If you’re here, chances are it’s because your cat meows a lot; maybe even wakes you up with loud begging every morning, or cries at your bedroom door at night, and you just want to know if kitty is telling you he or she isn’t feeling well or if kitty’s simply being vocal and is indeed just another of the many cats who whine and beg when they’re trying to get your attention for some food, play time, or a cuddle.
You’re right to think your cat might be sick. Meowing is one of the only ways cats can communicate with humans, and we all know that unfortunately cats can’t turn their meows into a language that we can interpret to give us a clearer indication of what they’re all trying to tell us. So while we’re certainly not always being meowed at over something serious, if a lot of meowing persists, it’s a good idea to pay close attention and to suspect that something may be wrong.
You could just save your kitty’s life.
So how do you tell whether your cat is crying because he or she is sick or if kitty is just being vocal? Here’s my advice..
First, Figure Out If Kitty Is Meowing About Something Specific
Is your cat only crying at a specific time of day? After a certain event happens? Chances are, kitty’s trying to tell you it’s unhappy about that particular thing.
Cat crying near a water bowl that’s empty? Your cat is probably telling you it needs a top up. Closing your door at night these days? Your cat may be whining near it demanding an open door so he/she can come in for a nighttime cuddle. Lots of whining when you cook? Kitty may be telling you he/she approves of your dinner and wants a serving, too.
How can you tell if your cat is trying to inform you about something he/she specifically wants? If the whining stops once you “fix” the problem – if your cat stops crying once the water is refilled, the door is open, or the dinner is served to him/her – then that’s all there was to the crying.
But if your cat continues to whine, and does so throughout the day, chances are there’s another problem – and that problem may be a health issue.
Unfortunately for you – you came here to find out how to determine for yourself whether your cat has health problems, and I’m going to tell you to first take any suspicions you have straight to a vet.
Bummed out by my reply? Hold off for a minute and let me explain…
Why You Need to Take Your Cat to the Vet If Kitty Cries Often
There are a slew of reasons why kitty might be whining, and while you may feel like it’s unlikely – hell it may even be incredibly unlikely – that any of them are medical or health related reasons, you need to be certain.
Don’t gamble with your pet’s health because you are pretty sure your kitty is okay and just whining because he or she is hyper-vocal. That’s not fair to your cat, and if something is wrong, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Go to the vet and make sure everything is is okay.
Vets are the only people who can confirm your suspicion that kitty is just being vocal – no article on the net can do that; doesn’t matter how convincing the article may be that nothing is wrong. You have that suspicion: it’s possibly there for a very good reason. Call up your vet, make an appointment, take your kitty in, and let the vet know you’re worried something might be wrong because kitty cries quite a lot. Get the vet to rule out all the health problems that may exist.
Taking your cat to the vet for a checkup and getting the vet to look into anything that may be wrong is the only way to know that kitty is healthy and is actually just vocal, rather than unhealthy and trying to tell you something is wrong.
When Can I Rule Out Health Problems?
Take your cat to the vet and tell him or her:
- Exactly what brought you (the whining)
- Exactly when and how often the whining takes place (whenever kitty uses the litter? – may be a UTI)
- Exactly what you’re feeding kitty (wet or dry? what brand of cat food & treats? – as the food may be the issue)
- Exactly how much you’re feeding kitty
Once the vet has done his/her examination of your cat and you are satisfied with your vet’s opinion (if you want a second vet’s opinion, get it!); only then should you rule out health problems as a potential reason for your kitty crying too much.
My Vet Said It’s Not a Health Issue; What Else Could It Be?
There are a few different things it could be if your vet has ruled out any and all health issues.
1. Your cat may be whining for food.
If you feed your cat meals many times per day, delve out a lot of cat treats outside of mealtime, or feed your cat bites of your own food regularly – your cat may have the impression that if he/she whines enough, food will be delivered any time he/she wants (and he/she may be right ;)). You may essentially have trained your cat to whine for food!
The best way to test whether your cat is consistently whining in a demand for more food is by sticking to one or two mealtimes a day and not delving out any snacks or “people food” between. If, after about a week, your cat only whines before feeding time, chances are very good you’ve found your solution and your cat is actually just an adorable little beggar, crying out of a desire to eat more food alone.
If you’ve ruled out this issue because your cat is still whining a lot, irregardless of the fact that he/she does not get fed too often and does not get fed outside of mealtimes, onto potential problem #2!
2. Your cat might need more exercise & play.
It can be hard to engage a cat, especially if you have a lazy one at that (I sure do!), but it’s got to be done because if kitty isn’t getting exercise, and isn’t engaging his or her prey drive enough, well that’s absolutely no good for his or her health.
Cats need to get about 20-30 minutes of total play time a day – partly due to a need to exercise, and partly to relieve their natural and biological need to hunt. If they don’t, behavioural issues like crying aren’t the only ones that can result. Your cat can start “hunting you” playfully in an attempt to get you to engage in play, and can begin to get aggressive with the humans in the household over time due to his or her pent up visceral need to hunt not being used up in engaging play.
