Monday, February 27, 2012

Cougar Call

The cougar is the largest native cat in North America. Chances are you probably won't spot a wild cougar in the Texas hill country as this elusive cat is more afraid of humans than you of her.  She would probably spot you from a great distance, turn tail, and run in the opposite direction. 

Hello Cerella!
Cougars make a variety of sounds including chirps, peeps, purrs, growls, moans, whistles and screams, but they can’t roar-- only lions, leopards and jaguars can do that.  Members of the Felinae group (i.e. cougar, lynx, bobcat, and ocelot) possess the ability to purr or make shrill, high-pitched sounds.  So what makes cougars different from their larger counterparts?

Surprisingly, cougars are technically small cats, members of the same group as domesticated cats. Their size is comparable to leopards, with adult males weighing around 140 pounds and measuring 6-8 feet long from nose to tail.  Now that’s one large “small cat,” right?

While these dimensions sound awfully large to be lumped into the same category as your pet kitty cat, biologists didn't make an error with the cougars’ classification. Although large, the cougar is most closely related to smaller felines and is closer genetically to the domestic cat than to true lions. (Get it?  Mountain Lions?) Anyway, cougars received the designation because of internal anatomy rather than external good looks. Underneath a small cat's tongue is a bone called the solid hyoid which is attached to the windpipe and larynx and helps produce the animal's vocalizations.

Instead of solid hyoids, large cats have flexible cartilage that can vibrate in that oral space, allowing Sabu, Jynxie, and other lions to roar. So your domestic kitty can meow, hiss and growl all day, but that solid hyoid prevents her from roaring like the mighty MGM lion.

Cerella getting ready to "talk!"
As small cats with solid hyoids, cougars can't produce a deep roar, but females can out-scream a 2-year-old child throwing a screaming tantrum at the movie theater. The cougar scream is a rare, high-pitched noise that rips through the wilderness air and causes people to freeze in place. Are those screams warning signs for us to get out of their territory? Are we too close to the female's cubs?

Like the wolf's howl in the night, these cougar screams serve as forms of long-distance communication. Only female cougars are known to make this screeching call, when preparing to go into heat.  So if you happen to hear the chilling scream of a cougar in the distance, just think of it as cougar mood music -- and take off in the opposite direction to avoid being attacked by a love-struck interested male!

It is rare to hear a cougar scream in the wild, so we have a treat for you!  Cerella, one of our beautiful cougars, is going to demonstrate how a cougar scream sounds in the wild! Keep in mind, while Cerella was spayed years ago, she still has the chops to keep the other cats in their place.  You may want to remove small children and animals from the room as her screams can be rather intimidating!

video

Want to start a conversation?  How about loading Cerella's "ringtone" to your mobile devices?   If you would like her "ringtone" just e-mail us HERE and we'll send you her lovely sounds!

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1 comment:

  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing. That was neat!

    ReplyDelete