Cat Lost His Voice

CatChannel veterinary expert, Arnold Plotnick, DVM, explains that it can be difficult to determine the cause of a change in a cat's voice.

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Q: I have a question which several veterinarians could not answer for me. My cat Sylvester seems to have lost his voice. What would be the cause of this? Could an illness be involved? 

A: Loss or change of voice is one of those vague problems that drive vets crazy.  In most cases that I’ve encountered, I could not attribute the voice change to any particular cause.  In some instances, however, the cause is readily apparent. The most common cause I’ve seen is a viral upper respiratory infection, with the herpes virus and/or the feline calicivirus being the main culprit. Most viral upper respitory infections result in runny eyes, snotty nose and lots of sneezing. Occasionally they’re result in laryngitis — a “sore throat” — and a hoarse or lost voice.

I’ve seen cats with oral tumors involving the throat or the vocal cords that resulted in a voice change or loss. Finally, there is a condition called laryngeal paralysis, in which the nerve that controls the vocal folds becomes damaged, causing the larynx not to open properly, resulting in a change of voice. This is much more common in dogs than cats. Interestingly, I diagnosed my first case of this about four days ago.

Even though most cases are due to upper respiratory infections, which are fairly benign, a change in voice should be evaluated by your veterinarian. He or she might want to sedate the cat and perform a thorough oral exam, looking at the back of the throat, and even trying to pass an endotracheal tube down the trachea to see if there is a mass or other obstruction. X-rays may be necessary to look for masses that are in the trachea or in the neck that cannot be detected simply by feel. 

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Reader Comments

jackie    chicago, IL

11/25/2014 12:30:19 PM

My Cat Lost Her Meow.with No Other Symtoms.Vet Did xrays Anda Few More Tests That I Could Afford And Gave Us Antibiotics. We Finished Them With No Change. But Since She Doesnt Have Any Other Symptom We AreKeeping A Close Eye On Her. ToDay Ive Noticed That My Other Cats(The Daughter)Has Lost Her Meow Also With No Other Symptoms. I Work From Home So Im AlwayswWith Them.Should I Go To Tge Vet Again?I Cant Really Afford It But Dont Want My Cats To Suffer.

dave    International

9/10/2014 5:37:18 AM

our cats meow starting changing 2 weeks ago when the magpies,thats birds here in australia started to swoop her,her voice was very loud,very exited and agitated all at once..not long after,say 3 days later,her meow changed...ive put this down to a strained voice box,and feel she has done some damage to her laranx....no i havent been to the vet,her appetite is normal,same as her water intake..yes we are goin to take her to the vets,but feel this is not a disease,but as humans watching a game of sport,we yell,we cheer,we lose our voice,same as for dogs,cats etc....

koba    International

7/1/2014 11:34:28 AM

Could it be acid reflux?

Amanda    International

5/24/2014 2:17:13 AM

I'm feeding a stray cat ,he came in this morning and his meow was hoarse.

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