“My cat can’t meow, she just squeaks. She opens her mouth to meow, but can’t seem to produce the meowing sound. Why?”
We can’t speak for everyone, but we’re pretty sure you’ve been perplexed by your feline friend’s strange sounds on more than one occasion.
Cats can’t communicate the same way humans do, and that’s why they’re known to meow, purr, chirrup, and growl to get your attention. Cats emit these sounds to greet you, warn you about something, ask for attention, or even reprimand you.
More times than not, cats produce sounds to express what they’re going through or how they’re feeling because they’re paying attention to what humans do when they express themselves. They don’t necessarily meow at each other, they typically meow at humans.
Cats meow at kittens, too, and that’s why there’s a theory that cats view humans as bigger, dumber kittens. And we can’t forget that certain breeds are more vocal than others because they’re more talkative or sociable.
When they’re happy or sad, felines will communicate with meows, chirrups, hisses, purrs, chatters, and growls – but meows are the most common cat communication method. Because of that, pet parents freak out when they notice that their cats aren’t meowing.
Worry not, though, as we’ll be covering a bunch of reasons your cat might be squeaking rather than meowing. Read on, why don’t you?
Why do cats meow?
When you Google search “my cat can’t meow, she just squeaks,” you’re met with a myriad of reasons your four-legged friend might not be the biggest fan of meowing. We’re going to tackle these reasons, too, but we need to first address why cats meow at all.
We brushed over the fact that cats, for the most part, don’t meow at other cats.
They meow at humans because they’ve noticed that humans respond to sounds – whether they’re rushing to comfort a crying baby, producing sounds when they’re happy, sad, and scared, or giving attention and affection to a cat that’s producing sounds.
Cats start meowing when they hang out with humans, cats that are owned by humans, or street cats that have been abandoned by humans.
When a feline doesn’t meow, that typically means she hasn’t been around humans enough to figure out that she needs to meow to get a human’s attention. Why does your cat squeak rather than meow, then?
Why does my cat squeak rather than meow?
Whether you’re a pet parent to a kitten or a cat, you might notice that she doesn’t meow when she’s communicating with you.
She squeaks, purrs, chirrups, and growls, but doesn’t meow. She gets your attention by headbutting you, rubbing her teeth against you, and hopping on your chest, but she doesn’t meow.
If you’re 100% sure she’s never made a meowing sound, there’s nothing to worry about. When she stops meowing and starts squeaking out of the blue, though, you might need to contact your vet to check whether she’s suffering from some sort of illness or condition. More on that down below!
1. She’s a kitten
Kittens squeak! If your kitten is squeaking rather than meowing, you don’t need to freak out – that’s average kitten behavior. Kittens communicate with strange sounds, wobbles, and trembles.
When kittens grow up without a mother, they’re even more likely to squeak rather than meow because there’s nobody to copy. On the other hand, when the mother cat doesn’t meow, the kitten might not figure out how to meow, either.
We’re aware that these theories depend on whether or not your cat’s actually a kitten. But there are cases when grown cats don’t meow because they’ve never been exposed to meowing – however strange that might sound.
2. She’s super, super happy to see you
Cats make a myriad of sounds when expressing emotions.
Contrary to what the haters and naysayers believe, cats can experience happiness, sadness, excitement, anger, aggression, and an array of emotions humans regularly experience.
Rather than making the meowing sound every single time, cats may express these emotions by squeaking, thrilling, purring, chirruping, hissing, growling, and yowling. What does squeaking mean, then?
Squeaking typically expresses excitement. When your cat produces a high-pitched sound, chances are she can’t contain her excitement over something.
Whether she’s playing with you, watching the birds outside your window, or munching on the most delicious, paw-licking treat, she’s probably squeaking because she’s happy.
3. She’s hungry or thirsty
Now, what do you mean by when you say that your cat can’t meow, she just squeaks?
When your cat suddenly stops meowing and starts squeaking, there’s a chance something’s preventing her from making the meowing sound – rather than staying silent, she’s resorting to squeaking to get your attention.
What do we mean by that? When cats get hungry or thirsty during the night, for example, they’re known to start meowing, pawing at the door, or hopping on your face to wake you up and force you to feed them.
But when you forget to feed them or provide them with plenty of water during the steaming hot summer nights, cats can get too weak to meow. Because of that, your cat might start squeaking to get your attention and remind you that you need to feed her.
4. She was born with a birth defect that prevents her from meowing
Cats make the meowing sound with the help of vocal cords.
With time, vocal cords get stronger and better at producing clear, loud sounds and allow cats to communicate. On rare occasions, cats may be born without vocal cords or with vocal cord defects that prevent them from making the meowing sound.
Needless to say, your cat needs to communicate with you somehow and that’s why she might be trying to squeak, purr, or produce a sound that’ll get your attention.
Now, if you suspect your cat might have been born with a birth defect related to her vocal cords, you need to contact your vet and schedule an appointment ASAP.
5. She’s suffering from underdeveloped vocal cords
Other than a birth defect, your cat might be suffering from underdeveloped vocal cords.
Whether she’s never made a meowing sound or stopped meowing out of the blue, there’s a chance she might have experienced some sort of injury or infection preventing her vocal cords from developing when she was a kitten.
When kittens grow bigger and stronger, their larynx and vocal cords grow, too. But when these organs don’t grow at the same speed as the rest of the kittens’ bodies, we have a problem. The kitten might not be able to produce a clear sound and might end up squeaking rather than meowing.
We urge you to contact your vet the moment you notice there’s something wrong with your cat’s vocal cords.
6. She’s battling a disease or an infection preventing her from meowing
More bad news! Vocal cord birth defects and underdeveloped vocal cords sound bad, but diseases, injuries, and infections that require treatment sound even worse.
When your cat stops meowing without rhyme or reason, she might be suffering from something that’s causing her vocal cords to act up. What could that “something” be?
Upper respiratory infections, hyperthyroidism, laryngeal paralysis, nasopharyngeal polyps, and a bunch of other diseases you can’t even pronounce can cause symptoms that make your cat sound squeaky.
What to do when you freak out over the possibility of your fluffy friend contracting a disease that’s stopping her from meowing? Observe the rest of the symptoms and contact your vet – that’s your best bet to catch the disease on the spot and act accordingly.
7. She hurt her vocal cords
We hate to pry, but you might want to remember whether your cat’s been rough-handled by a child when she was a kitten. Rough handling can cause damage to your kitten’s vocal cords, which can further cause your kitten to squeak rather than meow when she grows up.
We do need to underline that the damage to your kitten’s vocal cords needs to be severe for that to happen, but it’s better to err on the safe side. Schedule an appointment with your vet to check whether your cat’s vocal cords are happy and healthy.
8. She was never taught to meow
We’ve come to the end of the list with a reason that might not have crossed your mind when you decided to figure out why your cat can’t meow, so she just squeaks. When you adopt a grown cat, you likely don’t know where she was or what she was doing beforehand.
More times than not, cats that squeak rather than meow were never taught how to do the latter. Cats don’t meow at other cats, we’ve already gone over that. When cats are rescued off the street where they spent most of their time hanging out with stray and feral cats, they’re likely to act a little differently.
Welp, you might just need to teach your cat how to meow!