We don’t often think about how we conceptualize and contextualize animal noises. Outside of the roars we’ve heard from lions and tigers, it’s tough to imagine any other noises wild felines make. It’s natural to equate them to a house cat with a bigger voice and without all the purring. While there are countless similarities in behavior and communication between our pet cats and the massive cats that roam the wild, there is far more to hear than what you’d expect!
It turns out wild cats tend to sound downright weird. From the human-like screaming of the lynx, the eerie hiss of the caracal, to the oddly precious meows of cheetahs, our kittens could not sound more different than their distant cousins! Take a listen to some of the more unusual vocal stylings of some of our favorite felines!
The Terrifying Lynx!
Recently, Sarah Verney caught a stand off between two wild Lynx near Kokadjo, Maine. The encounter looked like a fairly typical cat stand-off. The screams of the cats sound more like a human screaming in horror than anything feline. Imagine hearing this in the woods at night! A terrifying sound from such a gorgeous creature.
Of course, not all lynx sound like furious humans. One thing they have in common with the common house cat is their affinity for purring! Max was rescued as a baby and is unable to live in the wild. Instead, he and his human travel to educate groups on the endangered lynx and the importance of conservation. One advantage for Max is that he gets to be the center of attention, and he loves it!
The Ferocious Caracal!
Caracals are one of the most recognizable savannah cat species, and certainly one of the prettiest. One of their distinct features is their hissing. All felids hiss and growl to some degree, but the caracal manages to make it something truly bizarre.
This caracal was rescued as a baby and was raised at the Tenikwa Wildife Rehabilitation until he could be returned to the wild. Not being handled and “domesticated,” he continued to act just like a caracal normally would, including telling humans to leave his territory! This video was taken shortly before his release, and you can certainly tell his instincts are still very much intact!
Caracals certainly have a distinct way of telling other animals to buzz off, and it’s hard to imagine any species that wouldn’t take the warning to heart.
Ocelots: The Zombie Cat!
Ocelots resemble tiny leopards in many ways, and sadly that has led to a rather large quasi-legal market for pet ocelots. That’s how a great many end up at sanctuaries and rescues. While they are certainly gorgeous cats, the noises they make are more akin to the zombies in The Walking Dead than the cats rubbing our legs, begging for food at home. What is most strange is that it isn’t as aggressive as it sounds! Those that have worked with ocelots have heard this sound combined with purring numerous times. They are certainly a vocal cat, and they don’t care who knows it.
The Very Vocal Cougar!
Cougars are the largest feline in North America. Proud, regal, and powerful, you expect their vocalization to be similar to their larger brethren across the ocean. It turns out, they sound like huge house cats! They are surprisingly vocal creatures, with a loud, rumbling purr and a meow that sounds like it’s trying to figure out how to meow for the first time.
The Chuffing Tiger!
Tigers are ubiquitous in art and media. Depictions of them are countless, and they’ve been a subject of fascination to humans for centuries. Yet their massive jaws, ferocious roar, and hulking forms belie an adorable and talkative creature. One of the ways tigers love to communicate in a friendly manner is “chuffing” or “puffing.” It’s a sign of affection and comfort and something you seldom hear from tigers in zoos or circuses. However, when given proper care and comfort, they open up and are happy to chuff at humans and animals alike!
Cheetahs And The Big Meow!
Cheetahs are often ignored for their larger, louder cousins. Their speed and agility are well known, but have you ever heard what they sound like when they are curious and calm? It’s actually pretty close to noises you’ve heard before! The cheetah has the closest vocalization to the cats wandering our living rooms. The small sound coming from such a big cat is utterly adorable and certainly makes them look a little less ferocious!
Jaguar Purr, Or Earthquake?
Lots of cats purr to one degree or another. Generally they sound similar. Some a little louder, some a little more frantic, but all relatively similar. Jaguars, however, have an endless rumble that is utterly hilarious and beautiful. Voodoo, a jaguar rescued from a breeder after being declawed, found a way to not only forgive humans for being mistreated, but to actually come to love his rescuers! The look on his face is of pure kitty joy, and his purr is one you will want to listen to for hours.
Sadly, almost all of the cats above are in sanctuaries due to abuse, poaching, or simply to protect as many of the species as possible before they become extinct. It’s very possible that videos of them will be all we have left. Hopefully we can reverse the trend before it’s too late!