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Why Does My Cat Growl? How You Should React & Other Advice

Written by: Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat marking and meowing

Why Does My Cat Growl? How You Should React & Other Advice


Dr. Amanda Charles Photo


Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Pet cats are usually friendly and interactive with their human companions. But sometimes, they display aggressive behavior, such as growling. You may be wondering why cats growl and what it means when they do it. Is your cat acting territorial, protective, or dramatic? Are they in pain, feeling stressed, or just in a bad mood? How should you react to your cat when they growl? Here’s what you need to know.

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What Does It Mean When a Cat Growls? What Should You Do About It?

Your cat might growl for various reasons, so it’s a good idea to understand them all. This way, you can better determine exactly why your cat is growling at people or in specific circumstances.

1. Territorial Behavior

Image Credit: Oscar Wiedemeijer, Shutterstock

It is common for the average cat to growl for territorial reasons. They might feel like their space is being encroached on and they don’t like it, so they will growl to protect that space. Maybe a visitor gets too close to their bed, or a family member tries to coax them out of a hiding spot that they enjoy inhabiting. Whatever the case, their growls are communicating that they want everyone and everything to back off their perceived territory.

What to Do:
Someone, especially a stranger, is liable to get injured by a scratch if they get too close. Give your kitty enough space, and approach them carefully, slowly, and lovingly when necessary. Chances are that the growling will subside when the territory is seen by your kitty as safe from threats again.

2. Stress and/or Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can be the cause of growling in cats, as it helps relieve the negative feelings and provides a bit of relief. Your cat might growl because you’ve just moved to a new home, and they feel unsafe in the space.

What to Do:
Your kitty will start to feel safe and comfortable as they get to know their new home. Giving them time to explore on their own and space to find their new “territory” should help put them at ease and reduce, if not eliminate, the growling behavior.

3. Perceived Threat

angry domestic cat growling
Image Credit: pixbull, Shutterstock

If a cat feels threatened, they are likely to growl in response. They might see a shadow outside a window and believe that it’s a predator trying to get them. They may hear a strange noise in the house that scares them. They could feel threatened by the commotion going on in the house that’s unusual to them.

What to Do:
Whatever the case, cats use their growls as a defense mechanism that will hopefully help scare the threat away. Once the perceived threat disappears, so should the growling.

4. Annoyance

Sometimes, all it takes is a bit of annoyance to make a cat growl. Growling due to annoyance is usually just a form of communication, and actual aggression is not part of the equation. They might growl because there is too much noise happening in the room that they’re trying to sleep in, or they are tired of all the lights and action happening when visitors are around. They might be frustrated due to a lack of exercise, activity, or interaction with household members.

What to Do:
Determining what the annoyance is and addressing the cause should put an end to the growling. For example, if more exercise and/or interaction are needed, commit to spending at least 15 uninterrupted minutes playing with your cat by using interactive toys and engaging in active games. If noise, lights, and other commotion bother your cat, put them in a quiet room where they can rest and relax when you can’t keep things quiet in the rest of the house.

5. General Warning

angry cat meowing outdoor
Image By: Piqsels

If it is not easy to decipher why your cat is growling, they could be doing it as a general warning. They could be in pain, and growling is their way of warning that they aren’t in the mood to interact because of it. They might growl to warn away visitors as soon as they walk in the door just in case anyone considers getting too close during their visit. They might even growl because they don’t want toys forced into their faces by kids in the house.

What to Do:
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If you or someone else gets growled at while getting close to your cat, back away, and give them the space that they’re requesting. If they seem to change behaviors, such as eating, playing, or sleeping, schedule a checkup with the vet to determine whether the growling is due to pain. If visitors seem to induce growling, give your cat a space of their own to hang out where they can’t be bothered whenever anyone outside of the family is in your home.

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Learn the Cat Growling Sound

When a cat growls, they create the noise by pushing air through their vocal folds. This results in a deep, slightly rumbly noise that sounds “guttural” when experienced. The lips are usually slightly apart, and the top lip might even curl up like when a dog growls. Growling is usually accompanied by plenty of hissing when a cat is ready to take action. Check out this video that features the distinctive cat growling sound that every feline owner should be aware of:

Why Do Cats Growl at Each Other?

Cats do not just growl at people and things. They are highly likely to growl at each other for one or more different reasons. But why do cats growl at each other? One reason is that they are simply feeling threatened by one another. They could also be fighting over the same territory, trying to figure out which will prevail and take over, or fighting over a mate.

If more than one cat lives in your household, make sure that each has plenty of space to call their own and that it’s possible to separate them if aggressive trouble starts. Ensure that the cats get along before leaving them together unsupervised. You should also have all your cats spayed and neutered.

Kitten Growling: Does It Happen?

Yes, kittens are capable of and willing to growl when it suits them. They can growl for any of the reasons that an adult cat might growl. Check out Oscar, the kitten that growls to protect their perceived property—which happens to be a ball.


Growling is a natural way of communicating for felines. It lets people and other animals know that they are not welcome under the circumstances. A cat that growls should be treated with respect, and space should be provided immediately to help alleviate the potential for aggressive behavior.

If your cat seems to be growling more than normal, and you can’t determine the reason for the change in the behavior, then get them checked over by your vet to rule out pain or illness.

Featured Image Credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969, Pixabay

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