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Why do kittens cry?

Grey and white kitten looking like he is going to cry advice © Unsplash

We get it - the sound of a kitten crying is heartbreaking! After all, you just want your little furbaby to be happy and content. But why do kittens cry and how can you help?

By Alice Lang

We’ve all been there. After waiting for weeks for the new, tiny and fluffy family member to come home and preparing a cozy space for it to live in, you think everything will go smoothly. 

But wait - it’s only been a few hours and your kitten is crying, whimpering and wailing like crazy. It’s a difficult sound to hear from any animal, let alone a teeny, tiny baby kitty!

Why do kittens cry?

Your kitten is a different species to you - they can’t speak your language. It’d be great if they could just say “Mum, I’m hungry” or “Dad, I’m feeling sick” - but sadly, that’s never going to happen.

What they can do, though, is cry and meow. If you hear your kitten crying, they’re probably asking you for help. After all, they’ve been used to having their Mum there to help them - now, that’s your responsibility!

All you’ve got to do is figure out what the problem is. Here are the most common reasons for kitten crying and how you can help:

Your kitten is lonely

If you’ve just taken an 8 - 12 week old kitten home, think about things from their perspective for a moment. They’ve spent those first few weeks of their life cozied up with their siblings, with the constant care and attention of their Mum. It’s easy for young kittens to cry out of loneliness - there’s a lot of change happening.

It’s very common for kittens to cry out for their littermates and Mum. We know it’s heartbreaking, but they do adapt with time. The best thing you can do is spend lots of quality time getting to know them and making sure they have a comfortable, cozy hideaway. Give them lots of cuddles, spend some time playing with their toys and ensure they’ve got a snuggly, warm bed to sleep in.

If you work full-time, consider hiring a pet-sitter or asking a friend to pop in and spend some time with your kitten half way through your shift. 8 hours is too long for a young kitten to be left alone.

Your kitten feels lost and confused

Is your kitten crying all the time and has free run of the entire house? That could be the exact issue. You might feel that allowing them to explore their new surroundings freely is the kindest thing to do, but it can actually feel rather overwhelming for a tiny little kitten.

Set up a special room for your kitten. Put their bed in there, along with some warm blankets, toys, litter box and food/water bowls. That way, they can easily find their litter box when needed and won’t get lost in the house. You can slowly introduce them to the rest of your home with time - but it’s important to start small.

Your kitten is hungry

What does a human baby do when they’re hungry? Cry out for food, of course. Well, it’s not different for kittens. If you notice kitten crying every few hours, it might be your kitty’s way of asking for their next meal.

There are two things to consider here: Are you feeding your kitten enough and do they have a feeding schedule? Kittens need more food than adult cats - they’re rapidly growing and have bundles of energy.

If you notice constant kitten crying, increase the amount of food you’re giving them and see if it helps. A feeding schedule may help your kitten settle in and bring some routine to their lives - but do be aware that kittens need to be fed 3-5 small meals per day. Lastly, make sure you’re feeding them a kitten formula specifically, which will contain more calories and different nutrients to adult cat food.

Your kitten needs to go to the toilet

Kittens are often funny about using the litter box at first. You might notice kitten crying before, after or during going to the toilet. Mostly, this is just a case of getting used to it - all you can do is make sure the litter box is cleaned regularly and is easily accessible for your kitty.

If the crying is excessive during defecation and your kitten seems to be pushing with nothing coming out, it’s worth a trip to the vet to see if they’re struggling with constipation or another gastrointestinal problem.

Your kitten is ill or in pain

Kitten illness isn’t always visible - so if your kitten won’t stop crying, they might be asking you for help. If you suspect they might be under the weather, look out for other symptoms such as lethargy, sickness, diarrhoea, pale gums and loss of appetite. Kittens can become dehydrated very quickly, so it’s best to get them checked out as early as possible.

It’s also possible that your kitten crying is due to pain or an injury - but this sort will probably sound more like a shriek than their normal cry. If you hear one of these piercing, excessive cries from a kitten, get to the vet as soon as you can.

Now you know what causes your kitten to cry,  you’ll be able to help out your new little troublemaker whenever they need you. If you can’t figure out the cause of your kitten’s constant crying and nothing seems to help, we’d recommend asking your vet to investigate the problem further.