Do big cats purr?

Submitted by Ed on 11/30/04 at 6:02 PM. ( )

I had someone recently tell me that large cats such as mountain lions and tigers could not purr because of anatomical reasons. But he was not sure at what size cat this occurs. My 6 lb. black Miss Kitty purrs all the time but I have never been arround a content bobcat or larger. I would appreciate any input in this interesting question.

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Big cats vs small cats

This response submitted by Raven on 11/30/04 at 6:11 PM. ( )

Its not about physical size - it's about classification. Cats are divided into big cats and small cats... One of the things between the two is the ability to roar. If I remember correctly cougars are the smallest of the big cats - meaning they are the smallest that can roar.... and jaguars are the largest of the small cats - meaning they can purr - but not roar. Summin like that anyway.. it's to do with the arrangement of bones in the bony palette and hyoid bone in the throat.


This response submitted by samantha on 11/30/04 at 7:20 PM. ( )

A jaguar not roar? Havnt heard that one.

LMAO:: Well, of course they can roar and purr!

This response submitted by OPT on 11/30/04 at 7:36 PM. ( )

Don't know about the rest of ya, but, YES! Those big cats do indeed purr and the big ones "roar" when they want to.


Two Cents

This response submitted by JD on 11/30/04 at 7:41 PM. ( )

The Jaguar is the only member of the big cat family that lives in the Americas. The Cougar which is about the same size is classified as a small cat because it cannot roar. The only other members of the big cat family are Lion, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard and Cheetah.

Jaguars can roar but more often grunt, snarl, growl and yes MEW.

Cougars in captivitly I've heard it said do purr.


This response submitted by Raven on 11/30/04 at 7:47 PM. ( )

Pulled out a couple notes from the college days... got alil mixed up... Yes it's to do with the type of hyoid... hard all over in small cats - flexible in big cats. Big cats can only purr as they exhale... Felis concolor is the largest of the small cats, not the smallest of the big - I got it backwards.... they can scream - but not roar. Jags are the smallest of the big cats that can roar - snow leopards, despite having the flexible hyoid havent been heard to roar.

SO the distinction is in the roar and not so much the purr. Small cats purr while inhaling and exhaling - unlike the big cats purring on exhales only.

So to your friends comment - cougars purr in an out and cannot roar - tigers purr out only but can roar.

found this too

This response submitted by samantha on 11/30/04 at 7:51 PM. ( )

Charles Darwin recorded the occurrence of purring not only in domestic cats, but also in cheetahs (they purr quite loudly), pumas and ocelots. Tigers also appear to emit a snuffle-like purr, but lions, jaguars and leopards do not purr.

Lions and Tigers

This response submitted by Mr. T on 11/30/04 at 8:40 PM. ( )

Lions can't make 3rd down conversions, and Tigers cant hit or throw. At The Palace of the Detroit pistons they have a new alcohol policy, when you buy a drink, they ask you if it is for here,,,,,,,,,, or to throw. ;-)


This response submitted by Old Pro Taxidermist on 11/30/04 at 9:59 PM. ( )

LMAO:: I can no longer hold back on this subject.

I think it is great that many of us can talk about all of this feline "[expletive deleted]" and some people even pulled out notes from the old college days! I guess it pays off to study the small and large cats. But some [expletive deleted] (cats) do behave differently from others depending on the environment. A purr is a purr and a growl is a growl and the roar of an angry "cat" is unmistakable. You men know what I mean. It just depends on the mood of the beast.....

LMAO:: What a wonderful life all of us truly have!



This response submitted by cur on 11/30/04 at 10:38 PM. ( )

Especially cheetahs. I kept a cheetah for a period as a model for a sculpt I did for a zoo. She purred like the big kitty she was. Most folks just don't hang around them long enough to find out.

Cheetahs can also chirp like a tweety bird.

