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Do Leopards Purr? Surprising Feline Facts & FAQs

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

close up of a leopard in the woods

Cats, small and large alike, are known to be generally vocal animals. They use their voices to ward off predators, display their dominance, and interact with others. You might be familiar with domesticated house cats—the stubborn, sleepy, and quiet variety. They might be known to be quite snippy, but we all know their purr can put any average person right to sleep. But, what about larger and wild cats, Leopards especially? They might not be a great option for a pet, but do they have similar vocalizations? The short answer is no, leopards do not purr.

Keep reading to learn more about our larger cat friends!

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Do Big Cats Meow or Growl?

Most cats won’t hold back a meow, hiss, or whichever noise they think expresses their feelings at the time. It’s become a common soundboard choice for television shows and movies, the high screech of a cat in a bad mood. But how about larger cats?

If you think of lions, tigers, leopards, etc., the first thing you might think of in terms of their vocalizations would be their loud roar. Think of the lion you see at the beginning of a movie! We know they don’t meow at a high octave or at any meek levels that you’d hear with a domestic cat. However, similar behaviors big cats have with small, domesticated cats would be growling. Cats growl by pushing air through their vocal cords in a certain way that signifies feeling threatened, possession over something like food, or a sign to leave them alone.

leopard in the woods
Image Credit: designerpoint, Pixabay

Do Big Cats Purr?

Additionally, you might hear a sound called “chuffing” with bigger cats. You may have heard this sound between cats or in those YouTube videos of big cat sanctuary owners when they make short and low sounds through their mouths. The best way to imitate this sound would be if you try to keep your lips together and push air out. But big cats do it through their nostrils with their mouths closed.

A chuff signifies a good mood and shows a non-aggressive nature towards other cats. You will most likely hear this sound between lions in a pack or female cats with their cubs. To many, this is their way of purring and showing their contentment towards each other.

So, big cats do not purr in the same way that smaller cats do—including leopards. They make chuffing noises, growl, and roar, but they do not show their positive emotions through a purr.

Do Snow Leopards Purr?

Snow Leopard Profile (13360347333)
Image By: Eric Kilby, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 2.0 Generic

Snow leopards do not purr as you would hear with a smaller-sized wild cat or domesticated cat. The reason the other smaller, wild breeds of cats (i.e., lynx, bobcat, etc.) can also purr is said to be due to the anatomy and structure of their throats, mouths, and shapes of their heads or skulls. Bigger cats are structured differently in these areas, so they don’t make the same noises.

Because snow leopards are smaller in size in comparison with other wild cats, they can make noises such as roaring and chuffing to communicate. These leopards can also meow like smaller cats. It will not sound like the way your cat meows at you and will likely be louder and a bit “rougher” in sound. It will sound deeper, lower, and almost a bit more aggressive.

Final Thoughts

If we think about the different sizes, breeds, and wild versus domesticated cats there are so many different characteristics across them. Whether you think about your fluffy little munchkin who likes to sleep on your lap every night, or the lion at the local zoo who is an alpha male, they have fundamental similarities. Cats are cats at the end of the day, with their regal personalities and ability to ignore you at any moment.

But when it comes to their vocalizations, roaring, purring, meowing, growling, and chuffing will be used by some cats and not others. Bigger cats won’t be heard purring or meowing like a small cat, and small cats won’t be heard growling or roaring like a bigger cat!

Featured Image Credit: IrmaB, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

Authored by

Nicole is a lover of animals of all sizes but is especially fascinated with the feline variety. She’s the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese, and works every day so he can relax in the sunshine or by the fire. She’s always had a cat in her home and has spent countless days with others, observing behaviors and softening up even the grouchiest of the lot. Nicole wants to share her kitty expertise with you so you and your cat ...Read more

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