Domesticated cats use meowing to communicate with humans. And since they belong in the same Felidae family, we can’t help but wonder, do big cats meow as well?
This is actually a very interesting question since the likes of tigers, lions, and leopards are technically cats, but bigger in size.
However, they have different ways of communicating. While domesticated kitties meow their hearts out, these wild felines use different vocalizations.
Can big cats meow?
Big cats like lions and tigers don’t necessarily meow like domesticated cats. Nevertheless, they also vocalize to communicate, scare predators, and intimidate prey.
Still, such vocalizations are far from the expressive and cute meows of typical cats. The following points will explain why:
1. Big cats have a different throat anatomy.
First, big cats have large throats, so it makes total sense why they don’t meow like house cats. Let me explain the difference.
The Felidae family to which all cats belong has two sub-families. These are Felinae and Pantherinae. The likes of tigers, leopards, lions, and jaguars belong to the Pantherinae sub-family.
All the members of the Pantherinae sub-family have vocal folds. This is an added feature on the feline’s larynx that those in the Felinae sub-family don’t have.
Basically, these vocal folds are elastic and made to vibrate. This allows lions to produce a thundering roar.
When a lion roars, the vocal folds will stabilize and form a square shape. This allows the lion to pass more air and produce a loud sound without running out of breath.
Overall, this just means that big cats like lions can’t meow because their anatomy isn’t made for it. Also, they don’t have a need for it.
2. Big cats have a different relationship with humans.
Aside from that, big cats don’t need to meow since they don’t have the same relationship with humans as house cats do.
Overall, big cats don’t need to communicate with humans since they live in the wild. The likes of lions and tigers aren’t reliant on humans for food, so they don’t find a need to meow for communication.
These big cats don’t have regular and close interactions with humans. So to survive, they have to outbest other species by roaring and appearing more frightening.
3. Meowing is a learned skill directed to humans.
Lastly, meowing is actually a product of evolution as cats become more domesticated. From loud roars and scary vocalizations, cats slowly softened the sounds to appeal to the human ears.
So yes, that sweet meow of your kitty is made to please you and get your attention. It’s because cats, especially domesticated ones, need to communicate with humans for survival.
Cats will meow to humans to ask for food, playtime, affection, and all sorts of things they like. It could also be a call for help if the kitty is ailing or just a simple way of announcing their presence.
The interesting fact here is that cats don’t meow at each other. Again, meowing is intended for humans.
In terms of cat-to-cat communication, smell and body language are more involved. There are also specific vocalizations that cats use to communicate with other felines.
Do big cats purr?
As with meowing, most big cats like lions can’t purr. It’s due to the vocal fold or tough cartilage on their head that allows them to roar.
As mentioned earlier, there are two sub-families under the Felidae family. The Pantherinae is where the ‘roaring cars’ belong while the Felinae is where the ‘meowing cats’ are.
At the same time, the ‘meowing cats’ are also the purring ones. Still, there’s one exception to this divide: cheetahs.
Cheetah, the fastest land animal, is the only big cat without the ability to roar. Instead, they meow like house cats and they also purr when happy or satisfied.
But even if lions and tigers don’t purr, they can still feel the same satisfaction as other felines do. They just don’t express it the same way.
What is the biggest cat that can meow?
Cougars and cheetahs are the two biggest cats that can meow. These two felines share more features to house cats than lions in terms of throat anatomy.
Aside from that, cougars have a similar body type to that of house cats to other big cats in the wild. They also behave like house cats but are much larger and still dangerous to humans.
Are cat meows fake?
Cat meows aren’t exactly fake, but it’s something that domesticated felines learned to communicate to humans. With that being said, meowing isn’t an innate or instinctive characteristic of the feline family.
Instead, they learned to adapt to communicate with humans and survive. It’s said that cats learned to meow by trying to mimic the sounds humans make in a domesticated setting.
Can big cats understand cat meows?
In general, all cats have shared body language and vocalization sounds. It might be safe to suggest that inter-species cats can understand each other’s vocalizations to some extent.
But as for meowing itself, it’s not a universal mode of communication among felines. After all, it’s an evolutionary response to connect to humans.
After all, house cats and wild cats rarely meet, so there’s no need for them to learn each other’s vocalizations.
Can a cat learn how to roar?
A house cat can’t learn how to roar. First of all, your domesticated kitty doesn’t have the pipes to even produce such a low-pitched sound.
The closest you can get to a roar is a hiss while the cat’s mouth is open. This is similar to how a lion will show its fangs while letting out a thunderous roar.
After all, these gestures are natural to felines. It’s their way to appear scary or intimidating to the creature they find displeasing.
Can a lion roar paralyze you?
While there are legends about a lion’s roar having the ability to paralyze humans, there have been no cases reported to prove this.
Some say that the infrasound of a lion’s roar can give a shocking effect on humans, which can trigger temporary paralysis. However, this is yet to be proven.
But even if a lion’s roar won’t paralyze you physically, it will surely send a shiver down your spine.
Do big cats meow? Generally, these wild cats don’t meow since their bodies aren’t designed to do so.
Still, the likes of cheetah and cougar are exemptions to the big cat rule. These intimidating felines meow, purr, and even behave like house cats at times.
But no matter how cute or cat-like they are, it’s important to remember that they are still wild animals. You should never try to engage or get in close contact with them in the wild.
Marco Vasquez is a passionate animal lover and writer with extensive experience in the pet care industry. He has worked with various pets, including dogs, cats, birds, and fish, and deeply understand their unique needs and behaviors. Marco’s love for animals has driven him to become an expert in pet health, nutrition, and behavior, and he is always eager to share his knowledge and insights with others. As a member of the Petcosset team, Marco brings his expertise to help pet owners make informed decisions about the well-being of their little friends. He enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors with his pets in his free time.