Cat ‘crying’: Can felines shed tears?

If you’ve ever noticed your cat having teary or watery eyes, you may have wondered what caused it — and whether your cat sheds emotional tears like humans.

Some cat owners are led to believe that their feline friends shed emotional tears after seeing them with teary eyes soon after a sad event, such as after losing a kitten.

But do watery or teary eyes mean cats express emotions like humans? Do cats cry emotional tears?

If you want to find out more about teary eyes in cats, here is the long and the short of everything you need to know.

Do cats cry?

Cats sometimes get teary-eyed because they have tear ducts like humans. They also experience emotions such as sadness, grieving, or unhappiness.

Cats experience emotions such as anger, fright, joy, sadness, loneliness, and pain. However, unlike humans, they don’t shed emotional tears.

If you noticed your cat shedding tears at a time when they had reason to be sad, grieving, or unhappy, this will only have been a coincidence — they weren’t shedding tears because they felt emotional.

However, your pet may get teary-eyed for other reasons. Read on to learn about the reasons why your cat has watery eyes.

What makes cats shed tears?

Your cat’s eyes may become watery for several reasons. Most cases have an underlying medical cause and are not due to emotion.

Some of the medical causes may be minor, while others are serious.


Both cat and human eyes become watery when a foreign body (such as a speck of dust) lands on the outer layer and causes a reaction.

A blow to the eyes or anything brushing against or bruising the eye may also cause tears and reddening.


An infection can cause your cat’s eyes to become red and watery.

Conjunctivitis (pink eye) causes reddening and watery eyes. Some cases of conjunctivitis are due to viral or bacterial infections.

However, irritants, such as specks of dust, chemicals, and pollutants, also cause conjunctivitis.

Symptoms of conjuctivitis besides watery discharge and reddening include swelling and incessant rubbing, blinking, squinting, and shut eyelids.

Shut eyelids may be due to eyelashes being stuck together by a sticky discharge. Your cat may have a white, green, or yellowish discharge from the eyes.


Allergens such as pollen sometimes cause teary eyes and reddening. Your cat may be allergic to certain foods, dust, smoke, chemicals, cosmetics, and cleaning products.

Watery eyes due to an allergic reaction can be associated with sneezing and itching.

Upper respiratory tract infections (cat flu)

An upper respiratory tract infection (cat flu) may cause eye symptoms such as tears and reddening.

Feline herpesvirus or calicivirus causes cat flu. Symptoms include watery discharge, redding, discharge from the nose, sneezing, listlessness, and loss of appetite.


Other medical conditions that cause watery eyes include glaucoma and corneal ulcers.

Tear duct problems may also cause watery eyes.

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