A cat’s meow is a vital part of the feline vocabulary. It’s a communication that has evolved exclusively for humans. Cats do not meow at each other. When they do so at their owner, they are announcing that they want or need something.
Meowing is an instinctive behavior that all kittens are born with. Very young cats will emit a short, sharp meow to gain their mother’s attention. Naturally, this will have been when they wanted something.
As cats grow up and are separated from their mothers, they theoretically stop meowing. On paper, it’s just not a skill that they need any longer. Adoption by a human family changes this, however.
Cats essentially see their human owners as ‘mother cats.’ This means that cats will meow to gain the attention of their new parents.
If a cat is unable to meow, they will struggle to enunciate their requirements. This can be dangerous and distressing to your pet. This guide will look into the possible explanations.
- 1 My Older Cat Can’t Meow All of a Sudden
- 2 My Cat’s Meow is Weak and Raspy
- 3 My Cat Has Never Meowed
- 4 How to Get a Cat to Meow
My Older Cat Can’t Meow All of a Sudden
If your previously verbose cat has stopped meowing all of a sudden, there will always be an explanation. Let’s take a look at each of the reasons why a cat could lose their voice:
- Laryngitis. The most common explanation for a cat losing the ability to meow is laryngitis. This is often a side effect of excessive meowing, coughing and sneezing (cats can catch colds), or tonsillitis. If your cat has laryngitis, keep them on very soft food and offer plenty of water. This will keep the swelling in their throat to a minimum.
- Hyperthyroidism. Many senior cats have overactive thyroid glands. If your cat is inexplicably losing weight as well as sounding raspy, they will need medication to manage this condition.
- Tumors. Can sometimes develop tumors on their throat, making it difficult to meow. These are often benign, but they can be cancerous. Either way, they will need to be removed.
- Rabies. Rabies is extremely rare in the developed world, but a rabid cat will become hoarse. If there is any chance that your cat has been exposed to rabies, seek help immediately.
- Feline Herpes. Herpes in cats is not an STI. It’s an upper respiratory infection that impacts upon a cat’s nose, throat, and eyes. Older cats can struggle with feline herpes, and it never goes away. The symptoms can be managed with medication to improve your cat’s quality of life.
- Laryngeal Paralysis. This is a medical condition more commonly associated with dogs, but cats can develop it. Laryngeal Paralysis involves nerve damage to the voice box, making it difficult to meow – and breathe.
- Excessive Meowing. It is possible for cats to meow so much that they temporarily lose their voice. This is not dissimilar to how humans can become hoarse through shouting excessively. While this condition will often be temporary, you should still see a vet. Your cat will have been so verbal in the first place for a reason
No cat will willingly take a vow of silence. Felines rely on their ability to meow to converse with their human owners. If your pet has become uncharacteristically mute, see a vet. They will be struggling with sickness and need help.
My Cat’s Meow Has Changed
A cat’s meow deepens as they grow from kittenhood into an adult cat. What starts as a squeak will deepen in bass and become the recognizable meow. As cats grow older, however, there should be no further adjustments to their voice box. A senior cat of 11 years should not sound any different to how it did at 4.
If you have noticed a sudden change in your cat’s meow, pay attention. Any change in your cat’s behavior is something that should be investigated. If this the only change though, try not to worry too much. Keep an eye on your cat, and ensure they are still eating and exercising regularly. This should find their voice again soon.
If your cat also starts displaying aggression, however, speak to a vet. There is a good chance that your cat is unwell. This may be a physical ailment, or they could be living under a cloud of stress. Remember not to punish your cat in such circumstances. This will only heighten their anxiety.
Sometimes, a cat’s meow will change for a short period of time. Felines contract common colds, which will give them a deeper voice for a spell. If the problem appears to persist, however, seek advice from a vet. The initial bout of ill health may be a precursor to something more serious.
My Cat Can’t Meow and is Gagging
If your cat is quiet and gagging, they likely have a trapped hairball in their throat. This will be a result of your cat self-grooming. Hairballs are more severe than they sound, as they could lead to intestinal obstructions.
Your cat should be able to pass a hairball within a minute or two. It will not be pretty or nice to hear, but once it’s out, they’ll feel better. Just prepare to mop up any vomit that arose in the process.
If your cat continues to gag and does not find their voice, call the vet. It’s possible that the hairball is lodged in their throat, causing them distress. There is also a possibility of the behavior being caused by a tumor in the throat. This will require the attention of a surgeon.
