outside

While cats are much safer if they live their lives indoors, they are still descended from wild animals and, thus, many cats still experience “the call of the wild.” If indoor cats don’t ever spend time outside, they will probably stop crying to do so eventually. But if your cat still spends some time outside, they might meow or cry in an effort to get you to let them outdoors. If your cat’s crying seems to be focused around times that you are close to the door, or they often plant themselves by a window or door when they vocalize at length, this might be the cause of your cat’s crying.

Cats Will Cry to Demand Food

Many pet parents report their cat’s excessive crying to be food-related. Cats have a sense of schedule and routine, so they know when it’s getting close to dinner time – or when you’ve slept in past the time for their breakfast! Sometimes, a feline crying fit is directly related to their desire for food.

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It’s important to make this distinction, though: crying does not necessarily mean your cat is hungry. If you feed your cat every time they cry for food, they will probably become overweight very quickly. You need to manage your cat’s portion control and feeding schedule, even if they meow excessively in protest for an early dinner or breakfast.

Crying Can Be a Stress Signal in Cats

Crying can sometimes be a way that your cat communicates their stress or anxiety. A moody cat might meow excessively to indicate their discomfort and tell you that they’re uncomfortable. If you think your cat is meowing from stress, then your next task is figuring out the cause of their stress – no small feat. There are some typical stressors for a cat – new environments, new people, or changes in their routine – but if the cause of their stress isn’t that obvious, you might have to do some investigation and enlist the help of your veterinarian to figure out the exact reason for their crying.

Cats Will Sometimes Cry Because of Illness or Pain

While most of the time your cat’s crying is unrelated to a serious issue, there are, of course, exceptions. Sometimes a cat will be crying because something hurts or they are feeling sick. Kidney issues, thyroid problems, dental issues, and a world of other diseases and medical conditions can cause a cat to cry excessively.

This is somewhat rare as a cause for crying because cats tend to be stoic and try to hide their pain. If your cat is vocalizing because of discomfort, then it’s likely a serious issue that needs to be addressed by your veterinarian. By process of elimination, if you can’t find another reason for your cat to be crying, it might be a medical or health issue and you need to pursue appropriate care for them.

Older Cats May Cry Because of Cognitive Decline

If your cat is entering his or her senior years, you might notice an increase in crying because of mental decline. Aging cats can become confused and are at risk for cognitive dysfunction. They can forget where they are, what their routine is, or even where things like their litter box and food bowl are located. It’s important to consider mental health related issues with aging if you notice your cat crying a lot.

Ways to Reduce Your Cat’s Crying

Once you’ve ruled out the need for medical attention, there are some other ways to reduce troublesome cat crying in your house. Depending on why your cat is crying, try the following:

  • Prevent the crying, but don’t reward it
  • Always stick to the routine
  • Increase playtime

Don’t Reward Your Cat’s Crying, But Provide Attention to Prevent It

The most important thing to remember when trying to reduce your cat’s crying is that you should implement techniques to prevent it and be careful not to reward it. Especially once you’ve identified the cause of your cat’s crying, the best approach is to ignore the excess vocalizations whenever possible. If your cat is crying for attention and you provide it, then their strategy has worked, so they’ll continue to use it. Instead, try to address your cat’s issues when they are quiet so they don’t start to associate the crying with a desired outcome.

Create and Maintain a Stricter Routine

Cats thrive on routine for everything: meals, sleep, environment, play time. If you notice excess vocalizations, your cat might benefit from a stricter, more reliable regimen throughout their day. Maybe you tend to feed your cat breakfast between 9 and 10 am each day – try to make it closer to the same time every day. Or perhaps you just find a 10-minute break each day for play time. Instead, try to play with them at the same time daily. Creating more structure with set times around your cat’s daily schedule will make them feel secure and comfortable which may reduce excess vocalizing.

Increase Your Cat’s Mental and Physical Playtime

Boredom, loneliness, and stress can all be somewhat assuaged with an increase in social playtime. Playing with your cat has mental and physical benefits. If you can’t spare any additional time to play with your cat, consider investing in an interactive cat toy for mental stimulation when you’re busy. A tired and mentally satisfied cat is much less likely to cry.

Always Visit Your Veterinarian With Concerns About Cat Crying

Without going to the veterinarian, there is no way to truly answer the question “Why is my cat crying?” You’ll need to consult your pet’s doctor to rule out illness, injury, or pain. A cat’s health issues usually won’t be visually apparent, so it’s important to enlist the help of your veterinarian in trying to assess the cause of, and find solutions for, your cat’s crying.

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