Just like human babies, kittens let their mothers know that they need something by crying. Once you have taken over for her mother, your kitten will expect you to know what she’s asking for when she cries. This isn’t always easy, but circumstances and time of day can help you decipher your kitten’s cries.
So, why does my kitten cry when she wakes up? First thing after waking up, your kitten may be hungry, lonely, lost, cold, hot, or confused. She may even just need to use the litter box.
This article will thoroughly explore the various reasons your kitten may cry upon waking and the best ways to address them. It will also provide tips on narrowing the possibilities to figure out what your kitten actually needs.
A kitten that cries when it wakes up may have a basic need like food, water, or warmth. These could even be the reason a kitten wakes up during the night or before its nap would usually be over. Unless you know for sure that your kitten could not be hungry, thirsty, too cold, or too hot, these should be the first issues you check for.
Most kittens are brought home at about eight weeks old. At this age, they are still growing by leaps and bounds and they need a lot of food energy to keep them healthy and feeling good.
While adult cats may only need a meal or two a day, kittens should be fed three or four times daily. In fact, up until she is three or four months old, you can pretty much feed your kitten whenever she says she’s hungry.
Kittens also have different nutritional needs than adult cats. They should eat food specifically formulated for kittens up until they are a year old. If you’re not sure you’re feeding enough or feel that your kitten is not thriving on the diet you’re providing, you can check with the breeder or shelter you adopted her from for feeding recommendations.
Your veterinarian is also a great source of information on healthy, adequate diet for your kitten at every age.
Your kitten should also have clean water easily accessible all the time. If she wakes up crying and isn’t hungry—or you have already fed her—show her again where her water dish is and watch to be sure she knows how to drink from it.
If your kitten doesn’t seem to understand that there is water in the dish, try scooping a bit up and dribbling it back into the bowl so she can see and hear the trickling water.
She’s Cold or Hot
Kittens prefer warm temperatures and aren’t able to keep themselves warm as easily as an adult cat would. Theoretically, a temperature in the 80s or 90s would actually be perfect for your kitten, but it would get a little warm for you.
The best way to make sure your kitten stays warm enough is to keep the room at a temperature comfortable for you and provide her with a bed or blanket to snuggle in.
Occasionally, kittens can also become overheated, especially if they have long fur or are in direct sunlight. It’s important that your kitten can always get out of direct sunlight if it wants to. If temperatures are extremely warm in your area, your kitten may appreciate having access to a cool tile or cement floor.
She Needs to Use the Litter Box
Kittens who are still getting used to using the litter box may cry when they need to go or even while they are going. It’s also not unusual for them to need to go soon after waking up. If your kitten wakes up crying and you suspect she needs to use the litter box, try showing her where it is or even placing her in it for a moment.
Unless she strains or shows other signs of discomfort, you don’t need to worry about your kitten crying while she uses the litter box. She’ll grow out of it.
If your kitten’s basic physical needs have all been met, she may be crying because she is lonely or wants attention. Kittens are social, affectionate animals that are used to having their mother or litter mates around all the time. Interaction and contact with you is essential to their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Loneliness is a common reason for a kitten to wake up crying. Especially if she has recently been separated from her mother and litter mates, your kitten may be surprised to find herself waking up alone and may be calling for her family. Since that’s you now, the best thing you can do is go to your kitten and give her some love.
Many experts recommend adopting two kittens together or adding a second cat to the family to keep your kitten from becoming too lonely. This is an especially good idea if your kitten will have to be alone for a large part of the day.
Just make sure that your two cats are compatible before leaving them alone together and never keep two sexually intact cats together as cats become sexually mature at just four months old. Two males may fight, and with an intact male and female, you WILL get kittens—along with a lot more yowling and howling.
She Wants Attention
If your kitten is already in the same room with you and walks around crying when she wakes up, she may just be begging for attention. Depending on the circumstances, this might be the perfect time to scoop up your kitten and cuddle with her, or you may want to wait until she quiets down to start giving her attention so meowing for attention won’t become a habit.
You never want your kitten to become distressed from you ignoring her. If possible, stroke or cuddle your kitten soon after she wakes, before she has a chance to whine too much about it. This may also be a good time to distract her with toys and playtime and help her learn to entertain herself.
She’s Lost or Confused
A kitten also may cry when it wakes up because it is lost or confused. For such a tiny animal, your house can seem very big and perplexing, and it will take a little while for her to learn her way around. Her yowls may be a plea for you to come and find her.
Your kitten will likely feel more comfortable if her introduction to your house starts out small. You may, for example, wish to restrict her access to one or two rooms starting out and expand from there. When she is alert and active, you may be able to get your kitten to follow you from room to room, learning her way around.
Pain or Illness
Finally, a kitten may cry when she wakes up because she is ill or in pain. Although most cats actually become quieter and more withdrawn when they are sick, kittens are the most likely to let you know they’re not feeling good.
She’s Not Feeling Good
Cat and kitten diseases can progress very quickly, so if you have the slightest suspicion that your kitten is feeling unwell, it’s best to at least give your vet a call. You can also keep your eyes open for the following symptoms.
- Loss of appetite
- Sitting/lying in a hunched position
- Avoiding contact
- Coughing or sneezing
- Not grooming
- Purring in combination with any of these (can be a sign of pain)
If you hear your kitten wailing in the other room, it’s best to check on her, no matter why you think she may be crying. Kittens have a way of getting themselves into the strangest predicaments. A kitten that decided to do some exploring when she woke up may have gotten stuck somewhere and is crying for rescue.
Your kitten’s crying is her way of trying to communicate with you. While it can get a little annoying, especially when she wakes you during the night or early in the morning, never punish your kitten for crying—this will only make her afraid of you without addressing the root issue. Instead, go through the above list of needs she may have and meet them to the best of your ability.
Kittens do usually grow out of whining as they become more comfortable in your home and learn how to take care of some things themselves (like getting a drink and using the litter box).
Caring for them during this crying time is actually an important part of building a bond that will last for a lifetime. While she may not act especially grateful, your care for your cat as a kitten will never be forgotten.