Most cat parents can attest to how vocal their feline furkids can be!
However, some kitties tend to be on the quieter side. If this is your cat, you might even find yourself wondering – can cats be mute? Or is it just normal for some cats not to meow at all?
Cats can be mute, and the reason could be related to a vocal cord injury or disease. But some cat breeds are also just naturally less vocal than others. As their human guardian, you need to be aware of your cat’s personality to determine whether their sudden silence is a normal thing or a medical emergency.
First off – why do cats meow?
Cats meow to communicate – either with their human companions or with other cats. They might meow to say hello, ask for attention, ask for food, or when they feel something is wrong. Throughout their lives, they continue to meow at people because, by doing so, they know they can get what they want!
Meowing is believed to be a learned behavior in cats. During kittenhood, the younglings meow at their mother cat whenever they feel cold or hungry. But, as they grow older, cats tend to reserve their meowing for humans. For this reason, it is not that common to hear cats meow at other felines.
So, that daily meowing soundtrack you hear from your furry friend might just be their unique way of making chit-chat with you. They might meow if they need something or when they feel happy. Sometimes, they might also meow when they feel sad, scared, or distressed. Cats do not speak the same language as ours, so it is very important to decipher what they are trying to tell us.
Can cats be mute?
Cats are generally vocal toward their human guardians, but some can become mute for several reasons. If a once-talkative cat suddenly loses their voice, the silence might be related to a medical issue or a behavioral problem. As such, they need to be checked by a professional veterinarian to rule out vocal cord injuries or underlying health issues such as a laryngeal disease.
Here are a few problems that might make a cat mute:
1. Damaged voice box
Vocal cord damage in cats is a medical issue that can have serious consequences. When a cat has damaged vocal cords, its ability to make sounds is greatly reduced or eliminated altogether. This can be a frightening experience for pet owners as their beloved cat suddenly becomes mute.
Laryngeal disease can be congenital or caused by medical conditions like paralysis and nervous system disorders. More often than not, surgery is the best option to help the cat. However, there is no guarantee that they will recover their voice.
If you notice your cat is having difficulty making sounds, it is important that you take them to the vet right away. With early intervention and the right treatment, laryngeal diseases might be prevented and your cat can be back to its normal self in a short time.
2. Respiratory illness
Respiratory infection in cats can be an incredibly scary thing to experience. It can cause our pets to become very sick and, in some cases, even mute. Thankfully, there are steps we can take to help our cats fight this infection.
The first step is to take your cat to the vet for a diagnosis. That way, you can get the right treatment plan for your cat’s specific condition. Depending on the severity of the infection, your vet may prescribe antibiotics or other medications to help your cat fight the infection. You should also make sure your cat is getting plenty of rest and proper nutrition, and that their living environment is as stress-free as possible.
Lastly, make sure to keep your sick cat away from other cats and animals, as respiratory infections can be contagious.
3. Overactive thyroid
An overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, occurs in cats when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, which causes a multitude of symptoms. These can range from weight loss and increased appetite to restlessness and aggressive behavior. In some cases, cats can even become mute or develop a hoarse voice.
It is important to catch these symptoms early, as an overactive thyroid can lead to other health issues such as heart and kidney disease. Fortunately, there are treatments and medications available to manage this condition and help your cat live a long, healthy life.
Speak to your vet as soon as possible if you think your cat is showing any symptoms of an overactive thyroid.
4. Polyps and lumps in the throat
Polyps and lumps in the larynx can be a serious and even life-threatening condition for cats. If not identified and treated quickly, these growths can cause significant respiratory distress and even cause the cat to lose their voice!
As such, it is important to be aware of the various symptoms to look out for. These include coughing, difficulty breathing, and an abnormal meow. If you suspect your cat may have a polyp or lump in their larynx, they must be taken to the vet right away for a physical examination and imaging.
The vet may decide to surgically remove the growth, or they may administer medication to reduce the size of the polyp. It is also important to monitor your cat regularly for any further changes, as these growths can often recur.
Other possible reasons your cat does not meow
Have you ever seen a cat become completely mute when they is moved to a new environment? This is a common phenomenon in cats that are scared, which can be caused by a variety of factors!
A cat may become mute due to fear of their new surroundings, or from being overwhelmed by unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells. The fear might manifest as complete silence, because cats are more likely to choose “flight” or “freeze” than “fight” in these situations.
Keep in mind that cats may also become mute if they have been abused in their previous environment, often associating vocalization with pain or discomfort. In these cases, cats may either remain mute or become more vocal as they adjust to their new environment. In any case, it is important to provide them with a secure environment and plenty of love and attention so they can feel safe and comfortable in their new home.
2. Old age
As cats grow older, they may become less vocal. Many cat owners are surprised when their normally chatty cats become quietly contemplative in their old age. While it may seem like a drastic change, it is actually a natural part of the aging process.
Cats become quieter as they age, presumably because their hearing and sense of smell have declined. This lack of auditory and olfactory input means they are less stimulated and, in turn, less vocal. It can also be a sign of cognitive decline, as cats that are suffering from age-related mental decline may become less interactive.
There are plenty of ways to keep your cat’s mind active and engaged, no matter their age. Playing with toys, engaging in interactive games, and providing plenty of environmental enrichment can all help to keep your cat’s mind sharp. And, if you are worried that they have become too quiet, regular visits to your vet can help to ensure that they are healthy and happy!
3. Your cat is not naturally vocal
While cats are known for being vocal animals, some breeds may not be vocal at all. For example, the munchkin cat is often referred to as “the mute cat” due to its lack of vocalization. While it is not completely silent, this breed rarely meows or purrs. The munchkin also shows fewer facial expressions than other breeds, often communicating through gestures and body language instead. This can make them difficult to read sometimes, but it also makes them a great companion for people who do not want a vocal pet.
Other cat breeds that tend to be less vocal than most are:
- Scottish fold
- British shorthair
- Russian blue
- Turkish Angora
- Norwegian forest cat
- Cornish rex
Can a mute cat still purr?
Purring is a cat’s expression of calmness, happiness, friendliness, and affection. Cats purr when they groom, relax, or try to become friendly with other animals. They may also purr a lot while you stroke them, as a sign of appreciation and contentment. However, not all purring is associated with happiness. Some cats might also purr to soothe themselves during stressful situations.
As you can see, then, these soft rumbles you hear from cats are both voluntary and instinctive. So yes, mute cats can still purr!
Veterinarians have revealed that even deaf cats purr to express their emotions. These kitties might even purr louder than other cats, just to feel the vibrations from their voice boxes reverberating through their bodies!
Cats can be mute, but this may not always be a serious concern. Perhaps they are just going through a fearful or stressful situation, and all they need is a little quiet time to cope.
But, if your kitty’s silence is accompanied by other sudden behavioral changes or physical symptoms, this might warrant a visit to the vet. Do not delay seeking medical assistance – the earlier your cat is diagnosed, the faster their recovery will be! And, if your pet comes out with a clean bill of health, you can appropriately address the other external factors that may be behind your cat’s sudden silence.
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