Can Cats Lose Their Voice?

Jennifer S. Fryer, DVM
By Jennifer S. Fryer, DVM on Sep. 5, 2023
white long-haired cat meowing while laying down

At some point, most of us have had a cold and have lost our voice partially or completely for a few days because of throat swelling. This condition, called laryngitis, resolves in a few days without medical care for almost everyone.

If our cat loses their voice there is a change in the structure or function of the larynx, the part of the throat that contains the vocal cords. In most cases, cats need veterinary care, because changes in the throat can quickly lead to difficulty in breathing and swallowing.

Key Takeaways

  • Most cases of voice loss in cats warrant at least a chat with the vet to determine next steps.
  • An upper respiratory infection is typically the most common underlying reason for a cat to experience voice loss.
  • Cats do not typically rest their voices after meowing too much, so it may lead to temporary voice loss.

What Is Loss of Voice in Cats?

The most common cause of a change in a cat’s voice is an upper respiratory infection. This is temporary, and the cat’s meow typically returns to normal a few days to a few weeks after the infection resolves. Some upper respiratory infections warrant veterinary care, so call your veterinarian if your cat has a voice change along with squinty eyes, yellow or green nasal or eye discharge, lethargy, or especially if your cat is not eating or drinking much.

Other causes of a changed or lost voice are less common but often more serious, as they could lead to difficulty swallowing or trouble breathing, which is potentially life-threatening. The most common of these causes are a tumor in the throat, a foreign object stuck in the throat, injury to the throat, abscess (pocket of pus), irritation from eating a toxic substance, or laryngeal paralysis.

Ways a Cat Can Lose Their Voice

  • An upper respiratory viral infection can cause laryngitis, similar to humans with colds. The swelling in the throat causes a temporary change or loss of their voice.
  • Benign polyps occur most commonly in the back of the mouth (nasopharynx) in cats. Occasionally, they occur on the larynx, where they cause the meow to change.

  • Lymphoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the two most common cancers that occur in the throat. As they grow, they cause a change in the sound of your cat’s voice or a loss of it, as well as noisy breathing.

  • Any type of trauma or injury to the throat area can cause swelling and damage to the structure of the larynx, along with a change in the vocalizations. These include:

    • Foreign object (e.g., needle and string, stick, or foxtail)
    • Bite wound, venomous bite, kick, fall, or crush injury

  • Abscesses can quickly develop from an infection from a foreign object or bite wound in the throat. As the abscess grows, the meow can change or become silent.

  • Caustic irritation causes swelling in the mouth and throat. Depending on the extent of the swelling (which may become worse before it improves), your cat’s voice may change or become lost. This can be caused by:

  • Laryngeal paralysis is a condition when part of the larynx does not move completely or at all. The larynx has a set of gates called the arytenoids, which are always open so the cat can breathe. They close when the cat swallows so that water and food can pass safely into the esophagus. With laryngeal paralysis, the voice changes, breathing becomes louder, and the cat is more at risk for aspiration pneumonia because food and water can pass into the lungs.

  • Laryngeal edema is generalized swelling of the throat from various causes.

  • Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disorder causing weak muscles. While muscles can be weak throughout the body, sometimes the weakness is limited to the throat and esophagus, causing a change in the meow and food regurgitation.

  • Eosinophilic granuloma complex is a group of inflammatory (swelling) disorders of the skin and mouth. Occasionally, the inflammation occurs in the throat, where the swelling causes a voice change or complete loss.

  • Very rarely, cats that had a surgical thyroid removal or ethanol injection of the thyroid nodules as treatment for hyperthyroidism develop a voice change or lose their voice after the procedure.

Some upper respiratory infections warrant veterinary care, so call your veterinarian if your cat has a voice change along with squinty eyes, yellow or green nasal or eye discharge, lethargy, or especially if your cat is not eating or drinking much.


When to Contact Your Vet About Cat Voice Loss

A cat that has voice loss or voice change but is otherwise feeling well—with no changes in their eating and drinking, breathing, or energy level—does not need a veterinary visit unless they start to show any of the signs listed below. Most cats with a mild upper respiratory infection or that have been meowing too much will fit into this category.

If your cat has a change in their voice and meets any of the following criteria, contact your veterinarian to determine next steps or if they need to be seen by appointment:

  • Less energy or lethargic

  • Eating less or drinking less

  • Dropping food or drooling

  • Vomiting or regurgitating food

  • Becoming easily tired after walking or playing

The following signs may be related to swelling in the throat or difficulty breathing. If your cat shows any of the following signs, see an urgent care vet immediately:

  • Neck swelling or hesitancy to move the head

  • Noisy breathing

  • Using belly muscles to breathe

  • Gums appear blue, purple, or bright red

Still searching for answers? Ask us.

Chat FREE with our licensed vet team daily.

Chat Daily, 6 am to midnight ET.

Free for Chewy customers, exclusions apply. Virtual consults are supplementary to in-office visits. Our telehealth team does not prescribe, treat, or diagnose.

Chewy Connect with a Vet

Can Cats Lose Their Voice From Meowing Too Much?

A voice is never meant to be used nonstop, whether the voice belongs to a human or a cat. With constant use, the larynx develops swelling and edema.

Since cats do not typically rest their voices after meowing too much, it can take some days or a week or more for them to recover. In severe cases, when noisy breathing is involved, veterinary care may be needed to relieve the swelling.

Cat Voice Loss FAQs

Do cats get their voices back after voice loss?

Most cats can get their voices back after losing them, but it depends on the cause. If surgery is needed to remove a tumor or there is nerve damage, only time will tell if the meow returns in the same way.

What is a “silent meow”?

A silent meow may be a meow made in a range that human beings cannot hear. Cats can hear sounds in the range of 48 Hz to 85 kHz, which is different from the human range (20 Hz to 20 kHz). However, if you have always heard your cat’s meows and now you don’t, a vet visit may be in order in the next few days to figure out the cause.

Featured Image:


Heffner RS, Heffner HE. Hearing range of the domestic cat. Hearing Research. 1985;19(1):85-8.

Luke, JO. Dysphonia (Altered Meow) in a Cat. Veterinary Information Network Case Videos.

Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors. Neuroscience. 2nd ed. Sinauer Associates; 2001.

Taylor SS, Harvey AM, Barr FJ, Moore AH, Day MJ. Laryngeal disease in cats: a retrospective study of 35 cases. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. 2009 Dec;11(12):954-62.

Wells AL, Long CD, Hornof WJ, Goldstein RE, Nyland TG, Nelson RW, Feldman EC. Use of percutaneous ethanol injection for treatment of bilateral hyperplastic thyroid nodules in cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2001 Apr 15;218(8):1293-7.

Wismer, T. Voice Change. Cote's Clinical Veterinary Advisor: Dogs and Cats (ebook). 4th ed. Elsevier; 2019.


Jennifer S. Fryer, DVM


Jennifer S. Fryer, DVM


Jennifer S. Fryer, DVM graduated with Honors from Brown University with an AB in Development Studies, an interdisciplinary study of the...

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health