Do cats cry tears?

Cat crying tears

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Cats do not cry tears as an emotional response. Cats can produce tears, we know that. Therefore they have the ability to cry. A cat will produce tears for health reasons. For example if there is a foreign body in the eye or if the cat suffers from an allergy or one of a range of medical reasons. My late boy cat, Charlie, had cancer behind his left eye and teared up all the time.

The thing about tears of emotion; tears of sadness and joy is that we don’t know for sure why it happens in humans which is not a good starting point to try and figure out why it does not happen in cats.

Some experts think that humans cry to get rid of toxins and to relieve stress. My thoughts are that people cry to produce a visual signal to others indicating the state of mind of the person with the aim of eliciting a certain response e.g. sympathy. If crying for emotional reasons is about a form of communication then cats don’t need it.

And that theory, I think, works out quite nicely. If crying was about expelling toxins from the body then you could argue that cats would have this facility as well as their anatomy is similar to ours. However, if we decide that crying tears of emotion are about a form of communication it makes sense that cats don’t do it because they don’t need to communicate the fact that they are emotionally upset and in a vulnerable state. This is because cats like to hide their emotions in the interests of survival.

We know that cats hide pain. It can be difficult to tell when a cat is happy or sad. Cats project a very even emotional state.

Without any firm scientific evidence as to why humans cry tears, and without any definitive information about why domestic cats don’t cry tears of emotion, I’m going to conclude that cats don’t need to use tears as a form of communication or do not have the depth of emotion which leads them to produce tears. The range of emotions of the domestic cat and the depth of those emotions is also currently a mystery to humans. We are learning about them. We have a better understanding of them but this is work in progress. As crying is linked to emotions, it is one more reason why we have to speculate as to why cats don’t cry tears.

What do you think?

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6 thoughts on “Do cats cry tears?”

  1. I have seen tears of despair in many animals. We like to think they can’t because for a large segment of pet owners it raises their feelings and subsequently their rights to human level. For animal haters the idea gives them the willies because their hatred and the ones that fall to blatant cruelty and abuse can no longer claim it was just a dumb animal.
    BabyMook spent a full 10 minutes sniffing a blanket that belonged to Kitten who has been gone for several years now. A box was open and she took a collar and then laid on it most the day.
    For the majority of the world and the so called animal lovers that treat their own charges like throw away trash it’s much more comfortable to think they don’t think.

    • Thanks for that ME. I have to respectfully disagree with you though about cats being able to cry tears for an emotional reason. Nice story.

      • I’m not going to get into a long debate because everyone has their own view. I do maintain that humans feel the need to dumb animals down to justify the treatment they receive.

      • I have to respectfully disagree with Michael as well. I cannot speculate about cats, but I’ve seen hundreds of animal feeds over the years about animal abuse. One such video that comes to mind is of an elephant that was separated from its newborn baby. The mother elephant trumpeted very loudly and did produce what looked like tears. Fast forward about ten years. The mother elephant had been living in a sanctuary for a time, but never really got over her depression according to sanctuary experts. Eventually, the now-grown baby was found and reunited with its mother (don’t know how they figured that out but that’s beside the point). As soon as baby and mamma were reunited, momma trumpted with joy and, once again, tears streamed down her face and trunk as both lovingly wrapped their trunks together in affection.

        When my brother’s Alsatian (Grizzley Bear) died of old age, his companion cat (Midget) sniffed the dead body before it was removed for the vet to be cremated. For the next few weeks, Midget went from room-to-room wailing and refused to leave Grizzley’s bed and blanket. It was really pitiful to witness. Midget died within a few months afterward. Although the diagnosis was renal failure, I cannot help but think he also died of a broken heart.

  2. Without researching this, my first thought is that on a primitive level, we cry as a result of feeling something is terribly wrong, and when we are at our most vulnerable (infancy) everything from the neck up is geared to scream “help me”. Ergo, extreme firing of neurons all over the place (facial muscles): mouth wide open for screaming, cheeks, nose running, blood pumping, eyebrows furrowed, eyes/lids/tear ducts… it’s all on fire electrically. I agree that cats are not geared for “help me” like we are… we’re such babies, but I disagree that cats don’t feel deeply. Just tonight when I read the article about senior cats being split up from one being adopted and the other not… I think they suffer in silence, which as with us can be devastating especially to our health. Human males have suffered in society as they held everything in to “be a man about it”. My father died ultimately of heart failure related stress he never felt relieved of. Men to this day can’t even say they’re lonely else they also feel like a wimp. We’re just not supposed to let on. With us it’s a cultural thing, with cats it’s a survival thing but it manifests and damages us physically… We suspect it happens with cats and I’m pretty sure of it and that’s evidence enough that they feel deep sorrow and stress.

    • Thanks Albert for the insight. I also concur with your opinion. At the shelter, we’ve seen time and again bonded pairs of cats and dogs who absolutely went berserk and became depressed when they were separated. A case in point was a dog who was adopted and the other left behind. The remaining dog became depressed and refused to eat. The adopted dog was returned within a couple weeks for the same reason. Once the two were reunited, they both perked up, played, ate normally and did everything together like nothing ever happened. As a result, the condition of adoption was that both dogs had to remain together. Fortunately, that happened to the pair and periodically get videos from their family of their antics.

      It’s also happened with bonded cats. Pretty much the same scenario more than once. Sometimes siblings are not bonded and could care less. We have had the occasional situation with two cats, unrelated, that bonded and had to be adopted together for the same reason. I concur with Albert that cats suffer in silence for the same reason given.

      When either of my two have teary eyes, I know it’s because of feeling ill. The bond with all of us is such that when either don’t feel good, they search me out. It’s truly a special thing.


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