My Cat Stopped Meowing – What Does It Mean? – Catmart
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My Cat Stopped Meowing – What Does It Mean?

Cat not meowing? If your cat has got its own tongue, it may be raising some concern. But is this concern validated? And what conditions might cause your cat to lose its voice? If your cat stopped meowing, it could be due to a number of different health conditions. Today we delve deeper into world of cats, learning more about how their vocal cords work. Cat vocalization differs from cat to cat. Some cats barely meow at all, and there are a whole range of different cat sounds they might make instead. We will also be answering the question behind why a cat can’t meow.

How do a cat’s vocal cords work?

cat stopped meowing
Cats only meow to communicate. But what are they trying to tell us? Image from Wikimedia

Before we can understand some of the reasons behind a cat losing it’s voice, we must first understand how a cat’s vocal cords actually work. Cats obviously can’t speak the same way that humans can. With that being said, they can use their vocal cords to make different sounds such as meows and purrs.

The vocal cords of a cat are set at the beginning of the trachea or windpipe (called the larynx). They have two long, skinny bands that are made up of muscle tissue. When the tracheal fold opens and closes, air passes through the vocal cords causing them to vibrate. This produces the noise that we then hear as a meow.

Since the vocal cords of cats work very similar to that of humans, they are also prone to many of the same issues. Traumas, tumors, cancers, and even laryngitis can cause voice loss in cats, just as it can in humans. Let’s take a closer look at these, as well as some other issues that may cause your cat to stop meowing.

1) Cat stopped meowing? It could be an abscess.

What is an abscess?

An abscess is a pocket that develops under the skin and fills with pus. It often occurs when bacteria enters into the body via some kind of wound. Once the puncture occurs, the cat’s body triggers an inflammatory response. From there, it sends large amounts of white blood cells to the infected area to promote healing. As a result, pus forms. This pus, made up of a combination of fluid, white blood cells, toxins, and bacteria can then start to grow. This creates tension under the skin, and promotes even further inflammation. If not treated, the abscess will eventually rupture and the pus will drain.

What causes an abscess?

Abscesses generally form as a result of some type of wound. In most cases, they begin as a puncture wound. This is usually from bite that takes place during a cat fight. With that being said, abscesses can also form within the throat. This is usually the result of something dangerous being swallowed. Pins, splinters, and shards of glass are all causes of concern for cats.

What are the symptoms of an abscess?

If your cat can’t meow, it may be the symptom of an abscess. Other signs that your cat may have an abscess include hair loss, fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, and listlessness (inability to settle). Because we are talking about an abscess in the throat, it won’t be visible to the human eye like most other abscesses are. As a result, the only way to diagnose it is through an examination with the veterinarian. If you’re no longer hearing cat sounds where you used to, it’s worth getting it checked out.

2) Cat stopped meowing? It could be throat cancer.

Cat cancer cat health cat meowing
It could be cat cancer. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Though throat cancer and cancer of the larynx are fairly rare in cats, they can occur. And when they do, they can can cause your cat to lose it’s ability to meow.

The most highly reported type of throat cancer in cats is lymphoma cancer. This type of cancer causes tumours to form in the throat and on the larynx. This is the area of the throat that contains the vocal cords. Tumours such as these can place pressure on the tissues in the larynx. This can change the sound of your cats meow, or even prevent them from making cat sounds altogether; a complete prevention of cat vocalization.

What causes throat cancer?

There are many different factors that could result in the development of lymphoma cancer in your cat. Feline Leukemia Virus, Feline AIDS virus, and long term exposure to smoke have all been found to be linked to the disease. With that being said, when it comes to throat cancer, resources are better spent on diagnosis and treatment options than actually determining the cause.

What are the symptoms of throat cancer in cats?

If your cat stopped meowing suddenly, it may be a sign that they have a tumor. If this is the case there are other signs and symptoms to look for. These include loss of other cat sounds, labored breathing, coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Keep in mind however, that lymphoma in cats is an extremely rare diagnosis, so don’t panic as soon as your cat starts to lose it’s voice. If you are concerned, take your cat to the vet for a endoscope examination of the throat and larynx.

3) Cat stopped meowing? It could be an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI)

We’ve all been exposed to the common cold at some point in our lives, but did you know that your cat can get a cold too? And just like humans, colds can make your cat lose their voice.

What is an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection?

An Upper Respiratory Tract Infection is basically the same thing as a common cold. Like  in humans, the nose, the throat, and the sinus area that compose of the Upper Respiratory Tract in a cat are susceptible to infections that are caused by viruses and bacteria. These viruses and bacteria can build up in the throat, causing your cat to temporarily lose it’s meow.

What causes Upper Respiratory Tract Infections?

