A cat’s hiss sounds close to that of a snake’s or an overloading radiator. When they make this sound, their usually serene face shifts into an open-mouthed sneer. Their ears flatten, their spine arches to the point where furs on their back stand and their tail puff out. We know cats to be these sassy, strong, and independent creatures, so seeing them agitated this way might be weird or even funny for us.
You may be wondering about the reasons why they do this. In this article, we will explore what happens when your cat hisses and some instances that may explain why it happens.
Is it normal for cats to hiss?
Certified feline behavior professional Dr. Marci Koski says that it is normal for cats to hiss. She states that cats do this whenever they feel fearful, upset, or threatened about something. When your cat feels threatened, they let out a burst of breath through their mouth – this is what produces the hissing sound.
This usually comes with other body language signs such as a sneer that bares their teeth, ears flattened to the back of their heads, and an arched spine. The fur on their backs will also stand on ends.
Why do cats hiss?
There could be several reasons to explain why your cat is hissing. Let us read up about some of the most common causes of an upset, hissing cat.
Hissing as a Warning
“Cats typically hiss to give a warning,” Koski explains. “Hissing isn’t an indication that your cat’s being aggressive, but it’s a sign your cat may attack if he continues to be provoked.”
Much like how dogs produce low growling sounds, sometimes your cat may growl or hiss to let you know that something in their environment has made them feel unpleasant. When your cat hisses at you in warning, it is best for you to back away from them for a bit. We don’t want to escalate our cat’s already down mood, lest it turns to them clawing or fighting with what upset them.
According to our experts, it is a common cause of hissing for cats when they feel threatened or fearful of others, of people in particular. If you notice your cat hissing when you or anyone from your family and friends attempt to handle them, it is highly likely that they feel threatened in a way.
Cats who could have been handled in a rough manner might hiss as a protest or to express restraint and refusal to being approached. In a similar manner, you may also take notice of your cat when paying a visit to the vet as a reaction to the unfamiliarity of the environment and the possible restraint by doctors or technicians.
Do you happen to have a mother cat in your home? Mother cats, like most other mammals, are very protective of their kittens – especially if they are newly born and therefore very young. Even the very sociable and gentle cats can be quite hostile during interactions at this period of their lives.
Mother cats, more often than not, would not let others near their kittens for a few weeks. So if you own a mother cat at home who has recently given birth and may be prone to hissing, it is probably best to give her and her babies some extra space so they can feel safe.
In any case, your cat is hissing directly at you, it may be because you are beginning to annoy them. There could be times they would rather not be petted or played with. It could also occur if you’re picking them up when they don’t want you to do so.
Cat hissing could also be quite common if you happen to have children in your place who may not know when to leave your pet cat alone. In situations like this, it might be best to keep watch when your children spend some time with your cat. Besides being pestered, cats can become annoyed for many reasons ranging from moving locations to a simple car ride.
Cats do not like having stressors in their environment and are quite notorious for not being able to cope well with stress in their homes. These furry friends have a strong fight or flight instinct and could hiss at you before attempting to either flee or engage in a fight.
On this note, we are confronted with a certain issue: stress. In your cat’s case, it can be related to problems with lack of familiarity or when they feel threatened. Under stress, your cat’s first instinct could be to freeze or simply flee and hide to avoid conflict, but in other times, they could react to stress in a defensive manner by hissing instead.
Experts attribute a cat’s stress to being exposed to loud noises and sudden movements. To care for your cat, they suggest creating a calm and quiet environment to ease stress and tensions for your pet cat. A peaceful environment is important since continual stress for cats can potentially evolve into feline depression.
Another reason why your cat may be hissing is that it is in pain. They may hiss when you touch a particular spot or part in their body that hurts. Or maybe they are experiencing a periodontal disease that causes pain and bad breath. In cases like this, it is probably best to take them to the vet to get them checked and relieved of their pain.
What should I do when I hear my cat hissing at me?
When you hear your cat hiss, it is usually indicative of a negative feeling or experience for your pet. Stevenson informs us that it is important for cat owners to recognize that cats hiss in defense, not as an offensive move and that they respond in such a way not only with fellow animals but with humans too.
If you notice your cat hissing in the presence of another animal, the best move is to separate them to prevent the tension from escalating. On the other hand, if your cat is hissing at you, even if it’s “Hug Your Cat Day,” you shouldn’t try to smother them or be overbearing. You have to give them space to allow them to relax and not cause them stress or become a cause for displays of potentially aggressive behavior.
Ultimately, you want to make sure to provide a safe space for your cat with a good amount of places for them to hide in the instance that they’re feeling stressed. Cat furniture like cat trees, igloos, and high spaces are best as they allow your cat to have their own peace and quiet. Another simple yet effective option to keep felines happy and content is to provide them with some calming CBD treats.