Can Ocelots Purr?

Ocelots don’t purr in my opinion, having researched the subject. They do create a sound that could be described as a purr-growl under circumstances which might induce a domestic cat to purr. It is a harsh sound. This does not mean that the growl-purr is the ocelot’s version of the purr. It almost certainly is not. In fact, in the video below, the woman explains it as a mating call. I am not sure that she is correct.

Small wild cats do make relatively harsh and seemingly aggressive sounds. They are distinctly different to the sounds made by domestic cats. A reminder that they don’t make good pets.

The best authority1 on wild cats states:

“The ocelot also has a number of friendly close-range vocalisations, including a long drawn-out yowling call given while matting.”

There is no direct reference in that extract to an ocelot purr. Although there is a hint at it. It is probable that in the wild at the date of the book I am refering to (2002) no one had researched ocelot vocalisations sufficiently to state with certainty that the ocelot could purr.

Below is an audio of an ocelot making something akin to a purr although much harsher:-

There are a couple of videos on YouTube. The cats seem content and they are in circumstances where they could purr. In both videos the cats makes an aggressive sounding purr-growl. In fact it is 70% growl and 30% purr (at best)!

The woman in this video is irritating. She overhandles the cat. This is a tame ocelot. He does not purr even though he is happy to be interacting with the woman.

As stated at the beginning, I’d say that ocelots can’t purr. The only website that states that ocelots can purr is However, they do not support their confident statement with a reliable authority.

1. Wild Cats of the World page 123.

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2 thoughts on “Can Ocelots Purr?”

  1. I just listened to it again to be sure and I do note there is a vibrato that, if graphed would probably resemble a purr (which I’ve read is the same frequency as a diesel engine), and maybe I’ll research that. I’d stipulate that while the force of the air is probably affected by the throat lining in the same way a purring cat’s does, but I think the ocelots’ sound is created through the vocal chords… that’s what’s tripping us up. So I think it’s a combination of the two. Not a true purr, but accomplished a little differently. Again it seems to me it’s only upon breathing out.

  2. You’re right Michael, it’s a growl/mur-mure/humm sort of sound, not a purr for a reason that I think will settle it… it’s made only while breathing out. How I can tell I can’t say, but purring is made both by that AND while breathing in. Vocal chords can’t make that sort of sound while breathing in that’s for sure, and it’s been determined that purring isn’t made with the vocal chords.
    And what the handler is doing is what humans tend to do when they know the camera is rolling (and I try to catch myself from doing it) and that’s to be too eager to make the animal respond for the camera. They over-handle the cat – which usually has the opposite effect and annoys more than anything. This ocelot is WAY more patient with her than I would be… I couldn’t watch the whole clip I’m so annoyed!


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