Why Do Cats Hiss? Is There A Way For My Cat To Purr More & Hiss Less?
When a cat hisses, we all know that a cat is done playing and means business. But then, there are times when a cat hisses out of nowhere at you, at other cats, or even at their kitten.
And so we ask: why do cats hiss? Are they simply afraid or pissed off, or are there other reasons behind it?
While it’s normal for a cat to hiss, it’s still unnerving to see new kittens or your friendly cat hissing with its bared teeth at you, at other family members, or your dog.
It's a good thing that Feline Living is here to get to the bottom of it. Here you’ll find everything about cat hissing – all its possible causes and what you can do when your pet cat starts to hiss.
Cat Hissing: What Is It?
Like purring, growling, howling, meowing, and other cat noises and vocalizations, cat hissing is also one of the ways cats communicate.
Interestingly, a cat hiss is a lot similar to a snake hiss. If you’re not familiar, the sound that a cat or a snake makes when hissing is like the sound that air makes when it’s abruptly released through a tiny hole (like a flat car tire).
And you know what? That’s exactly what happens when a cat hisses. For cats to make a hissing sound, the air is forced through its mouth while exhaling.
In fact, if you’re sitting close enough to your cat’s face (which you probably shouldn’t do), you’d feel the gush of air while your cat is hissing.
Besides the similarity in sound, feline behaviorists also suggest that cats learned this particular behavior from the snakes to survive in the wild. Amazing, right?
Also Read: Do Cats Get Jealous?
Common Behaviors Cats Exhibit While Hissing
When cats hiss, this behavior is often accompanied by other behaviors, including:
- Flattened ears
- Arched back
- Open mouth
- Curled tongue
- Piloerection or hair standing on end
Why Do Cats Hiss?
While cat hissing might seem like an aggressive behavior, a cat hiss is often a warning sound. Usually, cats hiss when they feel threatened.
Then again, a cat hisses in various situations, and the hissing sound it makes also changes. At times, your pets’ hiss seems quieter than usual. Other times, it sounds a bit more aggressive with a show of their sparkling white, sharp teeth.
Yes, most likely, your kitty is telling you to stay away when it starts to hiss. But the reasons behind it may vary.
Your pet cat may be hissing because it feels threatened or it’s ticked off, but it can also be triggered by something else.
Here’s a rundown of the most common reasons behind your cat’s hissing:
It’s Mating Season
A cat’s behavior noticeably changes when it’s time to mate. This is especially true for unneutered and unspayed cats. And one thing cats often do at this time of the year is hiss.
Two male cats competing for the attention of an unspayed queen might start hissing at each other. A male cat might also hiss at a female cat when looking for a prospective mate.
To Show Authority
If you think your dog is territorial, think again. Cats are territorial animals (even more than dogs), and this applies to both male and female cats.
So, if your cat hisses out of the blue, your pet cat might be sensing an intruder. Given cats’ territorial nature, cats would hiss to show other animals who dominate the space.
They Sense Something Unfamiliar
Even though your pet cat is not sensing other animals infiltrating its territory, your cat may still hiss.
This is because your pet cat, with its exceptional sense of smell (even better than dogs), senses an unfamiliar scent. This can be a scent of a new pet, a new family member, a visitor, or even the smell of a new toy or furniture.
At times, a mother cat might hiss at her kittens to teach them a lesson. They may start to hiss to tell her little kitten that it is biting or scratching too hard.
They’re Protecting Something
A hissing cat might be a mother protecting its kittens or a cat trying to guard its resources.
Although domestic cats can coexist with other pets and humans without a problem, cats, by nature, are solitary hunters that like to hunt and eat alone.
If you live in a multi-cat household, you might notice your cats hiss whenever they eat their cat food near other cats.
Their instinct to protect and guard their food kicks in, especially if the amount of cat food provided is not enough for all.
Kittens weaned prematurely may also show the same behavior.
They’re Just Playing
Two cats (often adults) might hiss lightly at each other during a “play fight.” This rarely happens, though.
So, if your cats are playing and start hissing, keep a watchful eye. Sooner or later, their play fight might become intense, and all hell might break loose if it’s not stopped in time.
Reaction To Overstimulation or Stress
Most cats don’t deal well with change, given their somewhat “controlling nature.” True enough, cats usually want things to go their way.
As such, loud noises, rowdy small children, or unwanted attention from their respective owners, or an unknown person might stress your cat out. When this happens, your pet kitty will most likely hiss.
They’re In Pain Or They’re Expecting To Feel Pain
Besides stress, fear, and the presence of a potential mate, an unknown animal, humans, or new objects, your hissing cat might be hissing because she’s in pain.
When in pain, your cats may hiss every time you touch the part of her body that hurts. Other times, your cats may hiss every time you try to approach them.
If this is the case, watch out for other signs of sickness like lethargy, lack of appetite, and the like, and have your cat checked by a vet right away.
What To Do When Your Cat Hisses
The last thing you want to do with a hissing cat is to carry it in your arms. So, what should you do when he or she’s hissing? How should you treat them? Check out below:
Let Your Cat Be
One thing that every cat owner should do is to be mindful of their cat’s body language. Unlike dogs, cats don’t like to be touched all the time. If your cat doesn’t feel like playing and starts to hiss, just let your cat be.
Give Them Some Space
As much as you want to comfort your cat, now is not the time. You’re better off leaving your cat alone for now. Your pets will definitely approach you of their own free will whenever they’re ready for some owner-cat time.
Provide Lots Of Hiding Places
Another thing you have to have in your home when your cat is hissing is a hiding place. In a fight-or-flee situation, cats would often choose the latter.
And when they do, they would frequently try to seek refuge by going to a place where they feel safe (think cat trees and igloos).
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Other Ways To Lessen Cat Hissing
Understanding what your cat is saying through their body language (like tail wagging) is one way. When it comes to cats, timing is essential. You can’t pick them up just because you want to. You’ll have to gauge if they’re ready before doing so.
To make your cat feel safe, you might also want to figure out what‘s causing your cat stress and do something about it.
Here are a few things you can do to make your cat feel less stressed (this means less cat hissing):
Slowly Introduce Your Cat
Whether you’re introducing your cat to a new kitten or a dog, it’s good to ensure that your resident cat is all prepped up. You can do this by keeping your cat and the new kitty, dog, or other animals in separate rooms.
Once your cat is used to the scent of the other animal, you can put them together in the same room. To ease tension and avoid conflict, give each one a toy to play with and wait for them to feel at ease before allowing them to play together. Give your cat (and dog) some treats after to reward them for their good behavior.
Schedule Some Play Time With Your Cat
Spending some one-on-one time with your cat may help release your cat’s pent-up emotion. However, if you’re busy, you might want to give your feline friend interactive toys like puzzles and window bird feeders to help them destress.
Use Cat-Friendly Calming Products
Cat-friendly pheromone sprays and diffusers might also help alleviate your cat’s fear or anxiety. You can set this up in places where your cat usually hangs out.
Seek Expert Advice From Your Trusty Veterinarian
Even if your furry pal is not in pain and your vet has ruled out sickness as the cause of your cat’s hissing, it’s still a good idea to consult your vet.
Your veterinarian may have a few more tricks up their sleeve. They can also refer you to an animal behaviorist.
Also Read: Best Cat Calming Sprays in 2023
Whether your fur baby is purring, meowing, or hissing, one thing is for sure – your pal is trying to tell you something.
So, try to be a bit more sensitive and understanding and treat them well. At the end of the day, your feline friend is a living, breathing creature that needs some TLC.