Albuquerque Journal Article – Speechless Cat

cat meowing

Soldering Infection may be at Fault   


I have a 10 year old male orange tabby. He has always been a vocal cat and enjoys “talking” back and forth with you. A week ago he lost his voice. He seems healthy otherwise, but is a bit sad and perplexed about not being able to speak. Is this something that you have seen resolve over time? We hesitate to take him to the veterinarian. He gets upset and becomes quite loud when being transported. He goes outside in his protected backyard, and I wondered if seasonal allergies might be a culprit.


Dr. Nichol:

Mum’s the word from your kitty but his predicament may be significant. Being well-informed will help you avoid the serious mistake of watching and waiting as a potentially deadly problem steals this boy’s life. His aphonia (inability to produce a voice) could be caused by any of several problems, some of which Mother Nature can handle all by herself.

Just like in people, temporary loss of a cat’s voice could result from laryngitis, in your boy’s case possibly due a bout with an upper respiratory virus like calici or feline herpes. The latter, known as FHV-1, is a lifelong, often latent, infection that your cat may have contracted as a kid. A transient flare-up would probably improve on its own in about 7-10 days. Allergies would be unlikely to cause a kitty’s failure to communicate.

There are more serious possibilities. I consulted on your cat’s symptoms with board certified veterinary neurologist Dr. Scott Schatzberg. He explained that a disorder of the nerves that supply the voice box, its muscles, or a lesion in the brainstem could be at fault. Cancer or foreign material lodged near the vocal cords may also need to be considered.

If your cat develops additional signs or if he’s still missing his voice in another week or so I would advise having him examined – despite his complaining and belly aching. On the other hand, if he’s like many humans, silence wouldn’t be an altogether bad thing. Never sticking his paw in his mouth could improve his marriage or at the very least he might appear more intelligent.


Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.