Cat sounds: how to spell them

Here is a full list of cat sounds and how to spell them. They are onomatopoeic words – words created from the sound that they describe. Readers need to know that although there is a big overlap in the sounds made by domestic and wild cats, there are substantial differences. There are also differences in the sounds made by different species of wild cat. And the volume of wild cat sounds is often much louder and fiercer than those of the domestic cat. Most domestic cat sounds and small wild cat sounds are for close range communication and the standard domestic cat sounds are often made by small wild cat species.

Cat sounds and how to spell them

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Even among domestic cats there are differences in the sounds made by individual cats. This list somewhat generalises. Although this list is long and comprehensive it might not be complete because the sounds made by wild cats are still being studied.

If you have any questions about these sounds, please ask me in a comment and I’ll respond within 24 hours usually.

There are many pages on this site on cat sounds. Please use this search facility at the top of the page to find them.

I list below the spelling of cat sounds both domestic and wild:

  • Aohhuu – I have heard this sound from domestic cats in videos. The domestic at makes it when in defensive mode.
  • Bark – caracal at close range.
  • Bark/hoot – made by Manul as a sexual call.
  • Caterwaul – see yowl.
  • Chatter – domestic cat sound when they see a bird at distance and can’t get at it.
  • Chirp – made by jaguarundi.
  • Chirrup – like the trill below.
  • Churr – close contact call by cheetah.
  • Chuckling – see eh-eh-eh.
  • Coughing-snarl – made by tiger.
  • Cough-roar – made by snow leopard.
  • Eh-eh-eh – made by fishing cat.
  • Growl
  • Grunt – female wild cat calling cubs.
  • Gurgle
  • Meow – The most common cat sound which varies substantially between domestic cats is the meow. It is also spelt miaow and I have seen ‘mew’ for wild cats such as the leopard.
  • Moan – cheetah when threatened. Tiger: a subdued roar.
  • Mrrr – friendly greeting by European wildcat.
  • Orr-ow – made by European wildcat after a meow to make a loud call.
  • o-o-W-O-U-H-u-u – puma scream.
  • Ouch – puma.
  • Piercing yowl – made by snow leopard.
  • Prusten – this sound is made by the tiger, jaguar, clouded leopard and snow leopard. This is a staccato puffing sound.
  • Puff – close range wild cat sound of lion and leopard for example.
  • Purr – this is the only form of spelling of this sound. Close range.
  • Hiss – mimics snake.
  • Roar – exclusive to the roaring wild cats.
  • Scream – made by jaguarundi and puma.
  • Snarl
  • Snort – made by bobcat.
  • Spit – often made by small wild cats such as the black-footed cat.
  • Squeak – puma.
  • Stutter – close contact call of cheetah.
  • Swallowed meow – made by serval signifying friendly recognition.
  • Trill (Maine Coons are known for this sound but other cats make it)
  • Wah-Wah – close approach of two wild cats. Caracak, lynx, puma, jaguarundi, serval, Asiatic and African golden cats have this call.
  • Whistle – made by jaguarundi and puma.
  • Yap – made by jaguarundi.
  • Yea-yea-yea – made by the sand cat. A harsh cry.
  • Yelp – cheetah; brief high pitched ‘yow’.
  • Yowl – this is also called a “caterwaul”. Heard during sexual activity – calling etc.

5 thoughts on “Cat sounds: how to spell them”

  1. You are missing a couple of sounds cats make in written literature.

    1. Fft-th (Spitting sound)
    2. Ree-aarr (Warning or fighting sound)
    3. Quququ (Q sound hiss)

  2. Thank you! This really helped! I’m currently writing a story with a cat in it. This really helped me when I was struggling with the onomatopoeia. I can’t thank you enough!


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