Even cats who need to talk have great individual characteristics. Some cats are total chatterboxes, while others just meow when they’re in need. The third category includes cats who have difficulty meowing at all. In fact, my cat only squeaks instead of meowing. Like me, you may be curious as to why your cat meows in a squeaky manner. Why doesn’t my cat meow instead of squeaking? Do I need to worry about her? And when will she be able to meow like all the other cats do?
I provide solutions to all of these queries and more in this essay. It’s okay if some cats never acquire the ability to meow. However, squeaking can also be a symptom of illness, damage, or frailty, so it’s important that we can distinguish between the two. All that counts is that our animals are content and healthy.
Why do cats meow?
I want to briefly discuss the origin of the term “cat’s meow” before getting into the specifics of the article. This can make it clearer to us whether or not our furry friends’ lack of vocalization proficiency is a problem. A cat does not typically meow as a sound. Instead, it is a sound that they pick up by being around people or other domestic cats that have already mastered it. There are two basic hypotheses on the origin of this meow:
- Cats discovered that people are more sensitive to the frequencies of a meow than other sounds, making it a more efficient way to catch our attention.
- Since cats have seen people hurrying to console their wailing children, they strive to imitate this sound when meowing to us.
It’s interesting to note that cats exclusively meow at people. To grab my attention, my cat keeps meowing and rubbing up against everything. In fact, it’s uncommon, if not impossible, to observe two cats meowing at one another. Cats use scent and other vocalizations like growling, muttering, and hissing heavily for intraspecies communication. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter if your cat can only squeak instead of meow. They only communicate with you or other members of your family through meowing. Instead, you may decipher your cat’s messages from its squeaks or body language, and your feline friend will develop a unique method of expressing its needs and wants to you.
Why Does My Cat Squeak Instead of Meow?
Although your cat can still communicate with you in other ways if it stops meowing, it’s still vital to understand why. Your cat is probably fine if it has always made that noise. However, if your cat’s usual meow starts to sound squeaky, it may be a sign of illness or injury. The six most likely explanations for not being able to meow are listed below. Check which you believe applicable, and if you have any doubts, take your cat to the veterinarian.
1. Vocal Cord Birth Defects
Their vocal chords are what provide the meow sound that we associate with cats. Cats may not be able to create this sounds if these vocal cords don’t mature properly. Instead, their vocal cords may struggle and produce a squeaky sound. It’s possible that your cat’s vocal cords were harmed from birth as a result of a birth defect. The region around the vocal cords or the vocal cords themselves may have a flaw that prevents them from working normally. Another possibility is that the nerves that control the larynx and vocal cords were never properly developed.
A vet’s confirmation is the only way to be certain whether or not your cat has a birth condition. But it’s unlikely that these will lead to any serious problems. Your cat can just be incapable of speaking, similar to being blind or deaf. However, aside from this, they are content and healthy.
2. Stunted Growth of the Vocal Cords
Cats get bigger and bigger as they mature into adulthood. The larynx and vocal cords, among other internal organs, are also affected by this. Vocal chords can become stretched if they don’t develop appropriately and at a rate proportionate to the rest of the body. As a result, your cat’s meow might sound squeaky. When kittens are healthy cats, a throat injury or trauma of some kind usually results in abnormal growth. Kids can mistakenly be overly rough with kittens, squeezing and pressing their throats. Later in life, this can have an impact on a cat’s capacity to meow.
It is crucial to instruct young children on how to properly hold kittens for this reason as well as to prevent other injuries. You don’t want to be dealing with the effects of traumatized cats or wondering, “Why is my cat so afraid of everything?” as a result of trauma that could have been prevented.
3. Diseases and Infections
Your cat may have a sickness or infection if their meow starts to sound squeaky out of the blue. A cat’s capacity to meow may be affected by a number of medical issues, including:
- Upper Respiratory Infections: Your cat’s upper respiratory system can become infected by viruses and bacteria. Examples of common feline viruses include feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus, and bronchiseptica. You’ll experience symptoms like sneezing, congestion, and drainage from the eyes and nose, which are similar to those of a human cold.
- Hyperthyroidism: Cats with hyperthyroidism have enlarged, hyperactive thyroid glands. This gland can press on the vocal chords as it grows and is located in the neck. Hyperactivity, an increase in hunger, and weight loss are other symptoms. Hyperthyroidism is likely if you notice your cat drinking a lot of water and meowing loudly.
- Laryngeal Paralysis: Here, the laryngeal nerve paralyzes, making it impossible for the larynx to open and close normally. You might hear a squeaky meow from your cat or a raspy, feeble meow from mine. Additionally, respiratory problems will be noticeable, and you may have noisy breathing, coughing, and difficulty catching your breath.
- Nasopharyngeal polyps: Polyps are tiny tissue growths that form in the ear canal. As they expand, they may block the neck as they descend there. They won’t just have a squeaky meow as a result of this; they will also have trouble breathing. Other signs include shaking the head, pawing at the ear, and falling over.
You should take your cat to the veterinarian if you observe any of the aforementioned symptoms. Treatment is an option for all of these ailments. Antibiotics may be needed to cure infections; surgery or iodine therapy can be used to treat hyperthyroidism; and polyps can be surgically removed. There is no reason your cat cannot heal completely and resume its meowing in a short period of time with prompt treatment.
