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Meow: Why can’t house cats roar?

Published: Updated:

While big cats such as lions and tigers can roar, domesticated house cats can only meow and purr.

The reason house cats can’t roar is due to their voice box and throat, according to the science news website Live Science, which added that cat species can either roar or purr but can’t do both.

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The science website reported that purring, a unique sound created when a cat breathes in and out, is a vocalization that seems to have evolved first in cats and other Felidae family cats such as bobcats and cougars.

Bengal tigers are seen at the Joya Grande zoo on May 30, 2020. (File photo: AFP)
Bengal tigers are seen at the Joya Grande zoo on May 30, 2020. (File photo: AFP)

Roaring has evolved in larger cats, which belong to the Panthera genus, that lions, tigers, and leopards belong to.

The cat’s voice box, or larynx, controls the sounds they make, which is how big cats differ from house cats.

According to Live Science, the reason big cats roar is because they have different bone structures in the throat.

On the other hand, cat’s purrs are caused by their voice box and certain muscles that twist.

 Alaric, a Norwegian Forest Cat takes part in the second annual Meet the Breeds showcase of cats and dogs at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on October 17, 2010 in New York City. (AFP)
Alaric, a Norwegian Forest Cat takes part in the second annual Meet the Breeds showcase of cats and dogs at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on October 17, 2010 in New York City. (AFP)

Another difference is that big cats can roar because their vocal cords are made up by longer and heavier layers of tissue.

When it comes to smaller cats, the purpose of purring has been discussed by scientists, with some speculating that it is a healing or calming mechanism that might help cats ward off predators.

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