This question really does divide opinion. While most cat owners will agree that a cat does shed tears, whether they are doing so for emotional reasons is the part that people cannot agree on.
Cats and Crying – The Physical Response
Cats can certainly shed liquid (‘tears’) from their eye ducts. However from a scientific and animal behaviorist point of view – cats cry for medical reasons, not emotional.
When their eyes are contaminated, they will water. Eye irritation from a speck of dust, a scratch from another cat, or the onset of an allergy, will make your cry but only in the physiological sense. Science says it has nothing to do with emotion.
The Emotional Response
However, despite this many cat owners would insist that their beloved pets do in fact feel emotions such as sadness or even joy.
Sadness and pain are communicated by cats, but for the sake of discussion here, these emotions are not demonstrated via leaking tear deducts.
A cat that is feeling down (‘sad’) will show signs such as lethargy, lack of energy, low appetite, little engagement and not wanting to play.
It is believed that the reason humans cry is because as we evolved we have grown more empathetic (empathy is a major attribute to what it means to be human). From an evolutionary perspective, crying would have aided communication, and encouraged cooperation between humans.
Cats are far from empathetic as a species. Shedding tears in order to communicate emotion is therefore a less relevant survival mechanism.
What to do if your cat’s eyes are excessively teary
If your cat seems to be experiencing ocular discharge on a regular basis, you should take them to the vet.
It is highly likely that your cat has picked up a seasonal allergy. Your vet will be able to recommend a suitable form of treatment.
Similarly, you cat may be crying due to eye infection and your vet can subscribe cat eye drops to resolve the issue.
Very rarely is crying in cats a sign of a serious health issue.