Why Do Cats Hiss?

Written by Austin S.
Updated: July 10, 2022
Image Credit sophiecat/Shutterstock.com
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Cats make different kinds of sounds, such as growling, chattering, and chirping. But have you ever heard your feline friend making a snake-like hissing sound? Yes, you didn’t hear wrongly. Cats make hissing sounds as well.

Cats have made several changes in the course of adaptation and survival. One of them is making a hissing sound. But what does this mean? Why do they make this sound?

In this article, we’ll explain why your feline friend hisses, how it makes this sound and what you can do whenever your cat is hissing.

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Reasons Why Cats Hiss

As a Warning

Cat hissing can be your cat telling you to “keep off, stay away, or else I’ll be forced to attack.” This sound could be made towards you, another person, or other animals. 

Cats don’t like being confronted, and when it feels threatened, it hisses to appear as a bigger danger to you or anything provoking it. It also shows off its greatest weapon— its sharp teeth. This can be followed by raising their paws to show their claws as a threat.

You may see them do this when there’s another cat or animal on their turf. Or when a stranger is getting too close to them. Also, when the vet’s trying to handle or treat them.

Your Cat Is in Pain

If you touch a part of your cat’s body, and they hiss as a response. You need to refrain and try petting them or giving treats to check their bodies for injury or bruises. 

If you can’t notice any physical injury or bruises, and your cat hisses when you touch it, especially around its stomach, your cat might be in pain internally.

In this case, you might want to call or take your cat to a vet for a proper check-up.

Territoriality

Cats are naturally known as highly territorial animals. To keep it simple, cats love their privacy.  You may notice your cat’s hissing when you get too close to its stuff like its blankets and bed. Your cat may hiss when another animal gets near its feeding tray or bowl. 

If you introduce a new cat into your home, it’s best to keep their stuff away from each other. Make sure each cat has their privacy to prevent hissing and fights in some cases.

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Maternal Instinct

Mammals are generally very protective of their young ones, and cats aren’t an exception.

A mother cat will hiss if you try to get close to its kittens, even though your intentions are pure. Hissing to scare you or anyone and anything approaching its kittens is a natural maternal Instinct.

A mother cat can go as far as launching an attack and even get into a fight if another cat or animal approaches it while nursing its kittens.

How Do Cats Hiss?

When a cat wants to hiss, it does so by releasing a sudden burst of air through its mouth. This burst of air makes a sound like a snake’s hiss or air leaking from a car tire. If you get close enough to your cat while it is hissing, you can feel the air coming out of its mouth.

Feline behaviorists believe that cats learned this behavior as a survival instinct by mimicking snakes, which are naturally considered more deadly creatures.

However, your cat’s hiss can change and mean different things based on the current situation. Cats make an open-mouthed, silent hiss that is an indicator of unhappiness or a louder hiss with full-on spitting, which shows aggression.

The following body behaviors are associated with hissing:

  • Mouth opened with the tongue curled
  • Ears flattened
  • Hairs standing (piloerection)
  • Back-arched

These behaviors and hissing can be associated with your cat feeling inconvenient.

Is Hissing More Common in Certain Breeds of Cats?

Cats are naturally lovable creatures, and hissing is also a natural behavior. So, to generalize, most cats hiss. 

However, some cat breeds tend to be more aggressive by nature as well. They are known for their feisty temperament and are more likely to be found hissing most of the time. Some of these breeds are:

Why Do Kittens Hiss? 

Kittens also make hissing sounds when disturbed. If a bigger cat or another kitten is playing rough with them, your kitten may hiss to caution or signal its lack of interest in the play. Since your kitten is new to the world, it might hiss as a reflex when it gets startled or scared.

Why Do Mother Cats Hiss?

As mentioned earlier, hissing can be a maternal instinct. This is because mother cats are often over-protective of their newborns. Any attempts to get close to their kittens often result in the mother hissing at you. Even the sweetest cat will hiss if you approach its kittens.

Why Does Your Cat Hiss at You?

As confusing as it sounds, you’ve experienced cases where your cats hissed at you, the one who feeds and plays with them. I think it’s enough reason to wonder what could be happening in your feline friend’s head.

Your cat might probably be annoyed with you, or maybe your cat wants to be alone and doesn’t want to be petted when you are trying to pick it up or play with it.

But what are the possible things you can do that will make your cute feline friend hiss at you:

  • Trying to trim their nails
  • Having the smell of another cat or pet on you (cats can be pretty jealous as well)
  • Being noisy.

Hissing is a natural cat behavior, so you shouldn’t think your feline friend hates you now. It might just be a warning to be left alone or something you need to change. 

In some cases, it could even mean your pet is in discomfort, pay attention to what’s causing your cats to hiss and try to remove it. And if it’s physical pain or a health condition, do not hesitate to take your cat to the vet.

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What Should I Do When My Cat Hisses?

If you find your feline friend hissing at you or other animals, the best thing to do is stay away momentarily as it wants. This is to avoid being bitten or getting scratched.

So what can you do when your cat is hissing? You can follow the following steps:

  • Give it space. This is the first thing to always do. Do not try to comfort or pet it.
  • Try to remove the threat. If it’s another cat, separate them.
  • When your cat is calm and it has stopped hissing, try giving your pet treats or food to draw it closer to you again. 
  • Then, try playing with it, using toys, and petting him. This will make him trust you and see you as a source of comfort.
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What to Do When Your Cats Hiss at Each Other

If your cats are hissing at each other, try to separate them immediately. This is to avoid injury to both animals because a prolonged hiss often ends with physical fights.

When you find two cats hissing at each other, it’s most likely that the cat doing most of the hissing is the victim. This is because the aggressor is often the quiet one who is a threat to the other cat. 

As stated earlier, if you have two cats, ensure they have their privacy. Take each cat to their corner while they cool off. You can start mixing their stuff so they can get used to each other’s scent and probably get along.

However, if this doesn’t work, you can take your cat or invite a veterinary behaviorist to help manage and determine how best your cats can get along.

What to Do if Your Cat Hisses at a Dog

It’s a widespread belief that cats and dogs are natural enemies and don’t get along. So, your cat will likely hiss when it feels trapped or cornered by a dog or puppy.

If you have a cat and a dog, do you know they can get along perfectly well? But the task is up to you.

As a pet owner, you need to discourage dog-cat chasing behavior. This can be done through training and creating enough space for each pet to have their privacy. 

However, dogs are naturally more curious and would often leave their space and invade your cat’s space. You can provide vertical spaces or cat trees your cats can use as an escape off the reach of your dog.

Both pets are sensitive to smell, mixing their stuff, so they get familiar with each other’s scent can be helpful as well.

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Conclusion

Cats hissing is often a show of aggression or frustration. However, when your feline friend hisses at you, do not punish your cat verbally or physically. Instead, let it have its privacy and offer treats when you notice it’s starting to be calmer. 

However, please pay attention to your cat’s hiss, as it might be a sign your feline is in discomfort and needs urgent medical attention.

Did you enjoy this post on cats? You can read more on cats’ behaviors in the following posts:

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.