Dictionaries define hissing as animals expressing their disapproval. Like humans, cats feel the need to set boundaries, especially if they are in an unknown situation where they feel uncomfortable. Hissing is a sign for anyone getting too close to “back off, buster!” or risk getting clawed–or worse.

Cats make hissing sounds by pushing a burst of air through an arched tongue, while pulling back their lips, baring their teeth, and flattening their ears against their head. You’d also see their hair standing on end, making themselves seem bigger than their opponents.

sad cat crying

Why Do Cats Hiss?

A cat hiss serves as a warning. 

Cat’s hissing sounds similar to a snake’s vocalizations. There are studies that talk about cats mimicking these vocalizations to let others know that they might be angry and that intruders should stay away. Your feline is warning others they’ve come too close. Your cat is probably frightened of them, and is telling them they should back off immediately, or that they might retaliate.

Anything that your cat is unfamiliar with could make them uneasy, even an unexpected sound or smell from you.  

Your pet’s hissing is also setting limits on things they allow, like how much petting they’ll tolerate. It might also be a signal to you that you surprised your cat. 

Your cat’s hissing means their adrenaline is flowing, and that they will be working on pure instinct at this point. Your cat is ready to defend itself at all costs.

Cats more readily hiss when they feel stress. Signs of stress in your cat are subtle ways of telling you they’re unhappy or sick, or both. Try to figure out what has changed. For instance, put back whatever you have moved from its original place. When you see the following signs, expect your cat to hiss next . . . if you don’t do anything.

  • Scratching Where they Shouldn’t

You may have designated places where your cat can scratch, but if they suddenly choose a different place, be vigilant about discovering what is making your feline agitated.

  • Spraying Urine

Cats normally pee by squatting in the litter box. But when you see them back up to a vertical surface with an erect tail, they are marking or spraying their territory. This usually happens when they are agitated, too. Preventing male cats from spraying could prove to be a tedious task.

  • Urinates Outside the Litter Box

If your cat pees in bed, then there’s something wrong. Check if the litter needs cleaning or if something is irritating your pet.

  • Issues with Feeding

If your cat hasn’t given you any problems during feeding and does something strange, check if something has happened with your pet.

Common Causes of Stress

  • Always put to heart that cats love consistency. Any changes, no matter how small, will always put your cat in unease.
  • Your pet will feel agitated if a new pet arrives. Always take precautions when introducing anything or anyone to your cat for the first time, whether a new pet or person.
  • When you need to move or travel, your feline could smell a barrage of new smells and hear new noises that could irritate them. Remember that your cat is not as fond of car rides as your dog. Especially if they are not comfortable in a carrier . . . you might get scratched.

The key here is knowing what to do to prepare your cat for any unfavorable situations.

cute hissing cat

The Subtle Meanings of A Cat’s Hiss

  • “I’m hurt, don’t touch me!”

Ask yourself, why did my cat hiss? As we’ve stated before, the immediate notion is to check if there is something in their immediate vicinity that is making them feel vulnerable, frightened, or in pain.

Let your cat adjust to your presence by giving them time to calm down before trying to go near. Your cat might feel something wrong in its body or they may have hurt themselves.

Hissing will obviously indicate that you should back off. But if you think that they really need help, be careful of getting scratched.

  • “I don’t want to play with you anymore.”

If it’s playtime for you and your cat and they suddenly hiss, it might be a good idea to back off. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you might have hurt them. You might just have annoyed them or they sent (unseen by you) subtle signs you missed.

Remember to not punish your pet when they hiss, especially when you don’t have an idea why they hissed. Punishing a cat won’t teach anything, and will only make hissing worse. Your cat will either become scared of you or the opposite and attack you.

  • “Oh my god, that wasn’t there before!”

Who hasn’t seen those viral, funny cucumber videos? They’re fun to watch, but think about what the cats are feeling when they’re in that situation.

Cats are similar to lions. Cats are considered mesopredators, which means they’re not on top of the food chain and are both predators and prey. It’s like a license for them to be afraid of any new changes in their surroundings . . . and we mean anything.

  • “You smell weird, boss.”

Asides from urinating to mark their territory, cats often rub against you to let other cats know they own you. If you let another cat rub against you and your own cat smells the other cat, your cat will feel unsettled. Your cat will either re-mark its territory or hiss at you. 

evil cat on the street hissing with open mouth

How To Handle Your Cat When They Hiss?

  • Anticipate what will happen next:

Your cat hissed. After visually checking your pet, you determine that your cat is physically okay. You check their surroundings and see if there’s anything that might make them feel angry. What will your cat do, if they are still distressed? Will they run away, or fight back? Will they try to vocalize their feelings to you? Whatever the case may be, provide a way for them to escape, but know where so you’re not looking for them after. Use positive actions to help them become comfortable. Talk to them with a soothing voice, and allow an ample distance between you and your feline.

  • Try to Remember any New Changes:

Try to look at the bigger picture. Has anything in the room changed recently?

You didn’t buy new furniture, but you moved your cat’s favorite sofa. You didn’t have anybody new in the house, but your mother changed where she usually sits.

Remove anything that might be irritating your pet. If it’s something you can’t move, look into sprays that deter pets at pet stores, and spray the item with it. Allow for adequate hiding places for your cat. When they feel agitated, be aware of where they might run. Never force your cat to accept new changes suddenly. This won’t help anyone, especially you. Your cat always needs time to adjust to new changes.

  • Try going to the vet:

If you’re sure you haven’t changed anything in your and your cat’s surroundings, try going to the vet. There might be something wrong with your cat’s health that you can’t see. Also, check with your vet if there might be a need to neuter your pet. This could lessen their aggression if they meet the right age for you to consider this as an option for them.

If you commit to these changes, you will be a step closer to having a better relationship with your cat. These strategies also allow us to understand our cats better, and to avoid what may make them uncomfortable, and if the need arises, be prepared

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