My Cat Can’t Meow and Will Not Eat or Groom
This suggests that your cat has a sore throat. This may be medical, or more likely, they have hurt themselves in some way. The most common explanation is that your cat strained themselves coughing up a particularly stubborn hairball.
A sore throat in itself is not life-threatening, but it can be dangerous. If your cat is not eating, they can quickly fall ill. Also, it will be painful for your cat. They’ll be reluctant to drink or play, as well as eating. This could cause them stress, which will, in turn, cause further health complications. A vet will be able to prescribe painkillers to ease your pet’s discomfort.
If you suspect that your cat has a sore throat, offer them soft food. Soft, sliced chicken or fish, for example. You could also try filling their food bowl with chicken broth to keep their strength up. Honey is not advisable, though. Your cat may not show any interest anyway as most felines do not enjoy sweet tastes. Also, honey is difficult for a cat to digest. You don’t want your pet to have a stomachache as well as a sore throat.
My Cat’s Meow is Weak and Raspy
As we have discussed elsewhere, a raspy meow could point to many different concerns. If you are worried, you should always speak to a professional. However, you could also keep an eye out for other symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of these in turn:
If your senior cat is also losing weight despite eating normally, they may be hyperthyroid. This is especially likely if they are also looking unkempt, drinking and urinating more, and shedding. A hyperthyroid cat may also be prone to bouts of hyperactivity.
As WebMD explains, hyperthyroidism is a cat that usually impacts felines older than 10. This condition floods a cat’s body with a hormone called thyroxine-a, leading to elevated blood pressure. This will place pressure on your cat’s heart, as well leaving them feeling decidedly unwell.
Hyperthyroidism is cats must be treated, and sooner you do so the better. Your vet will need to run many tests to confirm the diagnosis. Options for treatment include lifelong oral medications, radiotherapy, and surgical removal of the thyroid gland.
Struggling for Breath
Hyperthyroidism can lead to Laryngeal Paralysis. This condition will restrict the amount of air that comes in and out of your cat’s larynx. The result will be a deep, throaty meow, and difficulty breathing.
Laryngeal Paralysis generally impacts upon senior cats, aged 11 or over. It could be caused by a latent birth defect, a tumor, or trauma to the throat. Whatever the reason for the condition, it must be treated surgically.
Another, almost as severe, an explanation is that your cat may be having an allergic reaction. If their throat is swelling, they’ll be struggling to breathe and meow. You should make an urgent vet’s appointment to deal with this. Call ahead, as you may be advised to use an over-the-counter antihistamine as first aid.
Coughing, and Streaming Eyes and Nose
This suggests that your cat has a cold. You could see a vet about this, but there will be little that they can do. All you can do is make your pet as comfortable as possible until it passes.
To care for a cat with a cold, follow these instructions:
- Ensure that your cat has a warm, quiet place to rest. The more sleep they get, the quicker they’ll recover.
- Make sure your cat is warm enough. Their body temperature should never drop below 90O Wrap a hot water bottle in a blanket and leave it in their bed if necessary.
- Regularly clean up your cat’s nose and eyes with a warm washcloth.
- Offer warm food to tempt them into eating. This should be very soft and easy to swallow.
- Ensure your cat is drinking plenty of fresh water. Dehydration can be very dangerous to cats. Consider also adding an electrolyte supplement to your cat’s water to increase hydration.
- Purchase a vaporizer, or pop your cat in a steamy room every now and again. This will help clear their sinuses.
If the symptoms worsen, or your cat refuses to eat for over 24 hours, call a vet. Their cold may be the start of something more serious, such as feline herpes.
Your cat will need plenty of TLC during this time, so don’t keep your distance. You will not be able to catch a common cold from a cat, so your health will not be at risk.
My Cat Has Never Meowed
Some cats are not very chatty. If your cat has never meowed, it doesn’t mean that they are perpetually sick. It may just not be in their nature to be verbal. If anything, it could be taken as a compliment. It means that your cat is mostly content, and trusts you to meet their needs without vocal prompts.
If you adopt a rescue cat their silence worries you, find look into their history. Was the cat born stray, or rejected by its mother? If so, it would not have meowed when a kitten to gain attention. This means that they will not have carried the habit over into adulthood.
Remember that, above all, cats are independent hunters and predators. This means that they value the ability to stay silent. If your cat doesn’t meow, they may prefer not revealing their location to potential prey.