If your cat’s hard to engage, try encouraging your cat to play using the techniques in this article. Try new toys, try whatever you can to make play time with kitty easy and fun for both you and your cat – don’t give up!
Need some advice on encouraging a cat to exercise – both with your help and by passively building exercise into his or her day? Check out this article for many tips on cat exercise. You may want to try out some high energy cat toys that encourage cats, especially those that are frequently hyper and have a lot of energy, to exercise intensively during play. A kibble-incentivized work out before meals, as well for exercise, or if it makes life easier for you and your kitty, a daily food & fitness routine.
Of course, if you get to the point where kitty’s getting enough play time, and you try to increase play time throughout the day and your cat is not having any of it, move on to try the next thing.
3. Your cat might be bored.
Boredom is a killer. Well, not really, but it feels like it. You hate boredom, why should your cat be any different? Make sure there’s plenty for a cat to do around your house. Add bird feeders so your cat can bird watch (ones that stick to the window are amazing for that). Maybe even a closed off fish tank so that your cat always has something interesting besides birds to watch. Put in a crazy cat tree, make an awesome cat wall out of jumping shelves and cat climbers for your cat to have fun on – make sure boredom is unlikely.
If adding interesting things to your cat’s environment lessens his/her whining, you’ve found your problem. If it lessens your cat’s whining at first, but after a few days, the whining returns, it’s highly likely that your cat is whining out of boredom and the crying has returned because your kitty’s already gotten bored of the new things you put in. The solution: find new, new things. Ones that will keep kitty’s interest for longer.
Having trouble remedying cat boredom? Use these tips to passively keep a bored cat entertained – with no extra effort on your part!
If you’ve really fixed all potential boredom issues, and have been adding new, interesting things for your cat to do and yet it hasn’t made a dent in the whining: okay, then! It’s on to the next potential problem.
4. Your cat might be trying to get more attention from you.
I really don’t think you’re starving your cat of affection – after all you’re sitting here reading an article trying to help your kitty out, but either way, you’ve gotta rule this option out by giving your kitty even more attention just to confirm this isn’t the issue. Pet kitty, spend time with kitty, put kitty in your lap when he/she starts meowing and if that stops him/her from crying, chances are good your cat just wants more of your attention.
Some cats, plainly put, need much more attention than others. If you think this may be your cat, take a look at this article for tips on identifying causes behind attention-seeking behaviours, and advice with regard to what you should do in case your cat requires more attention than you can offer.
Tonnes of meowing still taking place? Putting kitty in your lap and giving him/her the attention she usually adores not stopping the whining at all? This then probably isn’t the problem. Try testing to see whether it’s this last issue:
5. Your cat may be upset about a change in his/her environment.
New kitty? Your old one may be trying to protest to the introduction of this new visitor. Scratching post recently broke down and finally hit its end life? Your feline friend may be requesting you put in an order for a new one.
Kitty like fresh water? Your cat might be asking for his/her water bowl to be refilled more frequently. Been a lot of bugs in the house lately? Kitty might be trying to notify you about their existence.
Same as when you’re trying to figure out whether kitty’s crying over something specific, pay close attention to when your cat is crying to see if you can figure out an environmental cause for the crying. Think about the changes that may have happened in your cat’s environment recently and try to figure out if your cat’s trying to tell you something about them. Again, meowing is the only way cats have to communicate with us, so if there’s something kitty is trying to say, chances are good that crying is the only way he/she knows to get your attention to tell you about it.
Make sure you don’t automatically assume that there are no health problems just because there has been an obvious environmental change recently. Make sure to assume there might be a health issue causing kitty’s crying first – and pay your vet a visit. The fact that you have a new kitty in the house or that there have been a lot of bugs at home recently may just be a coincidence – your cat still might be trying to tell you about a health problem, maybe one contracted by the new kitty or eating an insect-repellent sprayed bug – so be sure to check kitty into the vet’s before looking for environmental explanations as to why kitty’s crying more.
Is My Cat Just Really Vocal?
This is an option, but the only time you should assume this is what’s up is if you have quite literally ruled out every other option AND your cat has always been as whiny as he or she is now.
If your cat has increased his or her whining as of late, something has obviously changed, even if that’s just increased boredom.
If you’re kitty’s crying more than usual you’ve already cleared him or her at the vet, cut down feeding any food or snacks to only once or twice a day during mealtimes, if you’ve tried playing with kitty more, increased the amount of stimulating things you have around the house, attempted to give your cat even more attention, and nothing in kitty’s environment has changed; if after all this, still nothing has given you any indication as to why your cat is being vocal – you may want to go back to your vet, or even find another vet who might have a better idea as to what’s happening with kitty. Cats don’t change their behaviour for no reason, just like humans don’t.
As ADohmen so kindly pointed out in the comments – take your cat to the vet again after about a month if excessive crying continues because the crying could signal a developing problem, such as a thyroid condition that first tests did not pick up on.
