My Cat Can’t Meow Just Squeaks! – Why? Is it a Problem?

There are many inaccurate stereotypes about cats that people believe in. Be it that cats love and drink milk or have a distinctive meow sound while vocalizing. It’s no wonder that we expect our felines to meow as expected. However, your cat might be different. It might squeak, grunt, chirp or not make any noise at all. Or you might have noticed that your cat was meowing fine but is now suddenly squeaking. Naturally, you may be worried.

If your cat has always had a unique way of speaking, there is nothing to worry about. However, if the onset of its changed voice is sudden, it might point to a medical condition.

This article is all about why your cat has a distinctive voice, whether you should worry and when to see a vet.

Why Do Cats Meow

Why Do Cats Meow? 

Cats meow to get their owner’s attention for food, water, playtime and other needs. In fact, it is hypothesized that cats have picked up the meowing trait from humans around them and other domestic cats. They have modified their sound to match a frequency that can get their owner’s attention, as it is noticed that felines communicate with each other through growling, hissing or other sounds, and hardly through meowing. So there really is nothing to worry about if your furry friend prefers to vocalize in a non-traditional manner, as long as it communicates effectively and has no other accompanying symptoms.

Why Does My Cat Squeak Instead of Meow?

Why Does My Cat Squeak Instead of Meow

This is not a problem if your cat primarily squeaks since birth. However, the situation is a bit different if your feline was meowing perfectly fine and is now suddenly squeaking instead. Below are some reasons why some cats squeak instead of meow:

1. Birth Defects

Cats produce sounds from their vocal cords located in their neck. If your feline has been squeaking since birth, it is possible its vocal cords were not properly formed in the womb. These oddly shaped, insufficient vocal cords make an incomplete squeak when your cat tries to vocalize. By visiting the vet, you can get this congenital disability confirmed. Fortunately, it is nothing to worry about. Besides your cat’s unique sound, it will be a healthy cat and live a full life.

2. Stunted Vocal Cords

As baby cats grow, their internal organs grow proportionally. If for any reason, their vocal cords are damaged when they are young, they stop growing according to your cat’s size. This can cause a high-pitched squeak instead of the usual meow, so handling tiny kittens properly is vital.

Vocal cords can be damaged by improper handling when they are kittens. This is why it is important to be gentle with kittens and educate children on properly handling them kitten. If a kitten’s neck is squeezed too hard, it can permanently damage vocal cords, and your feline will eventually have a more-than-average squeaky voice.

If Your Cat is Squeaking Suddenly – Reasons

If Your Cat is Squeaking Suddenly

1. Overuse

Just like shouting loudly at concerts makes our voice raspy afterwards, a cat’s meow can get weak and raspy after excessive meowing. This is because overstraining of the vocal cords causes fatigue and temporary swelling, changing the quality of sound produced. Felines constantly meow when distressed or trapped, trying to get their owner’s attention. To prevent this from happening, make sure their needs are timely met, and there are no places in the house they can accidentally lock themselves into.

2. Disease and Infections

If your cat starts squeaking out of the blue, it may be suffering from a disease or infection. Given below are some conditions that can affect its voice:

3. Upper Respiratory Infections

Just like the flu and common cold can make our voice hoarse, upper respiratory infections can alter your feline’s voice, making it sound more high-pitched, squeaky or raspy. Some examples of infectious pathogens in cats include Feline Herpesvirus, Bronchiseptica, and Feline Calicivirus. Your cat will have flu-like symptoms, including sneezing, coughing, congestion, runny nose and teary eyes.

4. Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid gland is situated in the throat, right in front of your cat’s vocal cords. In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland increases in size, compressing the vocal cords. This can change the tone and quality of your cat’s voice. Some other signs to look out for are hyperactivity, weight loss, increased appetite and thirst and increased vocalization.

Find Out: Signs Your Cat is Dying of Thyroid Disease

5. Laryngeal Nerve Damage

When the laryngeal nerve is damaged, the laryngeal muscles are paralyzed, causing a change in your cat’s voice along with difficulty breathing, noisy breathing and coughing.

6. Polyps

Nasopharyngeal polyps are soft tissue growths that occur along the inner lining of the ear canal. They extend into your cat’s pharynx, causing a change in your feline’s voice and difficulty breathing. Other signs you may notice are pawing at its ear, losing balance and shaking of the head.

If your feline has the above signs and symptoms, a visit to the vet is vital. Your vet will prescribe antibiotics for infection. Hyperthyroidism can be treated by surgery or iodine therapy, and polyps will need surgery as well. All the conditions above are treatable, and your feline should be meowing like normal in no time. 

7. Injury to the Vocal Cords

Your cat’s voice could have suddenly changed because it got caught in barbed wires while exploring or got into a fight with another animal, causing severe throat injury and damaging the vocal cords. You will need to take your cat to the vet in an emergency for prompt treatment of the injuries.