Yes, big cats can purr

This response submitted by Michelle on 11/30/04 at 10:48 PM. ( )

Yes, the big cats can purr. The big cats are differentiated from the 'little 'uns' (amongst other things)in that they can roar as well. Leopards 'cough', it sounds like someone sawing a log. Up here in the wet and rainy PNW, I had the opportunity to make friends with a tamed cheetah. She fell asleep with her head in my lap and was purring the entire time. She also chirped like a bird, the only 'big' cat to do that.....but then, cheetahs are not the same genus as lions, tigers, etc. (They're in Panthera, while cheetahs are in a genus all by themselves, Acinonyx). What also amazed me about the cheetah was how bristly her fur was. You see these sleek animals and think they're soft and plush like your little lap cat? Nope. Her fur was stiff and almost spiky, like a schnauzer's.
Finally, if you ever get a big cat's skull and cannot determine if it's a lion's skull or a tiger's, if you have the lower mandible, put it on a flat surface and try to make it rock. If it rocks, it's a tiger. If it doesn't, it's a lion. That's almost the only difference between the two when they don't have skin on......

I like MrT's take...

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 12/1/04 at 12:20 AM. ( )

Raven, you of course are correcto-mungo. The cats are classified by two main sounds, and its because of anatomy, and not size. The exact details are not readily avalable to me, but I know you are on the right track. Ken Walker can talk volumes on this. Once I have the particulars, Ill post it here.

ok, some advice...

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 12/1/04 at 2:11 AM. ( )

DONT call Ken Walker to talk big cats! Two hours later and weve talked about everything, as usual. Anywho, Yes, they used to try to classify cats as roaring vs non-roaring, also cats that crouch when feeding, and so on. The older books made those distinctions. But too many saw obvious flaws when trying to list cats into their seperate categories. Ken told me that folks involved with the Smithsonian finally started looking at DNA to put them into groups. That brought many surprises, like cheetahs closest relation being mountain lions, etc. So after trying to put this into any order, Ken said this, and I quote...

"What's the difference? Bottom line, if you CAN hear a big cat purr, you're already too close." -Ken Walker, November 30- December 1, 2004...hey, it was a long conversation, what can I say!

Yes, they do purr

This response submitted by Mary Hilliard-Krueger on 12/1/04 at 1:28 PM. ( )

I was very fortunate to work on a big cat farm and also worked on many big cats while I was in veterinary medicine for 14 years prior to my career in taxidermy.I raised a cougar and a jaguar in my home until they were about 5 months old. You have never experienced the thrill of a purring cat until you have had a cougar rub against your leg purring in enjoyment as you pet it!


This response submitted by cur on 12/1/04 at 10:44 PM. ( )

Well, when I answered a yeah, I didn't know that this discourse would include hyloid bones and other things about mechanisms. First of all, bones ain't got anything to do with the purring mechanism. All cats purr, only four species can roar, but all can purr.

Purring occurs during inhalation and exhalation too. The process is ocillatory and takes place through intermittent signaling of the laryngeal and diaphragmatic muscles. A lot of folks have different ideas about why cats purr. Frankly I don't care.

Ken Walker was right about the DNA-based re-classification. Many species are being re-classified at present, based on DNA research. that is both good news and bad news. Currently, under C.I.T.E.S. genetic relationships are considered in hybridizations, and may also be considered in DNA linked species.

Recent research with many reptiles may well change the status of quite a few currently un-protected species.

Never heard the tigers purr

This response submitted by christina on 12/6/04 at 12:30 AM. ( )

We have 3 tigers 1siberian and 2cross. I haven't heard a purr so to speak, I think that snuffle like purr samantha is talking about is when they chuff at you when they great you, it's nothing like a purr and they also don't make calls when inhaling only gasping sounds when they take in the air when they are mad and growling. The young ones are very vocal and make all kinds of crazy noises but no purrs like our big black house cat Panther. Come over and see if you want.


This response submitted by maria listle on 12/9/04 at 1:59 PM. ( )

no big cats do not purr they don't have the right material

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