Do Large Cats Purr? The Shocking Reply


lions in the wild

Most cats don’t have any issues with being vocal. They could be greeting you on the door, asking for additional head scratches, reminding you they’ll see the underside of their meals bowl, or chirping as they chase a pesky fly round your condominium. The way in which cats talk is exclusive to them; it differs from human strategies of communication and is extremely efficient and vital to cats.

Vocalizing helps cats bond socially, showcase, and even defend themselves when wanted. Nevertheless, housecats have extra in frequent with their larger, wild ancestors than it’s possible you’ll initially notice.

Any cat proprietor can let you know they love the sound of a cat’s purr, however it’s possible you’ll be questioning simply how comparable your cat is to a lion or jaguar. Do large cats purr too? Or can your home cat roar? The reply isn’t a easy sure or no. For essentially the most half, large cats like lions, tigers, and leopards can roar however can’t purr. Nevertheless, smaller wild cats like cougars, bobcats, and home cats can purr however can not roar. Whereas this may increasingly appear to be a tough no, some large cats, like Cheetahs, can purr. However why? Let’s discover out.

What Is Purring?

Purring is feasible in cats due to the tightly linked, delicate bones that line the again of a cat’s tongue as much as the bottom of its cranium. When a cat vibrates its larynx or voice field, it causes these skinny bones to resonate. These bones within the cat’s throat are referred to as the hyoid, and so they help the larynx and the tongue.

The hyoid is a U-shaped bone immediately above the thyroid cartilage, or what we take into account the Adam’s Apple space in people. The hyoid bone is ossified in smaller cats like our domesticated housecats. A home home cat’s hyoid bone has inflexible, bony tissue. When a bobcat, cheetah, or cougar makes its larynx vibrate, it causes the hyoid bone to resonate or to supply a deep, full, and reverberating sound. This low-frequency rumble is the addictive noise we affectionately name purring.

In large cats, nevertheless, this hyoid bone is just partially ossified: fully altering which noises and vocalizations that bigger species of cats could make. Lions, tigers, and jaguars have a versatile hyoid bone that’s solely partially connected. This permits them to supply deep and terrifying roars however prevents them from making purring noises like their smaller counterparts.

Why Do Cats Purr?

Whereas it may be discouraging to find lions and tigers can’t purr, it’s possible you’ll be questioning why cats purr within the first place. Nobody is aware of when or why smaller cat species developed the power to purr. In case you hearken to your cat whereas they purr (and let’s be sincere, who doesn’t lay their head on their cat when their cat is purring), you’ll be able to hear that the purring noise is one steady sound they make that’s unaffected by their respiratory patterns.

Most frequently, one can find that cats purr whereas they’re content material and having fun with cuddles and scratches. Some cats purr whereas consuming, and others purr whereas being brushed. There are a number of conditions the place it’s possible you’ll hear your cat vocalizing by purring.

  • Consideration In search of: Cats purr to request your consideration. In case your cat is brushing up towards you and asking for scratches and pets, it’s possible you’ll hear them purring even earlier than you begin to acquiesce to their request. Nevertheless, attention-seeking won’t at all times be for cuddles, and it could sound completely different relying on the state of affairs. For instance, in case your cat is hungry, its purr would possibly sound completely different and be mixed with meowing because it expresses discontent.

  • Completely happy: In case your cat is joyful, it might begin purring. Happiness is available in many types. Your cat could purr if they’re laying of their favourite sun-flooded spot for a nap or getting chin scratches which might be good. Cats’ joyful purring is their model of a glad sigh, which is the most typical trigger behind purring.

  • Mothering: If in case you have ever had a mom cat and her litter, you recognize that purring is extraordinarily frequent. In actual fact, purring is without doubt one of the first vocalizations a kitten could make. With a mom and her liter, purring typically is a means for the kittens to inform their mom that they’re okay and content material. As for the mom, she could purr as a means of bonding along with her litter or comforting them to sleep.

  • Self-Soothing: Opposite to in style perception, not all purring is to indicate happiness. Typically, a cat could purr to scale back its anxiousness and discomfort. Very similar to how your cat can sense your anxiousness or discomfort and purrs to assuage you, they may typically purr to assuage themselves. In case you discover your cat purring after surgical procedure or harm or a very hectic occasion, it might be self-soothing to advertise therapeutic or reduce anxiousness.
woman holding and stroking a cat purring
Picture Credit score: Gadzick, Shutterstock

Large Cat Vocalizations

Whereas the truth that massive cats like lions and tigers can not purr could also be barely disappointing, the opposite vocalizations they’re able to are equally fascinating. Bigger cat’s hyoid bone prevents them from purring, but it surely permits their larynx sufficient flexibility to create that terrifying full-throated roar we love to listen to.


The robust cartilage of the hyoid bone permits a lion’s roar to be simply heard and felt nearly 5 miles away. A lion’s roar may even attain a human’s ache threshold if they’re standing too shut. Whereas lions can not purr, they’ve one thing equal—a chuff or moan. Some lions could launch a low chuff to specific their contentedness when speaking with different lions. Lions may make a delicate groan sound that they sometimes launch when bonding with one other lion.


Not like lions, tigers are likelier to launch a roar that sounds extra like a massively spectacular growl. Tigers’ growls and roars can carry as much as 2 miles from their location. Like common cats’ purring, a tiger’s growl can imply a number of issues. Typically a loud growl can warn different tigers encroaching into a person’s territory, name out for his or her household, or invite mates.


It’s inconceivable to not point out cheetahs when discussing purring and large cat vocalizations. Cheetahs are extremely distinctive, and never only for their velocity. They’re technically in a cat class all their very own as a result of they’re one of many solely massive cats able to purring. As an alternative of roaring, cheetahs launch a high-pitched chirp sound.

Cheetahs chirp to speak, show misery, find one another, or in the event that they wish to appeal to a mate. Nevertheless, cheetahs may purr. Cheetahs produce all kinds of sounds, together with growling, an explosive yelp (completely different from their chirp), and the coveted purring sound. Like common housecats, a cheetah’s purr sometimes is a means of displaying their happiness.

cheetah on a log
Picture Credit score: Glavo, Pixabay


Purring is usually one of many first issues we take into consideration when speaking about domesticated housecats. A cat’s purr is equally as soothing to us as it’s to them. The extremely coveted purring sound is feasible due to a cat’s distinctive hyoid bone in its throat.

Whereas not all wild cats can purr, all of them have distinctive strategies of speaking and exhibiting their happiness. Subsequent time you get the possibility to go to a zoo, pay particular consideration to the sounds the massive cats make when speaking with one another. They may simply shock you!

Featured Picture Credit score: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay


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