When coming in contact with a strange cat you’ve never met, your first reaction may be to pet them. Reaching your hand out and hoping for a head bump or nuzzle is natural for cat lovers. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the response we receive from cats. Sometimes, when dealing with the less predictable of the pet world, hisses are what erupts when you first introduce yourself to a new cat.
You may even hear hissing when two cats meet or are fighting with one another. While the sound can be frightening, and it’s part of a cat’s natural vocabulary, do all cats hiss? The answer to that question is yes and no. While hissing is normal, that doesn’t mean every cat is going to do it. Unless there is an anatomical problem with your cat, they should be physically able to make a hissing sound.
In most instances, a hiss from a cat is a sign of fear and a warning to stay away. Understanding why a cat hisses can help you understand why some cats don’t exhibit the behavior and why some hiss daily. Let’s learn more about your feline friend’s vocal abilities and why all cats can hiss but not every cat uses this sound as part of their vocabulary.
What Is a Hiss?
Hissing is a common vocal noise made by felines. It is often compared to the hiss of a snake. Some believe cats learned this noise by mimicking snakes in the wild. When a cat hisses, their mouth opens, and a sudden burst of air is released, which makes the hissing sound. Some cats even do a silent hiss where they go through the motions of hissing but don’t actually release the burst of air needed to make the sound.
Depending on the situation, a cat may silently hiss and then change to the more aggressive hissing most commonly heard and accompanied by spitting or yowling. You’ll see a cat’s mouth open with their tongue curled when they are hissing. Changes in body language, such as flattened ears, a hunched back, and hair standing on end, are often observed when cats are hissing.
Why Do Cats Hiss?
Most people instantly associate hissing with anger because it can be followed by attacking, but that isn’t the case. Normally the hiss of a cat shows that something is happening that is making the cat fearful, stressing them, or causing discomfort. This sound is your cat’s way of asking for space.
Any change that can promote stress or fear can invite this behavior. Here’s a look at a few of the most common reasons your cat may be hissing so you can better understand the action.
- If they feel scared or threatened
- When having a confrontation with another animal
- Finding themselves in an unfamiliar situation
- Meeting a new or unfamiliar animal
- Protecting their kittens
- While experiencing or anticipating pain
Is It Normal for Cats to Hiss at One Another?
While it may be startling to watch, cats hissing at one another is completely normal. You may find this happening when two well-acquainted cats get upset with one another. You’ll also see it when cats spot an unknown cat or other animals. Hissing is part of their daily lives. You may watch your cats play together all day and suddenly hear a hissing match breakout.
That doesn’t mean your cats have suddenly become enemies. It simply means one of the cats has become upset with the other and is letting their feelings be known. You may witness a swat or attempted scratch when their feelings are being expressed.
Why Does My Cat Hiss at Me?
Unfortunately, even though you may love your cat, you can still inadvertently distress them. It may take you by surprise or even hurt your feelings when your cat suddenly hisses at you when you attempt to pet or cuddle them, but it’s a typical expression if your cat is uncomfortable with the situation.
Your cat isn’t always in the mood for your affection. Although you may try not to upset your cat, you still can. Pay attention to their body language and respect what they are telling you.
Bringing home strange smells on your clothes, new items for the home, or surprising your cat while they are sleeping can cause them to hiss.
When Hissing Can Be an Issue
As we mentioned, hissing can also indicate that your cat is in danger. If you pet your cat and they suddenly hiss when you touch a certain spot, they could be in pain. You may also find that when your cat isn’t feeling well, they may hiss more often or avoid you altogether.
If you see this behavior appear suddenly, a trip to the vet will be in order. Your cat could have an injury or illness causing pain or discomfort. If you see any odd behavior from your kitty, your veterinarian is the best person to contact for assistance.
As you can see, hissing is a normal part of a cat’s communication repertoire. Yes, all cats hiss. Even those who are happy and content with their lives hiss occasionally. It’s simply their way of showing that something about a situation is stressful or scaring them. If your cat is prone to hissing, they are sharing their boundaries with you and the other animals around them.
However, if hissing is new to your cat, and nothing has changed around the house that could prompt this reaction, consider a trip to the vet. The last thing you want is a cat trying to tell you they’re in pain or feeling under the weather, and you misinterpret their communications.
Featured Image Credit: Slava Dumchev, Shutterstock