Vocal Problems


Cat lost her voice

Q: feel kind of silly asking about this but my cat, who is generally annoyingly vocal, lost her voice. I don't know if it's something to worry about or not. Over the last few days her voice first got deeper, then raspy, then barely croaking, then it disappeared altogether for a day or two. It's begun to get better (back to raspy) but I can't tell if it's improving anymore. She's certainly not back to "normal". This has all occurred over about a four day period. She is not the friendliest cat when strange animals come in the yard (she's had some howling "arguments" with these animals). Otherwise, we have two dogs and a pig and the neighbors have a cat that she is fine with. Could she have strained it in one of her fights or could this be a symptom of a more serious illness? She seems a little subdued but otherwise fine. She's less than a year old (we found her last summer when she was just a kitten). I'd appreciate any information you could give me. Thanks.

A: This is a vexing problem in veterinary medicine. I have at least 10 or 20 cat patients who have lost their voices either temporarily or permanently. So far, I have not been able to pin down a definite cause in many of them. One or two had visible oral cancers and I assumed they were the cause of the voice loss. In a couple of the short term voice loss cases there were enough signs of upper respiratory disease that I assumed laryngitis from one of them was present. The viral illnesses calicivirus and rhinotracheitis are probably the most common of the upper respiratory diseases in cats. Hopefully if this is the case your cat will regain her voice, too. I read of a case report of a cat with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) losing its voice. If the signs persist it probably wouldn't hurt to test for that (although it is probably an unlikely cause). I suspect that some cats just aren't speaking for willful reasons. They can be pretty stubborn at times. Since we can't ask, it is hard to be sure of this.

I know that wasn't much help. Your vet can check for the respiratory diseases, FIV and feline leukemia viruses if there persists.

Mike Richards, DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...