Sound Production

Cheetahs produce a variety of sounds including growls, purrs that generally denote contentment, chirps (between a mother and her cubs), and an "explosive yelp" heard by humans from 2 km (1.24 mi.) away.

Moans, growls, hisses, and spitting vocalizations are generally produced in agonistic or combative situations.

  • As a threat escalates, a cheetah will crouch and begin to moan, followed quite often by growling and hissing.
  • The next phase of a cheetah's agonistic vocalization response is growling, which is often combined with hissing and moaning sounds.
  • The agonistic response usually ends as the cheetah creates a spitting sound, which is often uniquely combined with the cheetah forcefully hitting one or both front paws to the ground.
  • Hissing sounds occur both before and immediately after the spit/paw-hit behavior.

Cheetah vocalizations can be further classified into one of three categories:

  • Pulsed sounds include "chirrs", "pr-prs", "gargles", "churtlings", "gurgling", "purring", and "growling".
  • Tonal sounds such as "chirping", "howling", and "yelping".
  • Noisy sounds like "hissing".



"Purring" vs. "Roaring" Cats

The Felidae family is subdivided between the "roaring cats" and the "purring cats" based on the work done by Owens in 1834 and 1835.

"Roaring cats" (lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards) have an incompletely ossified hyoid, which in theory allows them to roar but not to purr.

Cheetahs belong to the "purring cats" subfamily and as such do not roar.

Many animals are said to purr, but a large 2002 study defined purring as a continuous sound production that must "alternate between pulmonic egressive and ingressive airstream (and usually go on for minutes)." Under this stricter definition, the only animals known to "purr" in this manner are felids in the "purring cat" subfamily and two species of genets (Genetta tigrina and likely Genetta genetta as well).

Cats purr during both inhalation and exhalation with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 to 150 Hz — studies have shown that sound produced in this range can improve bone density. Cats that purr often do so as a form of communication, but cats are known to rest for long periods of time, which may lead to bone density loss and muscle atrophy. In theory, purring may also be a low energy mechanism to stimulate bone and muscle healing.

Cheetah (Purring):

African Lion (Roaring):

Territorial Marking

Like other members of Felidae family, male cheetahs are known to mark their territories with urine.

Items most commonly marked include objects that immediately stood out in an environment such as tree and shrubs. In an open area, plants that stood out against more common plant species tend to be marked.

Other male cheetahs, females, mothers, and cubs all took interest in the markings left by other groups.