13 Warning Signs Your Cat is Crying for Help

Our pets bring us so much joy, warmth, and happiness that we must understand their “silent language” and be able to tell when they need our help. Cats, in particular, can endure pain and suffering in silence without showing signs of pain or discomfort. 

However, there are ways to tell your cat is in pain. This guide will highlight common warning signs your cat is crying for help, including self-isolation, vocalizing, increased aggression, and overwhelming fatigue or lethargy.

warning signs your cat is crying for help
A sick cat

Signs your cat is crying out for help

Common warning signs your cat is crying for help include lack of or excessive grooming, excessive vocalizing, irritability, refusing to eat, excessive vomiting, and sudden changes in body language and appetite.

1. Vocalization

Vocalization in cats is something normal. Yowling, growling, meowing, and hissing are all common sounds cats make. However, if your cat is vocalizing more than usual then it might be in pain. Over vocalizing is not only a way for cats to seek help but it also helps soothe the pain. One thing to note, however, is that not all cats will vocalize more when in pain. Some go silent and hide away from people and other pets.

2. Change in grooming habits

Cats are quite sensitive to their hygiene and you will often find them grooming themselves. If you notice your kitty has completely neglected its hygiene and doesn’t bother to groom itself, you better be sure there is something wrong. Painful conditions are often the reasons cats will avoid grooming themselves. You should also be concerned if your cat is excessively grooming itself as it could be a sign of pain, allergic reactions, or even parasitic infection.

3. Irritability

Another sign your cat is crying for help is being irritable or even aggressive. Cats love to rub against you for different reasons, including to create a bond with you and as a show of friendliness. You should be concerned if you notice your cat is avoiding contact with you or any other family pets. Your cat could be ill, in pain, or suffering from an injury and avoid contact as a way to protect themselves from more pain.

4. Constant hiding

Cats rarely withdraw into hiding unless there’s something wrong. The cause could be something manageable and easy o to fix or something that needs the intervention of a veterinarian. Once in a while, your cat will prefer to stay alone while resting but if this happens for an extended period then you need to schedule a veterinary visit.

5. Refusing to eat

A cat’s refusal to eat could mean many things, from stress and anxiety to illness and painful conditions. Parasitic infections, dental disease, gastrointestinal complications, and even tumors and cancer can make a cat disinterested in food. You should seek veterinary help if your cat refuses to eat for more than 24h hours.

6. Notable changes in gait

Changes in how your cat walk, sit, lie down, jump, or even stand can mean it is in pain or has a health issue that should be checked. For instance, if your cat is walking as though it’s “drunk”, it could be suffering from wobbly cat syndrome, a sensory dysfunction that affects the limbs, head, and neck causing the cat to lose balance when walking.

If you notice your cat dragging back its legs when walking, it could be suffering from aortic thromboembolism, a complication where a blood clot becomes lodged in the back legs causing distress and paralysis. Aortic thromboembolism is common in cats with heart disease.

7. Excessive vomiting

Vomiting in cats is something common. Cats vomit after eating for eating too fast or eating more than they should. However, there are instances when you should be concerned with your cat vomiting. One instance is when your cat vomits repeatedly with vomitus containing blood or foreign materials. Abnormal vomit color should also be an issue of concern. You can read our previous guide on types of cat vomit to understand what each one means and when you should be concerned.

8. Change in body language

A cat’s body language can also be the key to understanding their needs. For instance, a cat in pain will exhibit changes in body posture such as hunched body, paws close to the body, and crouching close to the floor. Other notable signs include tense muzzles, flattened ears, and half-closed eyes. If your cat exhibits these signs for more than a couple hours continuously then you need to seek the help of a veterinarian.

9. Change in litter box habits

Observing your cat’s litter box habits can help you to know when something is wrong. Look for unusual habits such as peeing or pooping outside the litter box or using the litter box more than usual. Cats with arthritis may be feeling too much pain trying to climb into the litter box and so opt to relieve themselves elsewhere. Other infections may also be the cause including UTIs and cystitis.

10. Difficulty passing urine

A cat with a urinary obstruction will struggle to pass urine, and this can be fatal if left untreated. Signs you should look out for include straining while passing urine, producing little urine, vocalizing when urinating, and excessive grooming of the genital area.

11. Change in sleeping routine

Your cat could be crying for help if their sleeping pattern has completely changed. You may notice your cat cannot enjoy even a few minutes of sleep or could be sleeping too much. Pain or illness could be the issue. Lethargy is often a symptom of a health issue, so if you notice your cat is sleeping too much and seems weak, you need to schedule a veterinary visit immediately.

12. Overwhelming fatigue

Cats are generally not as playful as dogs but still, they should not be completely disinterested in almost everything. You should be concerned if your cat is sleeping all the time and appears overly lethargic. Loss of energy is often an indication of an underlying health issue, and you should get your cat checked by a veterinarian.

13. Disinterest in fun activities

Your cat could be crying for help if it is completely disinterested in fun activities such as playing, going outdoors, and exploring its surroundings.  If your cat becomes entirely inactive, is not interested in her favorite activities or toys, and spends hours sleeping in an isolated area, something could be seriously wrong and you need to seek veterinary advice. Your cat could be in pain and any physical exertion makes it worse, which could explain why they choose not to engage.

How to help a cat crying for help

So, what can you do to help a cat that is looking at you for help? Some of the things you can do include:

  • Provide a comfortable place to rest
  • Cuddle your cat (if they are ok with contact)
  • Keep your cat well-fed and hydrated
  • Medicate your cat appropriately
  • Consult a vet for professional advice

You can read this guide to learn how to care for and comfort a sick cat.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if your cat is crying for help?

You can tell your cat is crying for help if you hear constant vocalizing such as yowling, growling, and meowing. A cat in need of help will stay in isolation to avoid contact, excessively groom itself or neglect grooming altogether, refuse to eat, and become very irritable.

How can I tell if my cat is in pain physically?

You can tell your cat is in pain if they are sensitive to touch, withdrawn, limping, vocalizing more than usual, and irritable.

How can I help my cat crying for help?

You can help your cat by providing a comfortable place to rest, cuddling, keeping them well-fed and hydrated, and administering medications as directed by the veterinarian.


As earlier noted, cats are stoic animals that oftentimes suffer in silence. You need a keen eye and attention to detail to tell when your cat is crying for help. You should schedule an immediate veterinary visit when you notice any of the warning signs we have mentioned above.

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