What pushed the mute button on three kittens living under a San Jose deck?

Why are the kittens under a San Jose deck mute? (Getty Images)

DEAR JOAN: Have you ever heard of a whole litter of kittens that cannot make any vocal sounds?

A cat had a litter of three under our deck. We didn’t have a clue they were there, as they never made any sounds. Not even the mewling sounds babies make when hungry.

My son noticed them when they were probably 6 to 8 weeks old. They are now about 7 or 8 months old, and we still have never heard them make sounds.

They come up and eat in the evening, so they are on the deck frequently. I sit in my recliner about 6 feet from the screen door. Still haven’t heard any sounds. I’ve had some deaf cats, but even they made noise.

— Jill Swanson, San Jose

DEAR JILL: Perhaps the cat got their tongues? Sorry, I tried so hard not to say that, but I just had to.

Most cats are vocal creatures, as anyone who’s been awakened at 4 a.m. by an insistent meowing over an empty food dish can attest. Cats have a wide range of sounds and chirps, and will chatter day and night. Some breeds – Siamese, Maine coon, Burmese – are more vocal than others, but not all cats are chatty.

There are a number of reasons for the silence. Muteness is common in kittens, but they usually outgrow it as they age and find their voices. Location can also make a difference. Cats in places where they don’t feel comfortable or safe will remain silent so they won’t draw attention to themselves. Cats also can become mute through damage to their vocal cords or through illness.

Except in the case of illness, having silent cats is nothing to worry about. They have ways of communicating.

DEAR JOAN: A small possum enters our garage every night and stays for over an hour at a time. We have a wildlife camera set up.

Our outdoor cats shelter there. We (removed) the food and water over a week ago, but the animal still comes in through the cat door. It’s not feasible to close the cat door and lock the outdoor cats inside overnight, as they are fairly feral. I’m getting the impression the possum just likes hanging out in a warmer environment.

Any suggestions about how we can discourage this animal from entering and staying in our garage?

— G. Collins, San Jose

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