4. Injury to the vocal cords
I’ve already spoken about how rough handling of kittens can cause improper growth of the vocal cords. But injury to the throat later in life can also cause your cat to squeak instead of meow. When the larynx and voice box are damaged, they can’t produce meows and other noises effectively.
For a cat to lose its meow, injuries tend to be pretty severe. They might have gotten into a catfight. Or perhaps they badly stained their throats trying to escape from an area they got trapped in while out exploring. Definitely book in for a checkup appointment with your vet. They might be able to provide pain relief while your cat recovers and advise on anything else that could help the recovery.
5. Extreme hunger or thirst
My cat meows and is constantly hungry. She wakes me up at the crack of dawn every morning with her persistent demands for food. Cats’ bodies can weaken when they no longer feel hungry, though. They squeak instead of meowing since they are barely able to. It’s quite improbable that this is the cause of your cat’s inability to meow; instead, it squeaks. You can rule this one out as long as your cat is eating and you’re giving it the right amount to eat. But if you come across a stray cat who squeaks, this is very likely. You have no idea how long they have gone in search of food, and their bodies may be extremely depleted of energy.
Dehydrated cats get the same symptoms. Water is necessary for the normal functioning of every cell and organ in our body, including the voice box. A cat’s voice will be hoarse and squeaky if it is severely dehydrated. Get your cat to drink more as a quick cure for this issue. Water fountains are a fantastic solution, or you could try flavoring the water with something like chicken broth.
6. Not Used to Humans
Cats only meow to communicate with people, as was already explained. When I go to bed at night, my cat meows to get my attention. When I sneeze, my cat meows. My cat keeps meowing at the door; why? You guessed it, to request that I let her out. Cats are always attempting to connect with humans through meows. Consequently, cats that have never been around humans may not be able to meow. Have you recently taken in a stray cat? If so, their squeaky meow might result from this. Your cat may eventually pick up the skill of meowing and communicating with you, or it may never fully develop its voice.
Should I Worry That My Cat Can’t Meow But Just Squeaks?
Every cat is unique, and some are more talkative with their owners than others. Although my cat meows constantly, I’ve had cats in the past who were largely silent. Don’t be concerned if your cat only squeaks instead of meowing. This is such a sweet and distinctive characteristic of your kitty. Squeaky meows can indicate both disease and injury, it follows. For this reason, even if you believe nothing is wrong, I would advise visiting the veterinarian. Always make sure your furry feline friend is healthy by checking again. It’s possible that you won’t forgive yourself if something is done but is ignored.
Additionally, if your cat used to meow normally but has recently started to squeak, you need to contact your veterinarian immediately. Even more reason to get a checkup if the noisy meow is accompanied by other signs of sickness. Major clinical indicators to watch for include:
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Breathing difficulties and open mouth breathing
- Sneezing, coughing, and congestion
- Discharge from the nose and mouth
- Weakness and extreme lethargy
- Sudden behavioral changes, such as aggression
- Your cat tries to meow, but nothing comes out at all
Will my cat ever learn how to meow properly?
You can unwind if you’ve ruled out any underlying medical issues as the source of your cat’s squeaky meow. All cats are unique, as I’ve remarked a few times already. Your cat’s peculiar squeaks can be interpreted as a powerful and distinctive personality attribute. Your kitty is just really unique! You might be curious as to whether your cat will ever be able to meow properly, though. and their age has a significant impact on this. Unlike adult cats who never learned to meow, kittens still have time to develop their voice.
Kittens learning to meow
If your domestic cat meows a little squeaky, don’t worry—most domestic cats will learn to meow when they are kittens. They usually have a voice, they just don’t know how to utilize it yet. Immediately after birth, kittens begin to utilize and exercise their voice chords. Some vocalizations will be present immediately after birth, but cats may not develop voices until they are 3–4 months old. Unneutered cats may be carrying a litter of kittens if you observe any labor symptoms in them. Then you’ll have the good fortune of witnessing this learning procedure firsthand.
To make matters worse, some cats don’t fully mature their adult meow until they are a year old. It’s possible that a 12-week-old kitten you adopted is still voice-developing if it makes squeaky noises. As they mature into adult cats, you may observe them as they learn to meow. So if your kitty isn’t meowing, don’t get alarmed. As they master this vocalization, it’s normal for kittens to squeak or meow silently. If your kitten appears weak and lethargic, this is a much bigger cause for concern. However, if they’re joyful, active, and animated, be patient with them while they develop their meowing skills. They just need a little bit of time, and their voice will come!
Adult cats learning to meow
It is less likely that an adult cat will learn to meow if it only squeaks instead of meowing. This is a skill that often develops throughout the kitten stage, as was just described. Squeaking adult cats were probably not near people or meowing cats when they were kittens, thus they never learned the skill. Feral cats and kittens taken in by rescue organizations may eventually learn to meow. They are more likely to mimic your voice and meow the more time they spend with you and other people. Many cats, though, never picked up the ability to meow. They’ll continue to squeak and use that method to try to grab your attention.
Things are a little different for mature cats who are unable to meow because of illness or damage. These cats know how to meow and haven’t lost the necessary abilities; instead, something prevents them from using these abilities. Their small voice will return once the medical problem is treated.