How to Get a Cat to Meow
Like human children, some cats need a little encouragement to get started and speak. If you are keen to open a dialogue with your cat, try some of these techniques.
- Talk to them. If you talk to your cat regularly, they will understand that you want to communicate. If you leave a pause for a response, they may eventually talk back. Sometimes just looking at them is just as effective, too. Just be careful not to stare. Your cat may misinterpret this as a threat.
- Meow at them. This probably won’t work, as cats tend not to communicate this way with each other. All the same, your cat may appreciate the gesture and meow back!
- Play sounds of other meowing cats. You will find no shortage of soundtracks packed with meowing cats. Your cat may pick up on this, and give it a go themselves.
Never withhold food in an attempt at getting your cat to meow! It may work, in the sense that your cat will start asking to be fed. It will also backfire in the longer term, as you will harm your bond of trust. When your cat wants to talk to you, they will. Until then, allow them to call the shots. If your cat has something to say, they’ll say it.
What Different Meows Mean
A cat’s meow is not as simple as one sound. Cats have a wide array of different meows, each of which denotes something else. Some of the most common varieties of cat meows include:
- Short, Sharp Meow. This almost sounds like a chirp. This is your cat saying hello, and acknowledging that they have seen you. If your cat repeats the short sound, they are expressing excitement. It’ll be familiar to cat owners that work all day and are greeted at the door.
- Single, Mid-Pitch Meow. This is your cat politely asking for something. Dinner, water, a treat, or a little attention. They may also be drawing your attention to a toy stuck under the sofa.
- Elongated and Drawn-Out Meows. This sound will be familiar to all cat owners. The meow starts out as above, but it gradually becomes longer and louder as it’s repeated. This is essentially your cat ringing a bell to summon their butler! It means that they want to be fed, or let outside, now. If the meow drops in pitch, your cat has crossed over from impatience to anger.
- High-Pitched, Loud Meow. This denotes a sudden surge of anger or discomfort. It’s usually a direct result of a mishap, but as stepping on their tail. It may also be accompanied by a hiss.
There are countless meows in a feline’s vocabulary, but these are the major vocalizations. Until cat translators are invented, we cannot be entirely certain what our feline friends are saying.
My Cat Will Not Stop Meowing
Once you get your cat meowing, you may regret the decision if they won’t stop. Do not be angry at a cat for vocalizing excessively. They may just be clearing their throat after a period of respiratory sickness. However, there could also be other explanations, as the ASPCA denotes.
The most effective way of dealing with a noisy cat is to not react to their meows. Don’t offer attention. Don’t scold them. Don’t even shoot them an angry look. Cats can read human facial expressions very well. Just go about your business, and praise them when they stop.
All the same, you should discover why your pet is being so verbose. Some common explanations for excessive meowing in cats include:
- Stress. An anxious cat will constantly meow, often for seemingly no good reason. Has your pet’s routine changed in some way? The chances are, they are finding this stressful and are verbalizing their displeasure. Offer reassurance, and display patience as your cat adapts.
- Attention Seeking. Cats are independent, but that does not mean that they dislike human company. If your cat feels they are not receiving an appropriate amount of attention, they’ll tell you. Play with your cat, or even talk to them – but wait until they stop meowing. If you reward constant vocalization, you will just be teaching your cat that it gets results.
- Hunger. The most common meow of them all is one that denotes hunger. If your cat is constantly meowing and remains unfed, there’s only one way to stop them.
- Boredom and Frustration. If your outdoor cat has wanderlust, they will grow frustrated being inside all day. They will meow at you because they want you to let them outside. If your female cat has not been spayed, this is especially likely. They will meow at your day and night while in heat, asking to be let out. They will be keen to get out and meet a potential mate. If you do not want kittens, spay your cat or learn to tolerate this noise.
- Senility. In the case of older cats, constant and seemingly random meowing can be a symptom of cognitive dysfunction syndrome. If your senior cat is acting strangely in any additional ways, see a vet at once.
It’s also possible that your cat is meowing because they’re in pain, but this is unlikely. Sick or injured cats prefer to hide their discomfort, and meowing draws attention to their condition. All the same, a hugely verbal cat would benefit from the attention of a vet. There may be something afoot with your pet’s health that requires professional intervention.
If your cat suddenly stops meowing, it is a cause for concern. A silent cat cannot denote any kind desires or discomforts, after all. Also, factor in that cats rarely let on if they’re unwell. It could be something serious.