Categories: purring

Why do domestic cats purr and meow while wild ones don’t?

The question is misguided as some wild cats do purr and meow. For those wild cats who don’t purr and meow they have alternative close range sounds which serve a similar purpose.

Lynx purring

Without going into a detailed discussion about the respective anatomy of domestic and wild cats, the reason why domestic cats meow and purr and why SOME wild cats don’t is because (a) they have slightly different anatomy (b) they have followed different evolutionary paths and developed differently and (c) importantly, wild cat species have their own way of communicating through vocalisation when at close range with other cats of the same species.

So whereas a domestic cat might purr, a tiger will make a sound described as a prusten. It’s a different sound quite obviously because of the reasons stated above but the objective of the communication is the same which is that the tiger is making the vocalisation to signal friendliness.

Between the wild cat species there is also quite a wide range of vocalisations. However, there is an large overlap and commonality in many wild cats and as mentioned some do in fact purr and meow. The sound might not be exactly like the sound of the domestic cat purring but there will be great similarities. For example there was a discussion about whether the lynx can purr but there are videos of lynx purring:

I recently wrote a page about a clouded leopard purring – see the link below. There are some wonderful videos a wild cats purring. The bigger wild cats such as the cheetah have a wonderfully resonant and deep purr which I think most people find very attractive. As for the small wild cats, the European wildcat purrs and meows for example. The Asiatic golden cat purrs and meows too. There are others. As for medium sized wild cats, the serval is one of them which purrs and meows in a shallow way. And the puma (mountain lion) has domestic cat qualities one of which is to purr and meow.

I don’t want to repeat myself in duplicating previous articles so below are some pages on wild cat vocalisations. There are more so if you are interested please use the search custom tool.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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