8. Starvation or Dehydration

Cats make a lot of fuss if they’re hungry. However, if they are at the point of starvation, which is mainly encountered in stray cats, they are so drained of energy that they let out a weak squeak instead. The same applies to a feline who has not had water for a long time. The dried-out vocal cords and dehydrated, weakened state prevents the cat from letting out full-on meows, and it will have a raspy voice instead. 

Hopefully, if you rescue a starved stray, feeding it and allowing it to rest should bring its energy levels and voice back to normal.

9. Have not been around Humans

Cats who have not been around humans never had to learn to meow. If it was around other felines, it is possible it never refined its voice, as communication was never a problem with its mates. If you just adopted a feral cat, it will eventually refine its voice to the typical domestic cat meow.

Should I Worry That My Cat Can’t Meow, Just Squeaks?

Should I Worry That My Cat Can't Meow, Just Squeaks

If your cat has always been quiet or lets out a squeak instead of a meow, it could just be a unique little trait that your feline possesses and is really nothing to worry about.

However, if your feline was originally meowing and is now squeaking or has the following symptoms, it is best to speak to your vet:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing or open-mouth breathing
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Visible wounds and bruises
  • Behavioural changes like aggression 
  • Sudden weakness and lethargy

Will My Cat Ever Learn How to Meow Properly?

If you have adopted a feral cat, it will learn how to meow properly after being around humans for a few weeks. The same is true for a kitten of around 3 to 6 months old. However, some cats do not have the traditional meow and squeak or are particularly quiet. If that is the case, it is just a unique trait your feline has that you have to accept.

Why Is My Kitten’s Meow Weak?

Why Is My Kitten's Meow Weak

There are many reasons behind a weak kitten meow, most of which are nothing to worry about. If you have a litter of kittens, some might be very loud and vocal, whereas others might be quieter. This comes down to the nature and different personalities these baby felines were born with. It also comes down to the breed. For example, kittens of the Chartreux breed and the Main Coon are quieter than Siamese kittens.

Kittens also have small bodies and developing vocal cords, which is why they make a weak squeaky voice instead of a proper meow.

A weak meow can also indicate your kitten is starving. Kittens need to be fed every two hours in the first few weeks of their lives, so make sure you are not missing any feedings. Additionally, kittens become quieter as sleep hits them, so it could just mean your kitten is sleepy. Besides, kittens do need around 18-20 hours of sleep, depending on their age.

The other reasons are as above. If associated with nasal discharge, sneezing or difficulty breathing, your kitten could have an upper respiratory infection or polyps. In this case, you need to get your baby feline checked by the vet.

Intresting Reading: The Ultimate Guide to – How Much to Feed a Kitten?

Could Improper Treatment Of A Cat Cause It To Squeak?

Vocal cords can be damaged by improper handling when they are kittens. This is why it is important to be gentle with kittens and educate children on properly handling the kitten. If a kitten’s neck is squeezed too hard, it can permanently damage vocal cords, and your feline will eventually have a more-than-average squeaky voice.

Is It Normal For A Cat To Never Meow? / Is It Possible For A Cat Not To Meow?

Is It Normal For A Cat To Never Meow

Some cats never meow and instead grunt, squeak, trill, chirp, or even make quacking noises. This is completely normal. Cats, like people, have a variety of personalities, and the way they vocalize reflects their unique character. Therefore, your cat not having the stereotypical “meow” is not an issue.

Is It Possible to Stop Your Cat from Squeaking by Talking to it?

Technically speaking, frequently talking to an adopted feral cat or a kitten can help it develop its communication skills. So if your feline is squeaking, it can turn into a normal, lower-pitched meow. However, some cats will still keep their unique ways of communication no matter how much you interact with them, and that is completely okay.

Frequently Asked Questions

For the first 3-6 months, kittens have a high-pitched squeak, but once they reach this age, they develop their voice and find their meow.

When cats are playing with an engaging toy or smell their favourite food, they can let out a high-pitched chirp or squeak in excitement.

Your cat’s silent meows are its attempt to communicate with you. It may be trying to say that it needs food, water or attention, or it may be trying to say it loves you. Cats also do this to get your attention when they are sick.

Wrap Up!

Contrary to popular belief, cats make different sounds to communicate. In fact, cats hardly communicate with each other by meowing, and it is hypothesized that felines developed the meow as a way to interact with humans and get their attention. However, if your cat has suddenly lost the ability to meow and is now squeaking, you should take it to the vet, as this points to a medical condition that needs prompt assessment.

Related Posts:
  1. Do Cats Make Weird Noises When Sick?
  2. Why Does My Cat Meow at the Door?
  3. Why Does My Cat Meow at Night When I Go to Bed?
  4. Why Does My Cat Meow When I Sneeze?
LearnAboutCat Author Isabella

Who Is Isabella?

My name is Isabella, and I am a dedicated and knowledgeable cat enthusiast. With years of experience caring for cats and a deep love for felines, I made a mission to help other cat lovers navigate the challenges of cat ownership.

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