But yes, if you’ve done that – you’ve ruled out every health option, every other potential issue there may be, and your cat has always been a pretty whiny cat; if nothing has actually changed in the realm of your kitty’s behaviour and you’re just alarmed that your cat hasn’t “grown out of” being a vocal cat – well you’ve likely just got a very talkative feline on your hands and there’s nothing more to it than that.
Your Experiences With Cat Crying?
Do you know any particularly talkative cats? Have you ever experienced a situation where your cat was whining quite a bit more than usual and it turned out to be an indication of a health problem?
Have I missed any explanations for why a cat would cry in this article?
Let me know in the comments! Would love to hear your thoughts & stories.
Afton Jackson says
Thank you for talking about how a vet visit might be able to identify any problems your cat might be having. We recently moved to a new home that’s much larger than our previous one, and our cat has been making so much noise ever since we arrived. With that in mind, I’ll take your advice and give our local veterinarian a visit and take my cat with me so we can figure out if there’s a larger problem here.
My (new) cat is 16 years old and only cries when I leave the room. Like clock work, after 10 seconds of being alone she starts letting out unholy sounds. I’m scared it will cause issues with my housemate. Since he owns the house he would have the final word as to whether she stays.
Do you have ANY theories on this? I would really, really appreciate your feedback as I’m at my wits end.
Elise Xavier says
My cat Avery is like this, and always has been. Each and every time we’re in a different room, he’ll also cry. We have dinner in the kitchen, and he doesn’t like hanging out there very much, so throughout the entirety of dinner every day he’ll complain, meowing at us every 5 minutes or so to come back and keep him company.
In terms of causing issues with housemates, I would directly ask your housemate if he’s ever bothered by anything your cat does, so you can fix exactly what he dislikes. My theories with regards to the whining – they just don’t like being left alone, unfortunately. Many cats also really dislike closed doors, and Avery used to whine on both sides when I needed to keep a door closed, first whining to get in then whining to get out. The solution if your cat cries only when you need to leave the house is to distract him or her with food in a slow-feeder food toy and put on a radio or something like that for the feeling of company to help with separation anxiety. But for cats that object whenever you leave the room, I haven’t managed to find a fix, besides bringing them into the other room you’re in, going back in to be present with them, or maybe getting another pet to keep them company.
Please if anyone else has suggestions to try, do let me know.
That is comforting to know that it may just be a behavior some cats exhibit. Thank you for your detailed response! I very much appreciate it. I think she’s calming down in general. She still cries when she realizes I went somewhere else, but she will now either follow me or stop after a few minutes. Phew!
Elise Xavier says
So glad she’s mellowed out – and so soon! 🙂 I guess she may have thought each time you left that you’d be gone a long time, and now is okay with the fact that when you leave, you’ll probably be back to keep her company again in no time.
Cats are such strange creatures sometimes! Really wish they were easier to interpret.
Breed: Bengals love to be vocal screaming at the top of there voice just to let everyone know hes up awake and wants some attention..especially in a multi cat house then its a come play with me or where is everyone..
Elise Xavier says
This is such a good point! Some breeds are so incredibly vocal it’s ridiculous! Haha.
I know one cat personally who does just what you said – screams at the top of his lungs just let everyone know he’s in need of some attention! It’s so endearing and completely normal to be “yelling” at the top of his lungs – coming from him I’d never think this behaviour was anything more than saying, “Hello! You should spend some time with me!”.
Even if the vet says there is nothing wrong, bring him back for retesting in a couple of months. It could be a sign of a developing problem, such as thyroid. The first tests may not pick it up. Also, consider dental problems which may not be obvious without x-rays.
Elise Xavier says
This is really good advice. Adding it to the article – thank you so much ADohmen.
Shawn Jorgensen says
Excellent info and very timely!
Elise Xavier says
Thanks! Glad you found it useful 🙂
My cat cries so somebody can hang out with her while she eats. Honestly, my cats are pretty good about leading me to what they want- trust your kitty! If they run off they might be leading you to food, water, or even prey; not just trying to be a nuisance. My kitty sometimes goes to find a table to jump on since she knows it allows me to pet her easily.
Elise Xavier says
That’s pretty cute, not wanting to eat alone!
Agreed – cats do get used to communicating with humans over time and can definitely lead you to exactly the reason they’re “talking” about. A lot of times I find they change their meows, too, depending on what they’re trying to tell you.
And that is the most adorable <3 A petting zone. 🙂 🙂
Thanks for dropping by!!
Ellen Pilch says
Excellent post. I agree a trip to the vet is in order, especially if this is a new behavior. Two of my hyperthyroid cats tend to get vocal at night.
Elise Xavier says
Thanks for sharing, Ellen! I knew cats with hyperthyroid issues tend to be more vocal, but didn’t know that there might be a pattern with the time of day they’d be more vocal.
Pam Greer says
Such good information!
Elise Xavier says
Thanks, Pam 🙂