Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Cats > Why Do Kittens Cry? 9 Likely Reasons

Why Do Kittens Cry? 9 Likely Reasons

stray cat with blind on one eye crying sadly on the street

Almost nothing is cuter than a kitten – particularly when they are your kitten! But as a new owner, you might be perplexed as to why your little furball seems to be mewing a lot.

When kittens cry, there are a number of reasons behind it, pretty much like any baby. But learning why your kitten is crying is important because it means they have a need that must be met.

We’ll cover the most common reasons a kitten might be vocalizing and what you can do to help them.

divider-cat

The 9 Reasons Why Kittens Cry

1. Hunger

Hunger is a strong motivator for lots of crying! If they seem to be hungry a lot, you should ensure you are feeding them enough. A feeding schedule is best for older kittens and adult cats, but if your kitten is under 3 months of age, they should be fed wet food when hungry.

Bengal breed kitten eating rice
Image Credit: Vanilin Ka, Shutterstock

2.  Loneliness

If your kitten is newly adopted, they are likely lonely for their mother and littermates and are looking for them. You’ll need to spend plenty of time with your kitten to help with the loneliness and stress.

It can be beneficial if you adopt two kittens at the same time, which will give them constant companionship, but only if you have the financial means and are able to take care of two cats.


3.  Sickness

If your kitten is mewing a lot and seems lethargic or dazed, they might be sick. Other signs of illness might not be too obvious, so if you notice your kitten not acting like they usually do in addition to the vocalizing, take them to your vet straight away.

Most cats don’t show signs of illness until the problem has progressed, and they don’t usually make a sound while ill. If your kitten goes silent or cries very loudly, speak to your vet.

kitten with conjunctivitis and corneal ulcer
Image Credit: Todorean-Gabriel, Shutterstock

4.  Pain

This cry leaves no doubt something is wrong. If your kitten suddenly lets out piercing cries, they are in distress and need immediate help. It could be for a number of reasons, such as having their tail stepped on accidentally or a limb caught in something.

If they just need rescuing from a caught claw or something equally easy to deal with, check them over to ensure there isn’t any serious damage. Otherwise, take them to your vet if you suspect an injury.


5.  Confusion

If a new kitten is given access to the entire home (especially if it’s a large home), they might become lost and cry because they are scared and confused. This also can occur if they can’t find the litter box or their cat bed.

When you bring home a new kitten, try to keep their living space in a contained area for the first week or so. Once they are confident and have gotten accustomed to their new living arrangement, you can start to open up other parts of your home.

snowshoe cat kitten in blanket
Image Credit: EVasilieva, Shutterstock

6.  Need to Poop

This one might be more apparent because your kitten might cry while straining to poop. But this is more common with kittens 8 weeks or younger, so if your kitten is over 8 weeks and seems to cry each time they defecate, you should see your vet.

If they seem to be struggling to poop, there might be issues with diarrhea or constipation, or some other gastrointestinal distress. This absolutely must be looked after by your veterinarian.


7.  Bored

Your kitten might just be trying to get your attention because they are bored and want you to entertain them. You must spend time playing with your kitten every day, or they will become bored, which will turn into destructive behavior.

Playtime allows your kitten time to bond with you and provides them with much-needed physical exercise and mental stimulation.

Savannah F5 kitten on the wooden table
Image Credit: Yana Vydrenkova, Shutterstock

8.  They Are Complaining

It’s pretty easy to offend a kitten, pretty much any cat at any age, really, but if your kitten finds something not up to their standards, they will let you know! These will be more like indignant cries when they are unhappy about something, like if you didn’t feed them fast enough or you left them alone for too long.


9. Needs to Use the Litter Box

Kittens are still developing, and they often get confused about using the litter box. In fact, it’s pretty normal for kittens to cry out before and after using the litter box. If the cat doesn’t seem to be straining or in pain, this is perfectly normal.

However, if the kitten is straining or seems to be in pain, it’s best to take them to a vet to see if an underlying issue needs to be taken care of. Diarrhea, constipation, and gastrointestinal issues should be dealt with immediately in a kitten since they can prove fatal.

gray-kitten-sleeps-in-the-cat-litter-box
Image Credit: Dikova Maria, Shutterstock

divider-cat

What the Different Meows Might Mean

Really young kittens don’t have a lot of variation in their meows. But as they get older, kittens will start to incorporate different meows for their ever-changing moods. Keep in mind this is just a general guide to the different sounds your cat might make and what they might mean.

High-Pitched Meows

A high-pitched meow is usually used to get your attention, and it might be because they are hungry or looking to play or be cuddled. When they start chirping and purring, they are super happy and content.

But if you hear a sudden high-pitched, shrill meow, the kitten is either startled or hurt, which will need your immediate attention.


Low-Pitched Meows

The low-pitched meow might be accompanied by a growl or hiss, meaning your kitten is scared, angry, or startled. The kitten will also puff themselves up and hunch their back in addition to the vocalizations.

When they do low-pitched meows around another pet or person, they are communicating to leave them alone.

Black kitten with tongue sticking out
Image Credit: S. Jones, Shutterstock

Long Drawn-Out Meows

If your kitten is emitting long, drawn-out meows, it might indicate they are in pain, particularly if they appear lethargic or seem needier than usual.

Excessive mournful-sounding meows mean something is likely wrong, so if your kitten seems off, get them to your vet immediately.

divider-cat

How Do You Help Your Crying Kitten?

As your kitten gets older and you’ve gotten to know them better, you’ll start to recognize what is normal behavior and when something might be wrong.

But if you’re still trying to figure your kitten out, there are some steps you can take when they start meowing at you.

Check the Dishes

If your kitten seems healthy, check the food and water bowls because they might just be hungry or thirsty.


Spend Some Quality Time

If the meows are attention-seeking, they might want to spend some time with you, so enjoy a petting and cuddling session with your kitten.

A cute young blue Burmese kitten in the arms of a person
Image Credit: Angela Kotsell, Shutterstock

Litter Box Issues

Check the litter box. Some kittens might not want to use the litter box if it’s been used. Some cat parents have to scoop every time their cat uses it!

Also, ensure their litter box is large enough and that they haven’t outgrown it. A cat’s litter box should be large enough for them to walk in and comfortably turn around.

Finally, if your kitten has a clean and large-enough box but still seems reluctant to use it, it might be the litter itself. Try some different litter with different textures. And don’t use scented litter because some cats have sensitive noses and might not like the fragrance.


Have a Play Session

Your kitten might be bored, so engage them in playtime and ensure they have enough toys to play with when you’re unavailable.

kitten gnawing fingers
Image By: lowpower225, Shutterstock

Call the Vet

And as we’ve discussed multiple times, if something seems wrong and it’s not the usual attention-seeking meows, speak to your vet.

divider-cat

Final Thoughts

A kitten crying isn’t always a bad thing. Your kitten usually just wants you to pay attention to them – with food, play, or some cuddling.

But sometimes, it can be because they are not feeling well, are hurt, or are upset and stressed. You should be able to tell if the crying is unhappy or if they are just complaining indignantly about something.

As long as you pay attention to your kitten, you should be able to figure out how to help them, and before you know it, you’ll have a grown-up cat curled up on your lap, purring contentedly, or at least a happy cat that enjoys pushing your buttons.


Featured Image Credit: FrimuFilms, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets