Many people have the misconception that cats hiss because of aggression or hatred but they actually hiss due to fear. When they hiss, they will normally bare their teeth, flatten their ears to their head, fur standing on end, and back is arched. This is normal behavior for a cat. Not only will they hiss because of fear but also because they are upset about something or they feel threatened. Hiss is not aggressive behavior but if they are hissing a lot, then there is something wrong, or your cat is trying to tell you something.
When your cat hisses, the sound that they make imitates a snake preparing to strike. It is also known as mimicry. There are some experts that feel that cats developed this habit by imitating snakes. Among animals, mimicking another species is a survival tactic. In most species, from horses to humans the sound of the snake’s distinctive noise get a hair-raising feeling. The cat borrows the snake’s vocal sounds hoping they can get the same reaction from whatever is bothering them. They hope that the hissing will be enough to keep them safe.
Fearful of people or feel threatened
It is not something they can control because they will hiss when they feel threatened or scared. This is a common cause of your cat hissing. It is typically a warning that if they continued to be provoked they may attack. Sometimes they hiss if they are handled roughly or are being restrained, such as when they are taken to the vet and have to be held while being examined. It could also be due to someone holding them when they do not want to be touched or held. A cat that was recently feral may hiss at you because of new surroundings and they are scared.
Confronting another animal
This is another common cause because they do not like confrontation with other animals. When they hiss, it is a way of telling these other animals to keep their distance. It is common to hear hissing between male cats that are not neutered and are searching for a mate. The hiss this time is being used as a tool of intimidation.
- Protection–if someone comes too close to her kittens, the mother cat may hiss, whether it is another animal or person. When this happens just give her space so she can feel safe.
- Teaching—when they are young, kittens will do everything their mom does so she starts teaching them to hiss as a defense lesson.
- Warn them—when mom hisses at her kittens it is a call to action and they are supposed to heed the sound and come back to her. It is her way of getting their attention. If the kittens do not listen to her she will walk toward them to protect them or toward whatever the danger is.
- Chase them away—as they get older, she starts to wean them, which happens at about four weeks. She hisses at them to try to keep them from suckling. In retaliation, the kittens may hiss back after her. Do not worry as this is just part of nature and how they wean their kittens.
Scared of the unfamiliar
These can be objects, changes in their environment, or people. As the cat feels more comfortable, the hissing should stop.
Stress can be related to feeling threatened or unfamiliarity but it can also be related to some type of stressors in their environment or life. A cat is an animal that does not cope well with stress. Their choice, when dealing with conflict is to fight, flight, or freeze, but they would prefer to avoid conflict. When they hiss, they are reacting defensively.
This is one of the less common reasons that can cause a cat to hiss but it can happen if you accidentally touch them where they are hurting. Sometimes a cat will hiss if they are suffering from arthritis and they move in a way that causes them to hurt.
Annoyance or displeasure
There are some quirky cats that when they become annoyed or displeased with something or someone, they will hiss, much like a person will do when they say a swear word. They may also hiss when they are denied a treat or you are trying to bring them inside and they do not want to. If someone is trying to play with them, and they don’t want to be bothered, they may hiss. If you have recently brought a new kitten into the house, the cat may hiss to show their displeasure with the entire situation. Sometimes they will hiss at you if they smell another cat on you.
In cats, there are different types of aggression and it is not like aggression with a dog where you know they are going to bite you.
- Redirected—this is when cats are annoyed or something and they just need to release this pent-up aggression on the nearest thing or person. For example, if they are annoyed by a loud noise, a person, or something else, they may take it out on you by hissing at you.
- Petting induced—some cats have a low tolerance for any physical contact, whether it is a natural aversion or a traumatic event, will hiss, which is their way of telling to stop petting them.
- Territorial—when a cat hisses, it trying to show dominance. Some cats will confuse their owner for another cat and will hiss at you when you try to move them or you come into their area of the house.
How to deal with the hissing
If you feel your cat is in pain, then you should take them to the vet to make sure and get treatment for what is causing them pain. If it is for other reasons, give the cat time to calm down. Understand that they are doing this for a reason and are not trying to be aggressive. It is their way of communicating.