In cats, viruses are the most common causes of URIs. Of all Upper Respiratory problems, the Feline Calici virus and the Feline Herpes virus are the most widespread cause. In fact, they are estimated to account for 80-90% of all URI infections. These viruses are easily transmitted from cat to cat. Like humans, they can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing, and sharing food or water. These types of viruses are very common in shelters where cats often share a space and a meal. Having said that, bacteria like Chlamydia and Bordetella are also culprits of URIs in cats.

What are the symptoms of an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection?

Cat not meowing? This is a good sign that your cat may have a URI. Other symptoms may include sneezing, congestion, cough, runny nose, fever, and loss of appetite. Though there is no cure for URIs in cats, medication can be provided to help ease the symptoms. Luckily, colds are not usually life-threatening and will eventually dissipate on their own. You can also use supplements to get rid of them, depending on the cause. You’ll soon be hearing all your favorite cat sounds again.

4) Cat stopped meowing? It could be rabies.

Cat rabies cat health cat meowing
It could be cat rabies. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Rabies is a serious viral disease that attacks the Central Nervous System. It can affect the brain and spinal cord of all mammals. This includes cats, dogs, and yes, humans. Once infected with the rabies virus, it spreads rapidly throughout the nerve fibres. It spreads to each the sensory, motor, and peripheral nerves. The term “rabies” often strikes fear into a lot of people, and for good reasoning. Once rabies hits, the progression is rapid and almost 100% fatal.

What causes rabies?

Rabies is a virus that is transmitted from one infected mammal to another. More often than not, it is transmitted through a bite. It can also be transferred if the saliva of an infected animal enters into an open wound, though this method of transference is much less common. The risk of rabies in your cat is greatly increased if they are exposed to wild animals. Racoons, bats, foxes, and skunks are all prone to rabies outbreaks, and can transfer it to your cat if bitten. In return, outdoor cats are at much higher risk of contracting rabies than indoor cats.

What are the symptoms of rabies?

If your cat can’t meow, it could be a sign of rabies. When a cat contracts rabies, you may start to hear a hoarseness in their meow. Loss of vocal cords may be accompanied by a change in behaviour, including aggression, restlessness, and lethargy. Cats with rabies may also experience weakness, loss of appetite, and disorientation. More fatal symptoms include paralysis, seizures, and even death. Unfortunately, there is no cure for rabies. If you suspect that your cat may be infected, take it to the vet immediately to avoid contracting the virus yourself. Rabies is an extremely serious disease that should not be taken lightly. To prevent it, make sure your cat is vaccinated regularly – it’s the law.

5) Cat stopped meowing? It could be hyperthyroidism.

What is hyperthyroidism?

Sometimes referred to as Thyrotoxicosis, Hyperthyroidism is caused by an overproduction of the Thyroid hormone. Of all glandular disorders in cats, hyperthyroidism is the most common. Hyperthyroidism can occur in any breed and sex of cat, but is more likely to occur in older age. The average onset of hyperthyroidism in cats is between 12-13 years, with over 94% of all hyperthyroid cases occurring in cats over the age of 10.

What causes Hyperthyroidism?

cat stopped meowing
When your cat stopped meowing, was it accompanied by any other symptoms? Image from Flickr

In the majority of cases, enlarged thyroids are caused by adenoma’s – or non-cancerous tumours. With that being said, some cases of hyperthyroidism can be more serious, and can be caused by malignant tumours known as thyroid adenocarcinomas. Other factors that may contribute to hyperthyroidism include compound deficiencies or excesses in the diet, as well as exposure to chemicals in food and/or environment.

What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?

Cat stopped meowing? Hyperthyroidism can cause your cat to lose it’s voice. Other signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include weight loss, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, and increased need to urinate. Hyperthyroidism may also lead to excessive shedding, panting, and diarrhea. In 50% of cases, vomiting may also be a concern.

If you think your cat may have hyperthyroidism, your vet can conduct a series of tests including a CBC test, a chemistry test, and a urinalysis. If diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, several treatments exist including oral antithyroid medications, surgical removal, and radioactive iodine therapy.

6) Cat not meowing? It could be laryngeal paralysis.

What is Laryngeal Disease?

Laryngeal Disease is a disorder that causes disruption in the upper airways. The larynx, also referred to as the voice box, not only serves as a method of making sounds, but also acts as a passageway for airflow into the lungs. When the structure of the larynx is disrupted, the function can be disrupted as well, leading to a variety of unwanted symptoms. This includes loss of cat vocalization. Fortunately, laryngeal disease is relatively uncommon in cats. With that being said, cats that are affected are usually older. When laryngeal disease does occur in younger cats, it is usually due to some sort of trauma or surgery.

What causes Laryngeal disease?

