The short answer is that cats aren’t naturally vocal with one another.
The little purrs and chirps that we’ve become accustomed to are sounds that a cat typically reserves for her kitten.
With domestication, cats have learned to use these sounds to get what they want.
In this post, we’ll explore the issue of vocalization in some depth.
We’ll explain why it’s normal for cats to be quiet and when it’s a cause for concern.
Cats are Naturally Quiet
“Speaking” is a somewhat human concept that serves little purpose for wild animals.
Big cats, like lions, may:
- Roar to attract a mate
- Growl when threatened
- Or “speak” to their cubs
Aside from that, talking has little value in the bush.
Big cats must focus on more critical issues, such as survival.
Domesticated cats started as quiet pets too.
The silence was an asset when people used them to control rat populations.
Dogs, on the other hand, were trained to guard homes and go hunting. For them to be noisy and boisterous was an asset.
They reverted to the “language” that their mothers used on them as kittens.
Today’s well-trained pet owners have become adept at interpreting what the meows mean.
Cats Use Vocalization to Get What They Want
Nicholas Nicastro set out to catalogue the full range of cat meows and sounds.
In a 2002 study in conjunction with Cornell University, Nicastro established that cats made at least 100 different sounds.
In an effort to see the effectiveness of these sounds, Nicastro played them back to volunteers.
He found that while cats don’t use a formal language, they’re excellent communicators.
Volunteers were relatively quickly able to interpret when the cat was hungry, wanted a cuddle, and so on.
Nicastro was quick to point out that these sounds aren’t a language as such.
Cats don’t have natural language abilities, but they’ve learned how to train us very well.
If your cat doesn’t speak to you very often, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It may just mean that they’re content and don’t need anything.
Some Cats Break the Mould
Every cat has a distinct personality.
Some loathe talking, while others seem to enjoy it.
Their love of conversation is often breeding dependent.
Siamese cats are highly talkative, while Birmans are naturally quiet.
When To Be Concerned
In most cases, having a quiet cat shouldn’t worry you.
Where you should be concerned is when your usually vocal pet has suddenly become silent.
It may be due to stress or depression, but there are some physical causes to investigate, as well.
Upper Respiratory Infection
Cats suffer through many of the same symptoms we do when they have a respiratory tract infection.
If any of the following accompanies your cat’s quietness, they need to go to the vet:
- Runny nose
- Discharge from the nose or eyes
The most common infections are cleared up quickly with a course of antibiotics.
Ask a Vet
If you about your cat no longer vocalizing and notice any unusual symptoms we recommend you speak with a vet ASAP to help you work out what’s going on and what needs to be done. JustAnswer allows you to talk in real-time to veterinary experts for a small fee.
Hyperthyroidism is more common in older cats.
With this condition, your feline loses weight and may develop a raspy tone to their voice.
The disease is best diagnosed by your vet using blood tests. The state is treatable.
Tumours or Growths
Growths that impinge on the vocal cords may impede your cat’s ability to make a sound.
Such conditions develop over time, with the cat initially sounding different before it loses its voice.
Other symptoms that may present with this condition are:
- Repetitive ear infections
You should take your cat to the vet as soon as possible. Many of these tumours are benign.
Your vet should remove those that are cancerous as quickly as possible to prevent it from spreading.
The prognosis for your cat is better if you catch cancer in the early stages.
The chances of your cat having this condition are low.
The most common cause of a paralysed larynx is trauma.
If your cat was hit by a car or attacked by a dog, they might have nerve damage to their voice box.
Most cats with this condition also:
- Have trouble breathing
- Experience weight loss
- Battle to eat
If your cat displays any of these symptoms, it’s best to get them to the vets as soon as possible.
I Can’t Get My Cat to Keep Quiet
While cats are generally quiet pets (included here in a top ten list of quiet pets that include fish…they’re not that quiet!), some breeds are noisy by nature.
There’s not much you can do about it but love their outgoing personalities.
A Siamese is a primary example of a cat that is quick to voice concerns or just burble away.
Owners of this breed grow to appreciate their cat’s style and somewhat loud voices.
By contrast, an Abyssinian or Russian Blue is relatively quiet. It’s up to you to decide which type you’d prefer.
If you prefer a more silent cat, then don’t get a Siamese.
Tips to Get Your Cat to Speak
Talking to your cat is usually the best way to get them to respond.
Speak in a natural tone, and make sure that they know you’re talking to them.
Chat to them often and be patient.
Talking will not come quickly to all cats.
If that doesn’t work, you might instead try to meow at your pet.
Keep the meows short, and make sure they don’t have an urgent tone to them.
Your cat might look at you strangely at first, but they may respond.
Should that not work, you could try to play a video of other cats meowing.
It’s a gamble because cats usually reserve their vocalizations for humans.
You might feel a little left out if your cat is quiet.
There’s no reason for this reaction.
Cats don’t attribute the same importance to vocalization as us.
Non-vocal cats show their affection in other ways.
As long as your pet is healthy and happy, there’s nothing to concern you.