Do wild cats meow? That’s the first question. A familiar question as it happens. For the sake of clarity this is about the wild cats. Why did I write that twice? Because Google tends to overlook this kind of nuancing. Google will no doubt become confused and think I am discussing our feline friends.
With that snipe at Google out of the way, I’ll say that some wild cats meow and some don’t. You can’t generalise. Some wild cats have domestic cat characteristics in terms of their vocalisations. It is their voice box anatomy which allows for the production of this sound. Meowing is part of the basic feline vocal repertoire. So which ones meow, is the next question.
Before I list the meowing wild cats it is worth stating that the meow is a very variable sound. It can vary so much that it no longer quite sounds like a meow. This complicates the answer.
Another complication is that I can’t be completely certain about which wild cats meow because this is a developing area of human knowledge. Or to put it another way it is tricky to obtain clear information because not enough is known about some wild cat species as they are elusive, their numbers are diminishing due to habitat loss and people in general lack interest.
Here is a list of wild cats which meow based on clear evidence that they have this vocalisation. The list might be incomplete! If you can add to it please do so in a comment.
- All the wildcat species: European wildcat, Scottish wildcat (also a European wildcat), Chinese Desert Cat, African-Asian wildcat;
- Black-footed cat whose meow is like the roar of a tiger! Is it a genuine meow? I doubt it;
- Serval – a ‘swallowed meow’ indicating friendly recognition it is believed;
- Eurasian lynx – female call: a ‘raucous loud meow’. Although my sources don’t state that Canada lynx meow, I have decided that they must if the Eurasian lynx makes a version of this sound;
- Bobcat – a modified meow but in the category of sounds described as meows;
- Asiatic leopard cat;
- African golden cat;
- Puma (mountain lion);
- Clouded leopard;
- Leopard (mew);
- Snow leopard – ‘their vocal repertoire is similar to that of the other felids…..’ Does that include the meow?
- Lion – one of about a dozen sounds the lion makes;
- Tigers mew/meow.
Source: Wild Cats Of The World. As you can see there is some uncertainty as to whether some wild cats meow. This is partly because if a wild cat does meow it will be a modified version of the sound which complicates matters. Is it a genuine meow? If you’d like more detailed references please ask and I will provide them.