While extremely uncommon, some cats are born with laryngeal disease. For others, causes can be difficult to pinpoint. With that being said, laryngeal disease may be related to paralysis, nerve abnormalities, chest infections and diseases, muscle abnormalities, immune disorders, hormonal deficiencies, cancer, and trauma.

What are the symptoms of Laryngeal Disease?

Cat stopped meowing? It could be laryngeal disease. Given that laryngeal disease targets the larynx (or the voice box), it only makes sense that it would affect a cat’s ability to meow. If your cat’s inability to meow is combined with panting, noisy respiration, coughing, or reduced activity levels, take them to the vet immediately. Explain to your vet what symptoms you have noticed. They may need to take a few tests including a chemical blood profile, a blood count, and a urinalysis. A vet may also use x-rays, fluoroscopies, or laryngoscopies to get a closer look at your cat’s larynx to determine if laryngeal disease may be the cause of your cat’s health concerns.

7) Cat stopped meowing? It could be a muscle disorder.

What are muscle disorders?

Just like humans, cat have muscles. And just like humans, a cat’s nerves and muscles are constantly interacting. But when the signal between the nerves and the muscles is interrupted,  muscle weakness and fatigue can result. Clinically known as “myasthenia gravis”, this disorder can affect a variety of muscles including the esophagus muscles, the eye muscles, and the throat muscles. And because the vocal cords are a muscle, they can also be affected.

What causes muscle disorders?

Most cases of muscle disorder are present at birth and run in the family lines. With that being said, muscle disorders are a type of autoimmune disease that can also be contracted later in life. It seems that the disease can be influenced by each environmental factors, infection factors, and hormonal factors. Abyssinian and Somali cat breeds seem to be especially susceptible to muscle disorders, and when congenital (from birth), can start to show symptoms as early as 6-8 weeks of age.

What are the symptoms of muscle disorder?

When muscle disorders target the voice box, they can cause changes in your cat’s meow, or cause them to lose their voice altogether. In cases of muscle disorder, voice loss may also be accompanied by weakness, fatigue, and loss of muscle mass. Cats with muscle disorders may also have the tendency to sleep with their eyes open, drool regularly, and have difficulty breathing. To diagnose muscle disorders, your veterinarian will do a complete blood profile and urinalysis. They may also conduct x-rays and ultrasounds to examine further.

8) Cat stopped meowing? It could have out-meowed itself!

Have you ever been to a concert, screamed so loudly, and lost your voice the next day? Well, this can happen to cats too. When your cat can’t meow, it’s not always related to something serious. Sometimes your cat has just meowed too much, and lost it’s voice. There are many reasons that a cat may engage in excessive meowing – they’re hungry, cold, scared, lonely, stressed out, ill, or even just plain seeking attention.

It’s important to try to figure out the reason behind your cat’s excessive meowing. While it may sometimes just be attention seeking behavior, it may also be a sign that something more serious is wrong. If your cat has been meowing excessively, and has suddenly lost it’s ability to meow, don’t ignore it. Take your cat to the vet for a checkup to diagnose what could be causing stress to your cat. Without cat vocalization, the primary way your cat communicates with you is gone. They’re relying on you to help them get it back.

9) Cat not meowing? It could just be their personality!

As we said above, not all cases of quiet cats warrant a trip to the vet. Like people, all cats have their own personality. Some are outgoing and loud, while others are shy and reserved. And if you don’t hear your cat meowing, it may just be that they aren’t a talkative cat.

It’s also important to note that some breeds of cat are more talkative than others. Siamese cats are known for their loud and plentiful meows. Birman cats, on the other hand, or more likely to be more silent.

So when is a time to warrant concern?

cat stopped meowing
Some cats are more ‘conversational’ than others. If your cat stopped meowing but used to meow a lot, that’s when to worry. Image from Pixabay

If your cat stopped meowing, it may be time to use some of your own judgement. You know your cat better than anyone else. If they have always been on the quiet side, there’s probably not much to worry about. Similarly, if your cat seems happy and healthy, you probably don’t need to rush them to the vet.

Cause for concern starts to come into play if you feel that there has been a drastic change in the vocalizations of your cat. If they used to be extremely vocal and have suddenly stopped, there could be a more serious reason behind it. Similarly, if voice loss is accompanied by lethargy, depression, or abnormal behaviours, it may be time to see a veterinarian.

If your cat stopped meowing, you need to use your own judgement to determine whether something may or may not be wrong. If you feel that you cat is acting abnormally, take them to a vet as soon as possible. There are a variety of reasons that a cat can’t meow, some of which are more serious than others. You can take a cat not meowing to the vet for further diagnoses into what may be behind the concern.

Hi! My name is Jamie Fallon. I run Catmart, an online cat health and cat behavior resource. If I'm not sat in front of my PC—and I usually am—then I'm either spending time with my cats or my other half... Whoever jumps on me or asks me for food first!

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