Wolves don’t purr, but they will use other sounds to communicate with other wolves from their pack. The most common sound is howling, but they’ll also use other sounds like growling, whining, and even barking to “talk” to other wolves.
You might associate your domestic cat with purring, which is why many people wonder whether some wild animals purr, too.
While it is typical for some wild animals like cougars or bobcats to purr when they’re satisfied, it’s not a behavior that wolves use. Purring is much more typical with some other wild cats as well as domestic cats.
Why Do Wolves Not Purr?
Wolves don’t have the same vocal mechanisms as some wild cats do that purr, so they are not able to make purring noises when they’re satisfied. Instead, they’ll use their strong vocals to make other sounds that will portray their happiness.
If you examine why and how a cat purrs, you’ll see that it has some very distinct and special vocal mechanisms that are only typical for some species.
To purr, cats use intrinsic laryngeal muscles, which will make subtle and pleasant vibrations as they are satisfied, which we associate with purring. These muscles are responsible for the separation of the vocal cords, which then comes out as a purring sound.
The research is not yet very complete on wolves when it comes to these muscles, though. However, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that wolves do not have these internal laryngeal muscles or at least they’re not developed for making purring noises. It could also be that they’re not strong enough to make the same vibrations.
Whatever the reason might be, these muscles are the main reason why wolves don’t purr. Besides, they have much stronger vocal cords than most cat species have, so they can produce sounds that are much clearer and will reach much farther than other sounds. This means they’ll rely on other sounds to let their feelings be known.
How Do Wolves Say They’re Happy?
So if wolves don’t purr, how do they let others know they’re happy?
They will do that by making different sounds like chirping, howling, and even whining. They make these sounds when they’re happy, which often happens as they play with other wolves or when they are grooming.
Chirping is not very common with wolves, and they’ll only make these sounds as they receive food or when they’re playful. This sound will not be heard very clearly, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll hear it in a natural surrounding.
Howling is a much more common sound that can also portray happiness in a wolf. In fact, it’s one of the main sounds that wolves make when they’re happy. Howling is one of the most universal sounds in the “wolf language” as it can be used for many different needs, including communicating their position with others, and inviting others to play.
Here’s how happy wolf howling sounds like:
Whining, on the other hand, is often heard when wolves play with each other. In many ways, this whining can be compared to the whining that dogs make when they play. It’s also commonly heard when wolves groom and when they’re getting ready to breed. Here’s how this whining sounds like:
What Do Wolves Do When They’re Happy?
When a wolf is happy, you might see some similar behaviors as to what a dog will do: when a wolf is happy, it will wag its tail and make whining or howling sounds. It will also move and dance around and display a playful behavior that will try to invite the other wolf to play with it.
This happy behavior can especially be observed when wolves play with each other, or when they reunite with their packs and they feel safe.
Often, they will bow down with the front part of their body and keep their tail high and wagging. Other times, it will dance around and even jump around because of happiness, which is not dissimilar to what you’d see with a dog.
Sometimes, when wolves are content, they will lie down in peace and listen to other wolves howling and return these howls to display their contentment, but also to tell their position so that other wolves can find it.
This behavior is the product of many thousands of years of evolution and it’s something that’s buried deep down in wolves’ brains.
How Do Wolves Show Affection?
Wolves will show affection by playing with the other animal and nibble at it gently, as well as lick it or sniff its genital area. Before they breed, the two wolves will spend a lot of time together to “get to know” each other.
Again, this behavior will be very close to the behavior you can see with your dogs at home. When the two animals try to breed, they will hang around each other and spend a lot of time together.
The male will usually make advances and it will try to get closer by playing with the female, but also by nibbling at the female and sniffing her genital area. Sometimes, the two animals will play with each other and if there is no affection from the other animal, the male might get a bit more aggressive – although this doesn’t happen too often.
To conclude, wolves don’t purr because they don’t have the same vocal capacities and muscles as some cat species do.
Instead, they will use other sounds and behaviors when they’re satisfied, which is why most cats use purring for. Wolves will howl and whine, while chirping might also be possible but it’s just not loud enough for us to hear it.
It’s fair to say that a wolf’s behavior when it’s happy more closely resembles a dog’s behavior. And because they don’t have laryngeal muscles developed in the same way as cats, they can’t purr and they don’t use it at all.