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Can Tigers Purr? Exploring The Sounds They Make

Tigers might be the most glorious of all the big cats in the world. Not only are the beautiful cats sleek, powerful, dangerous, and stunningly graceful, but they also happen to be amazingly diverse. They’re apex predators in a range that spans most of Asia, from the northern reaches of Siberia all the way to Indonesia, meaning they vary in color intensity, markings, size, and even behavior! One aspect the predators like tigers have in common is an inability to purr, just like lions, leopards, and jaguars.

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Can Tigers Meow?

No. Lions, leopards, jaguars, and tigers, all members of the Panthera genus, can’t meow or purr! While cats of various sizes and species look and often act alike, there are two characteristics shared only by members of the Panthera genus; they can’t meow or purr. Big cats can roar but not meow or purr, and smaller cats can meow and purr but not roar.

The difference is how the big cats’ voice boxes are constructed. Members of the Panthera genus have super large, fatty vocal folds that create a square, which essentially magnifies sounds, making it easy for lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards to create deep roars with relative ease.

On the other hand, smaller cats have divided vocal cords that allow them to vibrate when breathing in and out. The divided vocal cords lack the square shape and stability characteristic of big cats’ vocal cords, making it impossible for small cats to produce massive, resonant sounds. In case you were wondering, cougars are the largest cats that can still purr and meow.

tiger lying on the ground with its mouth open
Image Credit: ChiemSeherin, Pixabay

If Tigers Can’t Purr, How Do They Show Affection?

Tigers show affection much in the same ways that your housecat does! They rub against their favorite companions, groom their buddies, and sleep tangled together. Mother tigers frequently rub their faces against their cubs to exchange scents and show love. While tigers can’t purr, they can chuff, which is an adorable sound made through the nose that signifies deep contentment and happiness. It’s often accompanied by a forward head bob.

What Other Types of Noises Do Tigers Make?

When provoked or angry, tigers often roar and produce a deep rumbling growl. It’s a sign of pure aggression intended to get the offending party to make themselves scarce. They also use a low roar to communicate with each other.

Do Tigers Chuff To Show Humans Affection?

Yes. Before you get too excited, keep in mind that tigers are wild animals that belong in the wild. Depending on the subspecies, the cats can have a range that extends over 1,500 miles. Keeping a tiger in a cage or even a large enclosure is tantamount to forcing a human to live their entire life in a closet.

Like domestic kitties, tigers like to escape and explore on their own, which can lead to dire consequences. Tigers may come to have fond feelings for some humans, but the magnificent creatures are wild and too powerful for humans to control.

tiger and cubs in the wild
Image Credit: 12019, Pixabay

Do Tigers Attack Humans?

Yes. Tigers regularly come into conflict with humans, particularly in India, which has the largest extant tiger population. From 40 to 80 humans die annually after being attacked by tigers. The large number of incidents appears to be linked to regular and steady human encroachment on tiger habitats.

How Many Types of Tigers Are There?

Six subspecies are still roaming the earth: South China, Malayan, Indo-Chinese, Siberian, Bengal, and Sumatran tigers. Bengal tigers make up over 50% of the extant wild tigers left in the world. Caspian, Javan, and Bali tigers are all extinct.

At one time, there were tigers in Europe. Caspian tigers roamed the forests and grasslands of southern Russia and Ukraine through the Middle Ages. The last known sighting of a Caspian tiger in the wild occurred in 1998 in Afghanistan’s Babatag Mountain Range. Javan tigers were utterly decimated by hunting habitat loss, and the subspecies was officially declared extinct in 2008, and the Bali tiger was hunted into extinction by the 1950s. Dutch colonial hunters favored method was using a goat or other animal to lure the tiger to a foot snare, after which the animal was shot at close range.

Thanks to some serious conservation efforts, there’s been an increase in the number of wild tigers, particularly in India. The number of wild tigers increased by 40% between 2015 and 2022. According to the latest data, there are now approximately 5,578  tigers exploring the jungles, mountains, and steppes of Asia.

Several organizations are doing excellent work to help ensure the survival of tigers in the wild. If you’re interested in donating to support tiger conservation, ensure your money actually goes to an ethical organization. Charity Navigator has a searchable website with tons of information about every registered 501C organization in the United States, including those dedicated to big cat conservation, habitat preservation, and rescue.

It’s almost impossible to gather an accurate estimate of the number of tigers kept outside of accredited zoos and animal parks due to the varying laws regarding registration, but some research suggests there may be more captive tigers now walking the earth than wild ones.

a tiger walking on grass
Image Credit: YanCabrera, Pixabay

What Are Some of the Differences Between the Tiger Subspecies?

Several characteristics differentiate extant tiger subspecies, most obviously size and coloring. Siberian or Amur tigers tend to be the largest of the bunch, with males often weighing up to 660 pounds and growing to be a stunning 13 feet long from nose to tail. They have massive paws to help them plow through the snow and fur that’s a lighter shade of orange than you typically see with other tiger subspecies. Siberian tigers mostly live in eastern Russian birch forests, but they’ve also been seen in Northern China and as far south as North Korea.

The Sumatran tiger is the smallest of the living subspecies, and the Bali tiger was the smallest until it was hunted into extinction. Male Sumatran tigers weigh no more than 300 pounds. The gorgeous predators have dark orange fur with stripes set closely together that make them almost impossible to see in deep jungle foliage.

Are Tigers the Largest Cats on Earth?

Absolutely. Tigers, particularly Amur or Siberian tigers, are substantially larger and heavier than the second largest cats on earth, lions. African lions rarely weigh more than 570 pounds, and most are 8 feet or less in length. Tigers are significantly more powerful than lions since they tend to have more muscle mass than their African feline cousins, and most tigers are markedly larger than the few Asiatic lions still living in the wild.

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Final Thoughts

Tigers, the largest cats on the planet, are utterly magnificent. Stunningly beautiful, elegant, and graceful beyond belief, the powerful predators are perfect from the tips of their noses to the tips of their tails. They roar, chuff, and growl, but they most certainly do not meow or purr—there are indeed some things even these amazing creatures can’t do!

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Featured Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay