Everyone knows that cats miaow. It’s just what they do, it’s part of being a cat. And they all do it, don’t they? Well, not necessarily. Some cats miaow much more than others.
Some cats are extremely vocal, with a vocabulary that extends into all sorts of mews, chirrups, yells, and so on. Others rarely open their mouths at all. So if you have a cat who doesn’t miaow, should you worry about it? The simply answer is that you probably shouldn’t. Let us take a look at the reasons for a cat not miaowing.
Reasons for the cat’s miaow
Cats rarely miaow to each other after reaching maturity. Kittens miaow to get their mother’s attention, but it is normal for older cats to stop miaowing altogether. It is thought that miaowing in domestic older cats is a way of communicating with their owners, and many of us know that our cats do this – they miaow when they want food, attention, to go out and so on. But if your cat gradually miaows less as she gets older, that is probably the reason.
Cats which never miaow
Some cats simply don’t miaow at all. If your cat has always been like this, there is probably no cause for concern. It is simply the way she is. Cats, like people, vary a lot; they are all individuals, and some are more vocal than others. Your cat has probably found other ways to communicate with you which work just as well. One of my Maine Coons doesn’t miaow, but he is large enough to jump up and paw at me or lick me, like a small dog! I think he finds this to be a better solution to the human/feline communication problem than bothering to miaow. It seemed strange at first, as Maine Coons are generally a very vocal breed – but as with all things in the cat world, there are always exceptions. In fact, he can miaow, as I discovered when he was put in a carrier to be taken to the vet… and he suddenly emitted a very loud miaow!
What about when cats stop miaowing?
If a cat which was previously quite vocal suddenly stops miaowing, there may be a cause for concern. There are several medical conditions which can cause a cat to lose its voice…
An Upper Respiratory Infection could cause your cat to lose her miaow, in the same way as people with colds or laryngitis may become hoarse and have difficulty speaking. So if a previously noisy cat suddenly stops miaowing, and especially if this behaviour is associated with other symptoms such as watery eyes, a runny nose, or general lethargy, it would be good to take her to the vet, as antibiotics or other medication might be needed.
Tumours or Polyps, either in the throat or vocal cords, may affect a cat’s ability to vocalise. These may be completely harmless, very serious, or something in between. But is your cat becomes hoarse or its voice changes, it would be good to get the vet to check out the reason.
Laryngeal Paralysis is very rare, but does occasionally occur in cats. This is nerve damage to the larynx which prevents the cat from miaowing. It can also interfere with breathing and cause other symptoms too, so again, it is a good idea to get your cat to the vet to be looked over.
Hyperthyroidism is very common in older cats. The most common symptoms are weight loss, overactivity, and increased appetite, but many other symptoms are possible too, and some hyperthyroid cats do become hoarse and stop miaowing. So again, a trip to the vet is in order.
Other conditions can also occasionally cause a cat to stop miaowing. Another of my Maine Coons, previously a very vocal cat, suddenly lost his voice and also his appetite. A trip to the vet showed him to have coughed up a very large hairball, which had made his throat sore! Of course the poor cat didn’t want to either eat or miaow. Antibiotics and painkillers very soon had him back to normal. So if your cat does stop miaowing, don’t assume it is something very serious.
The silent miaow
Many cats open their mouths to miaow, but no sound comes out. This ‘silent miaow’ is well known among cat owners, many of whom find it rather endearing. So what is the silent miaow? It is generally thought to be a normal miaow, but simply of a frequency which the human ear cannot hear. So the cat may believe it is miaowing, and other felines may be able to hear it, but we can’t.
How to encourage miaowing
If your cat is one of the silent ones, you may be quite happy with that. Indeed, those of us with very noisy cats may think such a cat would be very welcome! But if you want to encourage your cat to communicate with you more by miaowing, there are various things you can try which may help. Some people say you should simply talk to your cat, just carry on a normal conversation with her as you would with a person. Apparently, some cats will try to join in when you do this, and will learn to miaow. It is said that looking at the cat when you do this may help too. Apparently one pet owner even got a CD of cats miaowing and played it repeatedly for her cat, who eventually got the message and gave a clear and loud miaow. So it could be worth trying these methods if you really want your cat to miaow.
Does it matter if your cat doesn’t miaow?
It really doesn’t matter if your cat does not miaow. If you have checked that there is no medical reason, perhaps tried to teach her to vocalise, and you still have a silent cat, you may have to accept that this is the way she is. And so long as she is healthy and happy, that is all that really is important, isn’t it?