Why has my Cat Lost its Voice?

  • By:

    Dr. Linda Simon
    Dr. Linda Simon

    Author: Dr. Linda Simon

    Dr. Linda Simon is a veterinary surgeon working with seven years of experience. She is a fellow of the British Veterinary Association and specializing in animal medicine. Also, she has been the Woman magazine resident vet for the past two years and writes a regular column for them, focusing on pets and their health.

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  • Updated on: 07/06/2020

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Why does my Cat’s meow sound hoarse?

While we are all familiar with the feeling of going hoarse while we have a cold or perhaps after a night of partying too hard, not everyone knows that, just like us, our cats can go hoarse and ‘lose their meow’ too. It is not always obvious why this has happened and we need to become detectives to discover what is going on. There are several potential causes and it is vital to bring your cat to the vet if they have become hoarse as sometimes it is a sign of a serious underlying issue. The majority of the time, however, there is a benign cause and cats will be back meowing away in just a few weeks.

What about a weak meow or complete voice loss?

Sometimes, rather than going hoarse, cats will develop an abnormal or a weak meow. This may precede them going completely mute, or they may never go on to entirely lose their meow. Typically, a weak meow or a total loss of voice has the same causes as a cat going hoarse.

@margarita88 / Freepik

What are the causes of a Voice change in Cats?

1. Over Use

This is most often seen in females who are continually calling because they are in a season of heat but can be seen in any cat who has recently been very vocal. Perhaps they have been left in the vets or in a boarding facility and are voicing their indignation, or maybe there is a new cat that has moved in next door and they are attempting to communicate with them. These kitties rarely use their meow but can become slightly hoarse. Once they settle down and stay quiet for a while, their symptoms should resolve. Cats will otherwise be well in themselves and acting as usual.

2. Laryngitis

An inflamed larynx can lead to difficulty swallowing and a hoarse meow. There can be many causes, including irritation from inhaled fumes or smoke and infections. There can be some pain involved and cats typically feel somewhat under the weather.

3. Foreign Body

Cats can sniff up or swallow foreign bodies such as blades of grass, fish bones, or grass awns, which can lodge in the throat and make it difficult to meow. Usually, we will see other signs such as retching, smelly breath and a reduced appetite. Sometimes, a foreign body can be seen when an animal is conscious, but more often than not we will need to sedate an animal and visualize their larynx with a laryngoscope to get a better idea of what is going on.

4. Growths & Tumours

Whether growth in the throat is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous and with the potential to spread around the body), it can interfere with normal vocalization. Tumors may be visible from the outside if very large but we usually need to sedate or anesthetize an animal to get a better view of things.

5. Viral and Bacterial Respiratory Infections

Cats are prone to infections such as Cat Flu, and they are easily spread from one to another. Cats may also sneeze, cough, and have discharge from their nose and eyes. This can be secondary to the irritation from a cough and/or a local inflammation. While a vet will not always confirm infection with tests, where necessary, swabs and blood tests can be taken to verify which infection is present.

6. Non-respiratory Infections

Certain non-respiratory infections can cause an altered voice, such as the Rabies virus. This viral infection is only present in certain countries and, sadly, those affected need to be euthanized to protect other animals and people.

7. Hyperthyroidism

While not the most common symptom of hyperthyroidism, voice loss is possible. More often, those with an overactive thyroid will exhibit weight loss, diarrhea and an increased appetite. Many will vocalize more, and this can undoubtedly irritate the throat. A simple blood test can check thyroid levels.

8. Laryngeal Paralysis

Dogs are more likely to develop laryngeal paralysis than cats, but cats are not immune to this disorder. The laryngeal cartilages fail to function as they should and fail to open adequately when a cat breathes. To diagnose this condition, vets will view the larynx under light anesthetic to monitor what it does while a cat breathes in and out.

READ MORE: Why does my Cat Yowl at Night

Can a Cat meow so much they lose their Voice?

Absolutely, as discussed above, a cat who uses their voice too much for whatever reason could potentially lose it temporarily. Once they rest their voice, it will gradually return to normal. Importantly, these cats will have no other symptoms and won’t be acting unwell in any way.

Tell me more about Laryngitis

@goodluz / Freepik

Laryngitis is an interesting disease that is perhaps under-diagnosed in cats, particularly as they are unable to tell us when they have a sore throat! The term ‘-itis’ means inflammation, and Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx (voice box). On close examination, we will generally see fluid build-up (edema) of the larynx itself and localized erythema (‘redness’).

Laryngitis is frequently accompanied by a dry and harsh cough. Some cats may breathe harder and faster, particularly if the Laryngitis is severe. Sometimes, their breathing is noisy, and one can even hear it from a distance!

Vets can generally make a diagnosis from their physical exam but may choose to take a closer look at the throat under sedation or anesthetic if uncertain or if they wish to rule out any other underlying issues.

Treatment of Laryngitis includes anti-inflammatories, pain relief, air humidifiers, the feeding of soft food, and antibiotics if a secondary bacterial infection is present.

READ MORE: Why is my Cat always Hungry

So, what causes laryngitis in Cats?

A number of things can lead to inflammation of the larynx ranging from infections to irritants, and it can also occur secondary to intubation after a general anesthetic. If a foreign body is lodged in the throat and irritating it, this can also result in Laryngitis.

READ MORE: How to get rid of Cat Urine Smell in house

Does laryngitis in Cats go away?

Yes, Laryngitis is not a permanent disorder and will resolve with time. How long this takes depends on what has caused Laryngitis and how severe it is. Once the primary issue has been treated, most will be back to normal in a matter of weeks.

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