Why Do Cats Hiss?

Most of us think that the reason why cats hiss is because they’re angry, mean, or extremely annoyed.  But you may be surprised to learn that there are actually several reasons why cats hiss.  In this article, we’ll discuss why cats hiss, why cats hiss at people, why cats hiss at other cats, and we’ll go over some steps you can take to prevent your cat from hissing.

why do cats hiss?Why Do Cats Hiss?

As a Warning.  A cat’s hissing, most commonly, is a warning to another animal or person, telling them to expect an attack if they don’t back off.  Cats don’t particularly care for confrontation – they prefer to try to prevent it, and hissing is often quite effective!  Cats will typically hiss if they feel threatened in any way, such as when another cat intrudes on their turf, a mother cat protecting her kittens, if the dog or the kids are getting too enthusiastic…if something makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened, they will hiss.

Changes.  Cats don’t do well with change.  They like things to feel familiar and safe.  So if something changes, such as a new pet, a new person or a new baby coming into the home, for example, the cat may feel anxious or threatened.  Be careful to realize the impact that changes, even slight ones like a new piece of furniture, can have on your cat.  Introduce new people, things or circumstances slowly to your cat and give them time to adjust.

They are in pain.  Cats will hiss if you come near them or touch them when they’re in pain.  If your cat is suddenly hissing when you go anywhere near them or try to pet them, call the vet right away.

They are annoyed.  Some cats don’t like to be picked up, and some don’t particularly enjoy being petted.  Or it may be that your cat just isn’t in the mood at that particular moment to be petted or picked up.  Cats will often hiss at small children who are too enthusiastic about touching, petting and picking up the cat and don’t know when too back off.  Be sure to teach your children how to be respectful of the cat, and take steps to protect your cat if unfamiliar children are around.

Stress.  Cats tend to be quite sensitive and will get stressed out easily.  If you think your cat might be stressed out, check out my article, Cat Stress Relievers – 10 Things That Stress Your Cat Out.  Cats don’t cope well with stress and will protect themselves by using their fight-or-flight instincts.  This can include hissing, running away, or in some cases, even attacking or fighting.

Someone is being too rough.  This is especially common with young kittens.  If their littermates are playing too rough, for example, they’ll hiss as a warning and because they feel threatened.  If your cat is hissing at you, at kids, or at another pet in the home, consider whether the cat is being handled too roughly.

They need more exercise.  Cats need to have a sufficient amount of exercise each day, especially if they are young.  If your cat seems uptight, you might try playing with your cat more often, or providing interactive cat toys.  You can find a nice selection of cat toys HERE.

why do cats hissWhy Do Cats Hiss at People?

Cats will hiss at humans for some of the reasons we’ve already discussed, but more specifically, a cat hisses at people to communicate that there is a problem.  This doesn’t have to be anything you’re doing at that particular moment; it could also be to express their disapproval with the situation in general.

Something new.  If you bring home a new pet, a new baby arrives, you’re moving.  The cat will hiss as a way to communicate that they are not happy.

Fear.  Especially for cats who have not been properly socialized, they may be afraid of people.  If someone visits your home, or if you take your cat to the vet, for example – they may be afraid.

Aggression.  If your cat is aggravated for any reason, whether it’s another animal, kids, a change in the household, or even a loud sound, they’ll sometimes redirect that aggression by hissing at you.  It’s just like when a person has a bad day at work, then comes home and takes it out on their spouse.

Physical contact intolerance.  We mentioned earlier that cats will sometimes hiss if they’re just not in the mood to be picked up or petted, or if they’re in pain.   But for some cats, they may not want to be touched due to a traumatic event in their past, and some even have a natural aversion to touch.  They’ll hiss if they can’t tolerate physical contact.

Protecting their territory.  Cats typically will hiss at other cats or pets when they think their territory is being invaded.  But sometimes they’ll even do this with people when you approach something they think is theirs, or if you try to move them off the furniture.

why do cats hissWhy Do Cats Hiss at Other Cats?

They feel threatened.  Cats will hiss at each other when they feel threatened – it’s a way to communicate to the other cat that they need to stay away.  Most cats aren’t aggressive by nature, they just don’t enjoy confrontation.  Hissing when another cat approaches is their way of avoiding the confrontation by simple letting the other cat know they don’t want to be approached.

Fighting over a girl LOL.  Un-neutered males will hiss at each other if there is a female around.

Stress.  Cats will hiss at each other if they’re stressed out, just like your kids will start to fight if something stressful is going on in the house.  They’ll “turn on each other,” just like kids will!

They don’t want to share.  Cats will hiss at each other if they don’t want to share their food and water bowls, the litter box, a scratching post, their toys, or their bed.  They’ll even hiss at each other if they don’t want to share you!

Territorial disputes.  Cats will always hiss at each other if they feel the other cat is intruding on their territory.  Any change in territory can also cause hissing – even if furniture is moved, if the location of the litter box changes, or if a new pet or family member is added to the house.

They feel vulnerable.  If a cat is in pain or has been injured, they’ll hiss at another cat because they feel vulnerable when the other cat approaches.

If your cat’s hissing actually leads to his fighting with other cats, please read my article, How to Keep Cats from Fighting.  

why do cats hissWhat to Do if Your Cat is Hissing

Realize it’s normal.  First, realize that hissing is a perfectly natural form of communication for a cat.  Never punish your cat for hissing – this will mostly likely make whatever is causing it worse.

Give the cat some space. If your cat is hissing at you or other people, you need to give the cat some space in order to prevent an attack.  Be aware, and teach your children, to take note of a cat’s body language before trying to pet them or pick them up  If their ears are back, if they’re trying to get away, if they’re growling, or if they’re hissing, back off.

Provide an escape.  It’s always a good idea to provide a means of escape, as well as hiding places for a cat.  In the wild, cats are seen as prey.  It’s their natural instinct to run away or hide.  So be sure to provide them with a safe place to go if they feel threatened, afraid or stressed.  High cat perches placed in a quiet corner work well for your cat to escape and get some peace and quiet.  You can find an assortment of these HERE.

Give them respect.  The best thing to do for cats, whether they’re hissing or not, is to respect the fact that cats can be temperamental, easily stressed, sensitive, and can often feel anxious and afraid.  Most cats simply want to feel safe and have their own space, and they’ll come to you for attention and interaction only when they feel like it.  Most cats don’t enjoy the activity level of small children.  Some cats don’t enjoy being around other animals.  And senior cats deserve even more space and respect, as they will have even less tolerance for things that bother cats.

Accept it for what it is.  If your cat is hissing, take it for what it is – a simple communication that they are not in agreement with whatever is happening.  Use the reasons for cats hissing discussed in this article to try to eliminate the things that might be upsetting your cat.  But then, just respect the cat’s right to live and be as they wish.

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why do cats hiss


why do cats hissBe Patient with Your Kitty!

Never punish a cat for hissing.  That will only make it worse.  Always be kind to your cat and never hit your cat or yell at them.  Cats are highly intelligent animals.  I feel it’s our job as pet owners to understand why our pets behave the way that they do, and to take logical, effective steps to stop or prevent any unwanted behavior.  I hope this article has helped!  Please feel free to comment if you have questions.

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