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Why Do Cats Cry Like Babies – Myths & Explainations

Have you ever been sleeping peacefully when, all of a sudden, your slumber is shockingly interrupted by the grating sound of your howling cat? The howl is sharp, shrill, and loud – and even, oddly, sounds like a baby crying; it may even alarm you the first time you hear it. So why do cats cry like babies?

Cats cry like babies to communicate a need such as food, water, or attention. Female cats cry when they are in heat. Cats can alter the sound of their voices from short meows to long howls to signal a specific response. 

Cats are intelligent, and they recognize the power of communication. So, even though the noise is often startling enough to wake you up and jolt you out of bed, don’t be concerned. Hey, we all know how overdramatic cats can be!

And if you’ve ever heard your cat yowling in the middle of the night and initially thought it was a baby, you’re not alone. Many cats can alter their voices to sound like an infant’s cry. Is this an intentional manipulation because cats have figured out that a distressed child’s sound is more likely to garner human attention? Or is it merely a coincidence?

What Is It Called When A Cat Cries

More than a simple meow, and not precisely a howl; when a cat expresses distress in the middle of the night, experts categorize this as caterwauling.

It’s as if they knew there needed to be a word to define this extremely distinctive type of yowl. If you’ve ever heard your cat caterwaul, you know exactly why it needed to be differentiated! It’s sharp, high-pitched, and filled with emotion; it’s typically unlike any other sound a cat makes.

And how convenient that it has the word “cat” in it. It’s like they planned it that way.

Cats sure are cunning creatures – but the jury is still out on this one. But what exactly does the crying mean? Why do cats only do it at night? Can cats cry tears?

What Does It Mean When A Cat Cries

Like I mentioned before, often when a cat cries, it’s merely based on something that she wants – but doesn’t need.

She may be hungry! This is a common one: if your cat gets hungry, she has no problem letting you know. REM cycle or not.

But beware: if it is hunger, avoid the temptation of getting up to feed her whenever she howls at night. She’ll then learn that crying at night leads to food, and you’ve suddenly got a bad habit on your hands! Instead, feed your kitty in the evening so that her tummy doesn’t start to growl at the stroke of midnight.

Another reason may be that she sees another cat. If she’s spending her late-night hours patrolling the windows and sees another feline roaming the area – it’s howl time. Cats are naturally territorial creatures, so they get distressed if they see a fellow feline on their turf.

In this case, a yowl could mean she wants out (she may need to have some words with the intruder). Or, if she’s an indoor cat, it could be a sign of anxiety and helplessness, not being able to do anything. (If she’s an only cat, she also may want to say hey to a new friend.)

Alternatively, and unfortunately, yowling could be a symptom of illness or injury; if it happens often and you can’t figure out why – you may want to consult your vet.

Why Do Cats Cry at Night

Think about it: you’re awoken in the middle of the night by a yowl, but have you ever heard it during the day?

Cats generally save their cries of despair for the late-night hours (much to the dismay of our sleep cycle). But it’s not because they don’t want you to get your beauty sleep (they’re not that vengeful!).

Felines are nocturnal creatures, which means they’re most active at night. (Plus, they’re much too busy with all those daytime cat naps to worry about yowling!) This also means that they’re more likely to get lonely at night; they’re ready to hang, and you’re conked out.

Isolation is a big reason for howling. Mainly if your cat is brand new to your home and more accustomed to being around, say, a litter of fellow kittens or a shelter filled with other cats.

If you suspect this to be the case, make him a comfortable spot in your bedroom. Sure, you won’t be the active companion he may seek, but in many cases, your presence is enough.

Why Do Male Cats Cry Like A Baby At Night

The short answer? He’s trying to mate. Male cats hit puberty anywhere between four months and a year; when it happens, his body alerts him that it’s time to start repopulating – so he starts the hunt for a nice lady.

Sure it’s less romantic than a candlelit dinner, but yowling is how cats alert each other that they’re on the market. And be aware: if your baby boy starts doing this, keep a close eye on him. Keep him inside at all times – otherwise, he’ll enter fatherhood before you know it.

Yes, by the way – female cats do this too! When they’re in heat, they’ll try to alert every potential male candidate that she’s looking for love. 

Therefore, the same rules apply for females: keep your in-heat little lady inside 24 hours a day. Unless you want a house full of newborn kittens on your hands (and are willing to take on the responsibility of finding them good homes!).

Or, to prevent this situation from happening in the first place, follow Bob Barker’s advice: “Have your pets spayed or neutered!”

Is Cat Crying A Bad Sign

As mentioned previously, typically, cat crying is normal and merely a sign of boredom. But it can occasionally be a sign of something worse.

Newly adopted cats, for example, may feel confused or disoriented in their new homes. Older cats, in particular, have a more challenging time adapting to a new setting. 

Yes, you are providing your new adoptee with a better place to live than, say, the streets or a shelter. But, as comfortable as it is, he may get confused about why everything is different all of a sudden.

Continue to be a loving and patient cat parent; he’ll eventually get used to his new environment!

Conversely, though your kitty may not be in a new home, he may keep feeling like it. Some cats – especially older ones – may develop cognitive dysfunction syndrome. This disease is the feline version of Alzheimer’s; cats living with it get easily confused, disoriented, and anxious.

Though there is no cure, having a consistent schedule and safe environment helps; a vet can also prescribe medication, like anti-anxiety pills.

Do Cats Cry Tears When They Are Sad

Cats exhibit a range of emotions, just like humans. They can be happy (purring!), angry (hissing!), and – yes – sad.

You can tell if your cat is sad by her body language; has she stopped eating? Stopped engaging in her regular activities? Acting more standoffish and lethargic than usual?

These behaviors are all signs that your cat might be sad for one reason or another; she might even whimper or whine. However, cats do not cry actual tears. Studies show that humans are the only mammals to shed tears when experiencing a strong emotion.

Why Is My Cat Crying Tears

Again – cats don’t shed physical tears based on emotion. So if your cat has moisture or tears in his eyes, this is likely a sign of something out of place.

It could be something simple: a speck of dust, a light scratch, or even clogged tear ducts. 

But if the tearing persists, it may be more severe, such as:

  • Allergies
  • Infections
  • Pink eye, or conjunctivitis
  • An upper respiratory infection

And even a round head! Yes, oddly enough, cats with rounded heads are more likely to tear up.

Overall, if this problem persists, see your vet right away to prevent the issue from worsening.

How Can I Prevent My Cat From Crying at Night

So! If you’re suffering from poor sleep due to your cat’s constant cries, there is still hope!

As mentioned, though a cat yowl (caterwaul!) sounds severe, it’s usually a sign of something minor.

Every evening, make sure she’s happy and satiated:

  • Ensure that her food and water bowls are stocked
  • Keep her litter box cleaned up
  • Plug in nightlights around your home if your cat is older and has a more challenging time seeing
  • Provide some quality playtime and affection!

Most importantly, unless you think it’s something concerning, try to refrain from getting up when you hear a yowl. Your bored or hungry cat will learn that this is the ticket for your attention, therefore reinforcing her actions.

And yes, this behavior is annoying, but take it as a compliment! She likes hanging out with you!