Why Do Cats Hiss?
mYouay have heard your cat hiss at some point in their life with you so far. Even those who usually are sweet and gentle are prone to hiss if they feel unpleasant in their environment in any way. Still, it can cause any cat lover to wonder, “Why do cats hiss?”
Even the kindest felines can feel angry, stressed, or afraid to the point that their entire demeanor changes. As their owner, you may wonder where this behavior comes from, how it happens, and why they do it. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why your cat may be hissing so you can understand them better!
What does a cat’s hissing sound like?
When a cat feels threatened, they release a burst of air through their mouth that makes a hissing sound.
It is often accompanied by other signs of body language such as:
- Barred teeth
- Flattened ears
- Arched spines
Besides these signs, the cat’s fur may also stand on end. This is known as piloerection. It is generally caused by fear, aggression, insecurity, and even cold weather.
How do cats hiss?
A cat’s hissing sound resembles that of a snake. Experts in cat behavior believe this is no accident. Some theorize that cats learned to imitate a snake’s threatening habit of hissing.
This imitation (called “mimicry” in the animal world) is often used for survival. The distinctive hissing sound of a snake scares most species, and ancient cats may have turned their fear of snakes into a learning opportunity.
Modern felines don’t always hiss to frighten; they use it to communicate various emotions. Feline hissing is defensive for the most part. It comes as a form of forewarning for their stressors to back off before the situation turns into aggression.
Reasons why your cat may be hissing
When trying to understand why our feline friends hiss, it is essential to understand that it is normal behavior. Cats can’t talk (yet), and hissing allows them to express their feelings. Similar to humans, cats also employ body language to express their emotions.
Let us explore some of the most common reasons why you might hear your cat hissing:
As a warning
According to PetMD, your cat may be hissing as a warning. Experts say that hissing is not an automatic indication of a cat’s aggression. It is a defensive measure that warns the other animal (or you) that they may attack if further provoked.
Like a dog’s low growling sounds, cats may hiss to signal that something around them has made them feel unhappy or unpleasant.
If your cat hisses at you, the best thing to do is back off and leave them alone for a bit. Try removing whatever seems to be causing the cat to be upset.
It is common for cats to hiss when they feel threatened or fearful of others (people in particular).
If you happen to notice your cat hissing when someone attempts to approach or handle them, they likely feel threatened. When a cat hisses at one individual repeatedly, your kitty may simply not enjoy the company of that particular person.
Cats who have been handled roughly in the past could hiss in protest, expressing their displeasure or refusal in being held or approached.
Similarly, you may notice your cat hissing a lot when you pay a visit to the vet. This is due to the feline feeling that they are in unfamiliar territory, unsure of what to expect.
In the instance that your cat hisses directly at you, a reason could be that you are starting to annoy them. There may be times when they do not want to be pet or played with, or they don’t want you to pick them up and carry them.
Cats could also hiss if you have children in your home that may not know when to leave your cats alone. In cases like this, it could be best for you to keep an eye on the kids when they spend time with your cat.
Do you have a mother cat in your care? Like most other mammals, mother cats are very protective of their newborn children. Even the most friendly and gentle cats could display hostility during interactions to protect their kittens.
More often than not, mother cats wouldn’t allow others to go near their children for the first few weeks. If you have a mother cat who has recently given birth and is therefore prone to hissing, you should give her and her kittens space where they can feel safe on their own.
Cats prefer the quiet and are not fans of having things in their environment that cause them stress. They are known for not coping well with stress in their home.
Cats possess an intense fight or flight instinct, and when their peace is disrupted, they could hiss at you before they either hide or engage in a fight.
When a cat feels stressed, its first instinct is to freeze or flee where it can hide and avoid conflict. But there may be instances when they could react defensively by hissing at their stressor.
A significant source of stress for felines is loud and sudden noises. To provide your pet with peace, experts suggest a calm and quiet environment with minimal stressors.
Your cat may be in pain
Another common reason for cat hissing is pain. Your cat may hiss when you happen to touch particular spots on their body that hurt.
If you feel they are in pain, you should pay a visit to the vet to ensure they are in good health.
Handling a hissing cat requires discipline and care so that the kitty doesn’t feel like it’s being challenged. Use caution and avoid scolding the cat or getting into a staring match with it, as this can make your pet think you’re looking for a fight. Give them space and let them calm down on their own instead.
Rule out reasons why your cat is displaying the behavior so that you can reduce or remove triggers. Give your cat time to get used to the presence of a new or unfamiliar thing.
Ultimately, you want to make sure you provide a safe and peaceful space for your cat with a good amount of places for them to hide in case they feel stressed. Things like cat trees, igloos, and high spaces are best as they allow your cat to have their own peace and quiet.