Different breeds use subtle different variations of the same sounds to get their point across. The long-faced Siamese, traditionally the most vocal of cats, usually meows quite differently from its flat-faced Persian cousin. Some cats are especially raucous. The realization that so many loud, repetitive sounds can come out of such a small creature can be quite astonishing at times. Some cats, on the other hand, make no sound at all. They may appear to be meowing but nothing comes out. Fear not. The cat is not broken. Neither is it a mime. It was the silent meow.
The silent meow may not really be silent, just very high pitched. A young person hears sound frequencies ranging between 64 - 23,000 Hertz. A cat hears frequencies between 45 - 64,000 Hertz. Being able to hear such high-pitched frequencies explains some cats’ dislike for musical instruments and music in general. It was not auntie Flo’s dreadful violin technique that sent kitty scuttling under the bed after all; the greatest violin virtuoso would have caused exactly the same reaction in kitty.
What does the silent meow mean? The jury is out on this one. Opinions vary from it being no different from any other meow, to the greatest honor a cat can give a person. Body language is always a pointer. Tail straight up and vibrating, partially closed eyes, ears up; kitty is very happy to be with you. At the other end of the spectrum, tail held low, pupils dilated and ears back close against the head; kitty does not wish to interact with you at the moment, thank you.
People in the ‘greatest honor camp’ liken the silent meow emanating, or not, from a comfortably relaxed cat with eyes narrowed and ears pointing up as being the very highest form of compliment. It is how a cat shows all the love and affection it feels for its family. It is kitty’s way of saying thank you.
If your cat has been vocal in the past and has stopped talking to you, a visit to the vet for a wellness check may be a wise move. If a previously silent cat begins wandering around the house meowing loudly, a vet visit would also be a good precaution.