I've adopted, or is it been adopted by, a stray cat which frequents multiple houses in the immediete area, but sleeps on the sofa in my lounge. It struggles to communicate even though I know it is capable and trying.
It seems the meow sound it creates is very high pitched, to the point that I can barely hear it. What I'll hear is the beginning or end of the vocalisation with a quiet part where there seems to be a rise in frequency. I don't have access to an oscilloscope to test this theory. I've tested my hearing and I can reliably catch sounds up to 16khz, it seems to be emitting noises around that level.
At times im pretty sure it doesnt bother with the sound and just makes eye contact and opens its mouth like a meow.
It is a neutered male, very docile. I've given it a flea collar, and nobody has removed it, but I've seen it coming out of other people's back doors and even sitting outside the front of a house across the street. Nobody I have asked says they know who it belongs to. I don't think it considers itself an owned animal. It doesnt mind being handled, and enjoys grooming, so clearly it was a pet at some time in its life. Curiously, it is terrified of the sound of plastic bags and will run.
I've found a few questions about cats and lack of a meow such as this one Why does my cat meow less than I expect it to?
But this is not the same situation. It is giving off a vocalisation but it doesnt understand that I can't hear it properly. Maybe it thinks we're deaf but has learned that the action of a meow is enough to get it attention.