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Why Do Cats Hiss? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons for This Behavior

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on May 3, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

a tabby mackerel cat hissing

Why Do Cats Hiss? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons for This Behavior


Dr. Maja Platisa Photo


Dr. Maja Platisa

DVM MRCVS (Veterinarian)

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

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Everyone has heard a cat hiss at least once or twice in their lifetime. Cats are well known for hissing, but it can be confusing as to why a cat might be hissing at any given time. So, why do cats hiss? There are actually a few reasons that you might hear a cat hiss.

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The 5 Reasons Why Cats Hiss

1. A Warning Sign

The most common reason that a cat will hiss is to warn someone or something threatening them. Hissing is not only a verbal warning but also a defensive mechanism, and they use it to relay a message that they need more space from the potential threat. However, they are more likely to back away and try to escape than attack after hissing, unless the other animal or human is cornering them or exposing them to a very stressful situation, such as trying to catch or restrain them.

Cats will hiss at people, cats, and other animals, and even inanimate objects if they are wary.

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Image Credit: Stanimir G.Stoev, Shutterstock

2. Stress

Another reason for cat hissing is stress. Many things can make a cat stressed out, such as moving to a new home, learning to live with a new household pet, dealing with rambunctious kids, coming to the vet, or getting locked inside or outside of the house. If a cat does not have another way of relieving stress, they will use their hissing skills. They will likely continue hissing intermittently until the source of stress is removed.

3. Mother Is Protecting Her Kittens

If your cat had kittens and you tried to touch them, she may have hissed at you in order to keep you away. Mother cats are very protective of their kittens, and some may hiss if you get too close, so it’s important to avoid interfering too much in the first 2 weeks of their life, especially if they are thriving and doing well. 

If there is a health issue or a decline in any of the kitten’s health, of course, make an exception and get them checked out by your vet immediately. However, handle the kittens with gloves so you are not changing their scent by adding yours. 

On the other hand, some cat mothers who are very attached to their owners will want you to be part of the kittens’ life from birth and will bring you the kittens and allow handling from an early age.

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Image Credit: auenleben, Pixabay

4. Pain or Illness

Cats will hiss if they are in pain, especially when someone is trying to touch them where they are hurting. They may also show signs of pain by limping or meowing. Even a small amount of pain can make a cat irritable, just like it would a human. Getting too close or challenging your cat’s mood can just make the situation worse. If pain is suspected, a visit to the veterinarian’s office is in order. 

The same goes for illness. If your cat is not feeling well, they may be uncomfortable and not tolerant of your attempts to bond or check them over. Speak to your vet in order to get down to the root of the problem.

5. Irritation

Cats can become irritated when they want to be left alone. They may not enjoy cuddling at a certain time, especially if there are kids or other pets chasing them around the house if all they want to do is rest. After all, they sleep for 15 hours every day, give or take. They also do not like their tails or ears tugged on. Sometimes as their human parents, we can be pushy and try to make our cats sit on our laps or cuddle with us when they do not want to, which can understandably cause hissing. Any type of annoyance will make most cats hiss. 

Always supervise kids with your cat, as they can be rough and cause your cat pain, which, in turn, can lead to nasty scratches and bites from a stressed-out cat. The same applies to other pets, as cats should have their peaceful resting spots in a private area so they are not disturbed when they don’t want to be.

cat hissing
Image By: yvonneschmu, Pixabay

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Overall Thoughts

Most of the time, cats hiss because they are not happy with something going on in their bodies or environments. If your cat seems to hiss too often or when it is not warranted, take them to see a veterinarian for a checkup, just to be sure there are no underlying health issues to worry about.

Featured Image Credit: strh, Pixabay

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