Why Do Mountain Lions Scream & More About Their Sounds

Mountain lions have a wide range of sounds that they can make, depending on the circumstances.

If you have ever been in the woods in mountain lion territory, you might already know all about their most famous sound!

Why Do Mountain Lions Scream & More About Their Sounds

The scream of a mountain lion is one of the most bone-chilling and horrifying sounds you can hear.

This sound, paired with the loneliness of the woods and looming darkness, can make you feel like you’re in a horror movie.

To most people, this sound will sound exactly like a woman screaming, which really just makes it more horrifying. 

However, the chances that it’s a woman screaming in the woods and not a mountain lion are slim.

As such, if you ever have the misfortune of hearing it, you should move in the opposite direction. 

If you want to learn about the scream of a mountain lion, along with the other sounds they make, keep reading! We’re going to cover everything you need to know.

Overview Of The Sounds Mountain Lions Make 

Mountain lions are known for making a range of sounds, but they cannot roar. 

Instead, a mountain lion will growl and hiss, much like a house cat.

They will also purr! Both males and females are known for their terrifying “scream” that you may have heard before.

This scream is incredibly shrill and loud, and sounds almost identical to a woman’s scream. 

This scream is probably the most well-known sound of a cougar, and is always something to look out for if you are out.

For female cougars, this scream is thought to indicate that they are ready to mate and is done to signal that to males in the area. 

Cougar cubs can hiss and make chirping sounds. This chirping is thought to be a way of them locating their mother.

The Scream

It’s true that a mountain lion’s scream can be terrifying, but that isn’t the purpose of the sound!

Rather than being something the animal does to scare you off, it’s actually part of their mating ritual. 

Why is this necessary? Mountain lions typically have very large territories, and they are solitary animals.

In other words, they like to live on their own. This means that when the female goes into heat, there is no real way of a male knowing due to the distance.

To get past this hurdle, a mountain lion in heat will “scream” to let the males around her know. 

Simply put, the scream is a courting gesture, and it will bring all the boys to her yard. 

Don’t expect to hear this scream at certain times of the year, though.

Mountain lions have no set mating or breeding season, and females have their own unique heat cycles. In order words – screaming can happen at any time of year. 

This can make it difficult to tell whether you hear a real woman screaming in the woods, or a mountain lion in heat.

Screaming isn’t only done by females in heat, though! Of course, this is the most common reason, but males will also occasionally scream.

When males scream, it’s typically done as a way of ensuring that rivals stay off his territory.

It can also be a way of keeping other males away from any potential mates. 

Hissing And Growling

Hissing and growling are more common sounds that a mountain lion will make.

When you hear this, it is a surefire sign of danger. 

This can happen if you’ve wandered into mountain lion territory and have come across one of these animals.

You might not even see it, but if you hear hissing and growling, you don’t need to.

These sounds can be especially aggressive if you’re in the vicinity of a mother and her cubs, because she will protect them. 

Why Do Mountain Lions Scream & More About Their Sounds

If you do find yourself in this situation, never turn your back on the direction the sound is coming from.

Instead, you should slowly back away the same way you came and get out of the area.

In most cases, the mountain lion won’t want anything to do with you.

Since they’re excellent stalkers, if they were looking for a meal, you wouldn’t hear hissing to give away their location and presence. 

Whistling And Chirping

Who knew mountain lions could also sound so cute? Believe it or not, these animals are great at mimicking birds, but not intentionally!

The sound of whistling and chirping is most often heard in dens, where there are cubs. 

Mountain lion cubs will chirp and whistle to communicate with their mother.

Usually these sounds are a way of calling to her, and the mother might even make similar sounds back to them.

As cubs get older, they will grow out of making these sounds and take on the adult calls. 


Yes, mountain lions can purr just like house cats! Their purrs are around 20x louder than the average house cat, though. 

A happy mountain lion will purr to let you know they’re content. It’s adorable, and you can see videos of purring mountain lions all over the internet! 

Mountain lions are actually the largest purring cats.

While they aren’t one of the “big cats”, which belong to the Panthera family, they are the fourth-largest cats in the world! Don’t you wish all cats could purr like then?

Final Thoughts 

Mountain lions can make a wide range and different sounds.

They can’t roar, but they can purr – which is arguably better!

Their most famous sound is their horrifying “scream”, which female mountain lions in heat frequently do to attract males. 

Other sounds they make include hissing, growing, chirping, and whistling.

An unhappy mountain lion will growl and hiss as you or anything threatening as a warning to turn back.

Whistling and chirping are primarily done by mountain lion cubs as a way of communicating with their mother. 

Now that you know more about the sounds of mountain lions, hopefully you know what to avoid next time you’re in the woods! Back away slowly, and don’t turn your back.

Joe Edwards

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