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

Lisa    Hanover, PA

2/3/2015 5:47:20 PM

My cat has also lost her voice. She has been sneezing a lot lately and when she sleeps there is a respiratory sound that she emits. She has no other symptoms. Her appetite is great, she is going to the bathroom regularly and is as playful as ever (she is 11 yrs.). Is there anything I should be concerned about?

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 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?

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