Not all cats are the same in their vocalization. While some meow to show their emotions and to generally communicate with other animals and even with their humans, some others could simply be less vocal.
You expect to hear your cat meowing, at least every now and then. So, figuring out that your cat doesn’t meow, but only produces squeaking sounds can be surprising, even scary.
Why my cat can’t meow, but just squeaks? Does this mean something is wrong with her?
There are nine explanations for this occurrence in felines. Let’s learn more about them, and whether you should do something about it.
1. You Just Need To Give Some Time To Her
If you have just recently welcomed your cat to your home, maybe she just needs some time to adapt.
Maybe your cat hasn’t been surrounded with other cats that meow, and hasn’t particularly used this type of communication neither with animals nor with humans. This often happens with adopting feral cats
A cat that hasn’t been around people much before getting to your house could, eventually, start to meow instead of just squeaking.
Once she gets used to her new surroundings, there’s a good chance you’ll hear her meowing back at you!
Your cat squeaking and not meowing could indicate that she’s experiencing anxiety.
As PetMD explains, feline anxiety occurs when a cat feels some kind of threat or danger in her surroundings. This feeling causes bodily reactions and behavioral changes in cats.
Besides squeaking, a cat might tremble, pant, drool excessively, and have an increased heart rate. Also, she’s likely to hide and show destructive behaviors.
There are many triggers for feline anxiety, such as physical pain or illness, some kind of trauma, improper socialization, and even being separated from their owners.
If you notice your cat is anxious, you should try to comfort her. It’s crucial not to punish or yell at her, as this can exacerbate her anxiety.
You should also consult a veterinarian who will conduct health tests on your pet and suggest adequate treatment.
They could determine that your cat’s anxiety isn’t caused by medical issues and suggest management of your cat’s environment, or even anxiety medications to calm her.
3. Vocal Cords Injury
Some kind of injury to your cat’s vocal cords can cause her not to meow normally, but only squeak.
Maybe she has been in a fight with some other cat or she got in any other type of accident, which harmed her vocal cords.
If you suspect this could be the problem with your furry friend, you should seek a veterinarian’s help as soon as possible.
4. Dental Problems
A cat’s squeaking could indicate that she has dental problems. Any type of these issues can make it painful for cats to meow normally, and could even lead to sores in their mouths.
Some of the most common dental problems in cats are, according to VCA Animal Hospitals, gingivitis, tooth resorption, and periodontal disease.
Other common signs of dental issues are difficulties chewing and swallowing, bad breath, drooling a lot, head shaking, and drooping food from the mouth.
Dental problems can significantly diminish a cat’s quality of life, resulting in reduced appetite, weight loss, and lethargy.
You will need to take your cat to a vet clinic to get the exact prognosis for her dental state.
Regular tooth brushing and occasional professional teeth cleaning are the best ways to prevent dental problems in felines.
A cat that’s squeaking instead of meowing could also be dehydrated.
This happens because her vocal cords are dried-out and prevent her from meowing normally, only allowing her to produce squeaking sounds.
Dehydration can lead to more severe problems in cats, such as cardiac arrhythmias, neurologic dysfunction, and multi-organ dysfunction.
Cornell Feline Health Center points out that some of the additional symptoms showing your cat is dehydrated are the following:
• Sunken eyes
• Dry mucous membranes
• Poor appetite
If the vet confirms dehydration in your cat, she will get intravenous fluid therapy. It will also be necessary to determine the exact cause of dehydration in her, and this could be many things, such as gastrointestinal problems, diabetes, kidney problems, and so on.
Keeping your cat hydrated can be a challenging task since many cats are reluctant about drinking water. But, this is crucial for their health and your cat should always have clean and fresh water available.
To increase her water intake, you might want to consider giving her more wet food, or buying water fountains to make drinking water look more appealing for her.
