What Do Bobcats Sound Like? (Answer)

Photo: WireStock Creators / Shutterstock

The elusive bobcat is often quiet and unseen as it searches for prey in the twilight hours.

However, their screams in the night are loud and jarring enough to wake people up from blissful sleep.

Bobcats produce sounds that are similar to other small cats such as meowing, purring, hissing, growling, and more. However, they create loud scream-like vocalizations during the breeding season. Bobcats also produce cough-bark sounds in conjunction with hissing and growling to threaten larger predators. They remain relatively quiet when they are hunting prey to capture them with an element of surprise.

This article will inform the reader about various bobcat sounds and why they make them. Read on.

Bobcat Sounds And Why They Make Them

The bobcat (Lynx rufus) belongs to the Felidae family, which consists of 37 cat species, including the cheetah, leopard, lion, lynx, and the domestic cat.

Aptly named for their bobbed tails, they are also referred to as a bay lynx or wildcat.

Bobcats are primarily nocturnal and elusive but could be seen roaming for prey during the day as well. Bobcats tend to be quiet, but do produce various sounds as needed.

Many of the sounds of the bobcat are much like a domestic cat, yet they also have a distinctive scream.

Even if a bobcat is not seen, there are chances you could hear one screaming, especially during the night.

See also  Can Cheetahs Climb Trees? [Yes! But They Prefer To Run]

High-Pitched Scream

Bobcats are solitary animals, changing shelters daily. Females with litters of 1 to 6 kittens will have several dens and rotate their usage of them.

However, bobcats often interact with each other during the mating season generally from January through May. This is when they tend to be the noisiest.

During this time, bobcats produce a sound that many refer to sounding like a woman screaming for help, called caterwauling.

This sound may also be described as evil-sounding (with dissonant tones), a man shouting, or a child crying.

This scream is loudest and most frequent during the breeding season, and may even sound like the mating animals are killing each other.

Growling, hissing, and growling can also be heard while bobcats are mating or in competition over a female.

This video demonstrates some sounds of two bobcats interacting with each other:


A short, resonant cough-bark sound is produced when the bobcat feels it or its litter is threatened.

The bobcat will use this sound as a warning toward predators such as mountain lions, owls, wolves, coyotes, and humans.

This bark will also alert other animals that a predator is in the vicinity.

Growls, Hisses, Howls


Bobcats have excellent hearing, vision, and a sense of smell, capable of detecting both prey and predators. Bobcats tend to be twilight (crepuscular) hunters, at dawn and dusk.

Much like the purpose of the cough-bark, a bobcat will growl, hiss, or howl in response to a predator threat.

See also  13 Animals Like Ferrets (With Pictures)

These sounds are used to deter or scare the predator (including domestic dogs) away allowing them time to get to safer ground or climb a tree.


These vocalizations are also used when claiming or fighting over territory with an encroaching bobcat.

Bobcats live in a variety of habitats with adequate surface covers such as forests, coastal swamps, deserts, and scrublands.

They are tolerant of human disturbance and capable of living in altered habitats, such as suburban areas.

The bobcat is found in areas from southern Canada, throughout the 48 contiguous United States (except Delaware), and into southern Mexico.

A female’s territory is approximately 6 square miles of circuitous routes, and a male’s area can range up to 60 square miles.

Their population is increasing with an estimated population of over 23 million bobcats in the United States alone.


Growls, hisses, and howls may also be heard mixed in with the screaming sounds of mating.

Meows And Squalls

Bobcats may also make sounds like domestic cats such as meows and squalls (cries) when they communicate with each other.

These are often produced when a female is calling for her kittens or the kittens are calling for their mother.

These sounds can also be heard before the louder breeding calls start.


Smaller cats, such as bobcats, can purr (but not roar) because they have connected and delicate bones, called hyoid bones, that run from the back of the tongue to the base of the skull.

These U-shaped bones resonate when the cat vibrates its voice box (larynx), allowing them to produce a continuous sound while breathing.

See also  Top 15 Quietest Animals In Wildlife [Pictures]

The theory behind purring is that a mother’s purr camouflages the mewing of nursing kittens from nearby predators.

No Sounds

Bobcats will stealthily stay quiet most of the time as they hunt small and midsize prey such as birds, squirrels, fawns, raccoons, and rabbits.

They pounce on the animal, grabbing its neck, and cutting its spinal cord. If the bobcat eats its fill, it will store and cover the remaining food in a cache and come back for more later.

In Conclusion

In general, bobcats are quiet as they move around their territories and search for prey.

Much like domestic cats, bobcats can purr, meow, hiss, and growl.

They also produce cough-barks with other aggressive sounds to threaten larger predators.

Most notably, bobcats create a loud, scream-like night-time vocalization during the breeding season from January to May.

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

Recent Posts