By Hannah Shaw
First-time parents are familiar with trying to answer the question, “why is the baby crying?” But this question becomes even more challenging when the baby is of a different species—a new kitten. Crying in kittens can mean many different things, but it’s important to keep in mind that if your kitten is crying or whining, there is a need that must be met.
Here are some of the common reasons your kitten might be crying, and how to help her find relief.
Kittens are curious creatures with high energy, and they require lots of mental and physical stimulation while they’re awake in order to be happy. If a kitten is constantly crying, they may be looking for your attention or calling out in search of another kitten or their mother—especially if they were just adopted.
Make sure to carve out plenty of time during the day to play with your new kitten. If you have the means and are ready for the commitment, you might want to consider adopting an additional kitten so the felines can provide each other with companionship. Many experts strongly recommend adopting kittens in pairs.
New kitten parents may be tempted to give a kitten full run of the house, but for a young animal, it can be confusing or even scary to have such a large territory. If a kitten is crying, she may be lost and calling out for help because she does not recognize her surroundings, or doesn’t know how to get back to the litter box or cat bed.
New adopters should give kittens a smaller “home base” for the first week or two so that the feline can comfortably acclimate to the space. Once the kitten has developed confidence about her new territory, she can gradually be allowed access to more and more of the house.
Just like human babies, kittens are likely to cry out when it’s been too long between meals. If a kitten is crying for food every day, consider your feeding schedule and determine if you are providing frequent enough feedings.
Young kittens develop quickly and should be fed ample amounts of wet food to aid in their growth. While a strict feeding schedule might be appropriate for an adult cat, kittens need to be fed when they’re hungry—so increase the quantity or frequency of feeding if you suspect that the kitten is crying for food. Once a kitten reaches 3 or 4 months of age, it is more reasonable to expect them to be able to follow a feeding schedule.
When kittens are first getting used to using a litter box on their own, it’s not uncommon for them to be a little fussy about pooping. Kittens under 8 weeks old will often meow before or during defecation, and that’s okay as long as the kitten is not straining or uncomfortable.
If a kitten is crying out every time she poops, or is pushing and struggling to use the litter box, bring her to the vet to make sure that there is not an underlying medical issue. Constipation, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems must be taken seriously, especially in a young kitten, so don’t delay if you suspect that the kitten is unwell.
You’ll know it when you hear it—the shrieking cry of an injured animal is hard to miss. If you hear a piercing, shrill cry from a kitten, this is a sign that she is in serious distress. This can occur for a number of reasons, such as a limb being stuck in an uncomfortable position or a tail being stepped on accidentally.
Immediately address the source of the pain and assess the situation to see if further care is required. Seek help from a veterinarian if you suspect that the kitten has an injury.
A kitten’s sorrowful cries could be an indication that the kitten is sick. Illness may not always be visually obvious to a caretaker, but a kitten’s cries can indicate that something is causing her distress. If a kitten seems vacant or fatigued and is crying, you’ll want to seek medical attention immediately.
It’s also important to remember that cats and kittens don’t always express their distress audibly. Much of the time, illness is actually expressed by becoming lethargic or silent—not by crying. The most important thing is for kitten caretakers to be watchful anytime a kitten’s behavior dramatically changes, whether they’re crying at the top of their lungs, or retreating into silence.