6. Laryngeal Paralysis
This condition isn’t so common in cats, but it could be a reason why your cat can’t meow, and only squeaks, since it causes vocal changes.
According to MSD Veterinary Manual, this medical condition occurs when a cat’s cartilages of the larynx don’t open and close as they should during respiration.
In addition to vocal changes, cats with this condition can exhibit symptoms such as a dry cough, noisy breathing, and vomiting.
To confirm laryngeal paralysis, the veterinarian will need to examine the cat’s upper airway with an endoscope.
Sara Schachter and Carol Norris  explain how cats with less severe clinical signs can be successfully managed with medical treatments such as tranquilizers and corticosteroids.
On the other hand, cats with severe airway obstruction might need to get a surgical intervention.
Hyperthyroidism is another potential medical problem that could cause a pressure on a cat’s vocal cords, causing her to squeak instead of meowing normally.
This condition occurs when there is an increase in production of thyroid hormones from an enlarged thyroid gland that’s located in a cat’s neck.
Some of the most common signs of hyperthyroidism are increased thirst and urination and increased appetite but with visible weight loss.
Furthermore, besides your cat squeaking due to pressure on her vocal cords, she could also cough and gag excessively.
Feline hyperthyroidism can be managed in several ways, including medications, dietary therapy, and even surgical intervention.
In general, the prognosis is good, especially when this health problem is detected on time and when the cat is prescribed with appropriate therapy.
8. Nasopharyngeal Polyps
Nasopharyngeal polyps can make your cat sound more like she’s squeaking than meowing.
These polyps present pinkish-white mass of tissue from the back of the cat’s throat, in the Eustachian tube, or in the middle ear, as the American College of Veterinary Surgeons suggests.
The exact cause of these polyps isn’t known, but it’s believed that they mostly appear due to respiratory viruses.
Besides vocal changes, a cat could also experience the following symptoms:
• Nasal discharge
If polyps get too large, they might interfere with the cat’s swallowing.
Nasopharyngeal polyps in felines are usually removed by gently pulling on the mass. Unfortunately, these polyps can regrow in many cases. Therefore, it’s likely that a cat will need surgery to get rid of this medical problem.
Most cats get well very soon after surgery, and could need to have some pain medications at home.
9. Upper Respiratory Infections
Finally, upper respiratory infections might cause a cat to struggle with breathing difficulties, and also squeak instead of meowing.
These infections are rather common among cats and are caused by different bacteria or viruses. There could be additional symptoms, such as:
• Decreased appetite
Most common causes of upper respiratory infections in cats are feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, fungus, chlamydia, and bordetella, according to the WebMD.
Kittens and cats in advanced age are more susceptible to upper respiratory infections. Also, outdoor cats are at higher risks since they are more likely to come in contact with infected cats.
These infections are usually treated with medications, rest, fluids supplements, and nutritional support.
To get your cat to recover as soon as possible, and to hear her meowing normally again, you should provide her with a comfortable and privacy palace to rest. Try encouraging her to eat and give her medications as directed by your veterinarian.
My cat can’t meow, just squeaks, is this something I should worry about?
Well, this definitely doesn’t occur without a good reason. If you have just recently welcomed your cat to your home, there is a chance that she just isn’t used to meowing and hasn’t used this type of communication with humans before.
Hence, there’s a chance that she could meow normally in the future. Even if she doesn’t start doing it, if everything is alright with her health in general, there is nothing to worry about.
However, there are various medical problems that could potentially be a reason for your cat’s squeaking.
You should consult a veterinarian if you notice this type of vocalization in her, especially if it’s accompanied by other clinical signs.
In the end, I would like to remind you not to panic, since veterinarians are here to help you and still provide your cat with quality and long life on your side, regardless of the health problem she could be facing.
 Schachter S, Norris CR. Laryngeal paralysis in cats: 16 cases (1990-1999). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2000 Apr 1;216(7):1100-3. DOI, Retrieved September 14, 2023.