What does the cheetah say?

August 2, 2014 • 12:08 pm

Cheetah says “cheep, cheep, cheepity cheep.”

I ‘ve known for a while that baby cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) make strange chirping noises, but I never thought much about the adult calls until I got this from reader Steve:

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Well, I had to check that out, of course, and it’s true that cheetahs can’t roar. Here’s one that sounds like a bird. I played it to a friend who couldn’t see the video, and she said, “It’s a bird, of course.”

From the YouTube notes:

Everybody knows that lions roar, but what noise do cheetahs make? They have a range of noises, from growls to purs, but the most distinctive is a bird-like cheep, technically known as a chirrup. This will be made when a mother is communicating to its young or when excited.

This cheetah, spotted in the Mara North Conservation Area, had been until recently with its mother. She must have decided he was big enough to look after himself so had slipped away and left him, leaving him to fend for himself. He is calling out for her, assuming that she has gone hunting but getting hungry.

You can hear a variety of cheetah vocaolizations on YouTube, but they don’t include roars. One site has ten of them; be sure to listen to “cheetah talking.”

The cheetah is doubly disadvantaged. Besides sounding like a tweetie-bird, it’s the only cat that cannot retract its claws.

13 thoughts on “What does the cheetah say?

  1. “it’s the only cat that cannot retract its claws.”

    Given how fast it runs, not a particular disadvantage. Possibly quite the opposite.

    And is it technically a “big cat” since it’s Acinonyx, not Panthera?

    /@

  2. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to pet a cheetah at a local cat show. A little intimidating at first, but when I leaned real close, I heard the lowest purr I had ever heard. An unforgettable experience.

  3. well that was disturbing! I actually jumped when I heard it, not out of fear, mind you. Funny, how there is a visceral reaction to certain “wild” or “natural” sounds which strike fear in the heart of humans, such as a wolf or coyote howl (if near by and in the dark, trust me, it’s unnerving when you had no idea they were so close!) or a rattlesnake’s rattle, or a lion’s roar (my genetic line has been out of Africa a long time, but still…!) yet, this cheetah chirrup…nothing. It’s like the cheetah is the Rodney Dangerfield of felids! Granted, I’d be changing my tune if I’d have spotted one eying me from the tall grass…

  4. Given that cheetahs must share their territory with lions, it makes some sense that their call is rather discrete.

  5. Technically, the cheetah belongs to the ‘small cats’, not to the ‘large cats’ that roar. Its nearest relative might be the puma: does the puma roar?

  6. I laughed when I first watched that video, I felt mean. The cheetah talking recording sounded like the spitty dinosaur in Jurassic Park.

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