Dear Doctor: Silent Meow


Q. Sometimes my cat meows at me, but no sound comes out. What is the significance of a silent meow?

Lorraine Schneider
Omaha, Nebraska

Dear Ms. Schneider,

A. To tell you the truth, no one really knows why cats sometimes meow silently, although a number of theories exist. Some believe it means a cat is feeling so affectionate toward you that she doesn’t have the “words” to express it. Others have wondered whether it’s a sign that your pet is particularly hungry. Still others say the meow is not silent but simply uttered too softly for you to hear.

Cats possess much better hearing than we do, picking up sounds at four to five times the distance that we can, so they may be “saying” something softly in the mistaken belief that it will reach your ears. They also hear higher-pitched sounds, so they might be transmitting a sound in a higher octave than your ears can pick up (similar to a dog whistle).

Whatever the reason, it’s not something to worry about. When you see your cat meowing, even without making a sound, let her know you’re “listening.”


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