The short answer: no. But that doesn’t mean cats are exempt from feeling sadness.
We turned to The Cat Whisperer, Mieshelle Nagelschneider, for better explanation. When asked if cats cry, she replied: “Not like us. They’re not sobbers with tears rolling down their eyes, but they can get upset or unhappy and they can do a vocalization and they can scream out in pain, but not cry.”
She broke it down even further by explaining something Charles Darwin originally discovered.
“Everything is on a spectrum and Darwin believed that if people can feel certain emotions, animals can feel all of those,” she said, “But it’s not on the same degree or on the same spectrum level that humans feel it. It’s different.
“They can be sad and they can become depressed,” Nagelschneider continued. “Cats can do a really sad meow, but it’s not like crying. It’s not tears rolling [down their face] and balling like people, no, but they can still feel that emotion, that sadness.”
While cats may not shed tears as an emotional response, they can tear up for medical reasons–just like a human can. Dr. Sheri Morris of the Willamette Valley Animal Hospital in Keizer, Oregon said that cats can tear up “just like us, if our eyes water because of something in the air, then that’s possible.”
“My opinion if we’re talking about [cats] crying tears is that it would be mostly associated with ocular discomfort. Ocular discharge [such as tears] is associated with viral disease, allergies, and infection,” Morris said.
If you are concerned about your cat’s tears, Morris recommends seeking a veterinarian for help “if it [is] persistent . . . cats are right at floor level, so different carpet cleaners can cause irritation to the eye. If it’s a persistent problem, I think that’s more of a concern than if it’s a little watery right now.”