Close up of cat hissing.

Why Do Cats Hiss?

4 min read

Cat hissing is a common behaviour which sort of resembles the sound a snake makes. We’ve come to associate this with them being extremely annoyed, but did you know there are numerous reasons why cats hiss?

We’ve all seen our cats hiss, whether it’s at an intruder in the garden or when we’ve tried to pick them up when they’re not in the mood. As humans, we’ve learned to identify this as a sign that our cats are truly ticked off and not in the mood to be messed with, but there are other reasons why your kitty may be hissing.

If you have a cat who keeps making these snake-like noises, you may be wondering why do cats hiss and what can you do about it? We’ve put together this guide to help you discover all the secrets behind cat hissing.


How do cats hiss?

When a cat feels threatened, they’ll release a burst of air through their mouth, and it’s this burst of air that makes a hissing sound. This sound will usually be paired with other cat body language signs such as bared teeth, flattened ears, an arched back and their fur will also stand on end (also known as piloerection).


Why do cats hiss?

When considering why cats hiss, it’s important to understand that hissing is a completely normal behaviour which helps your cat express themselves. Where humans can use speech to communicate, cats must rely on their body language to tell both us and other animals how they’re feeling. A few of the most common reasons behind cat hissing are as follows:

1. Warning shots

First and foremost, cat hissing is usually a warning to another person or animal. It’s their way of telling them to back off or they’ll be forced to attack – cats characteristically want to avoid confrontation at all costs, so think of this as a warning shot. You may see them do this when there’s another cat on your cat’s turf, if a mother cat has kittens to protect or if the vet’s trying to handle them.

According to PetsMD, this type of cat hissing is most common with un-neutered cats when they’re searching for a potential mate.

They hiss to not only tell them to back off, but to also show off their greatest weapons: their sharp teeth – they’ll usually use their claws first though as they don’t have to get as close to their opponents.

If your cat’s warnings frequently turn into fights with other cats, read our guide on how to stop cats fighting.

2. They’re in pain

Sometimes when a cat’s in pain they may hiss if you touch a particularly sensitive patch on their body. Alternatively, they might not even let you go near them and the cat hissing may occur every time you try to approach.

3. Unfamiliarity

Cats like familiar things which make them feel safe and at home. Because of this, sometimes your cat hissing may be caused by new objects in their environment – such as a new toy or furniture – as it can make your cat feel anxious. If this happens, you’ll need to slowly introduce new items into your home to help them get used to them.

4. Stressed out

Cats hate to have stressors in their environment and notoriously don’t cope well with stress in the home. They possess a fight or flight instinct and they’ll usually hiss prior to trying to flee, or in some cases, before engaging in a fight.

5. Rough play

If you have a young kitten and you’re wondering why kittens hiss, it could well be down to rough play. Sometimes if another cat or kitten is playing too rough with them, they may hiss as a way of saying “hey, stop that”.

6. You’re bugging them

If you’re wondering why does my cat hiss at me, it might be because you’re annoying them. They may not want to be petted at that time or it may be because you’re trying to pick them up when they don’t want you to.

This type of cat hissing is also quite common if you have small children at home who don’t know when to leave a cat alone – it’s best to carefully monitor the time children spend with cats.


What should I do if my cat’s hissing at me?

First and foremost, if your cat’s hissing at you, you need to give them some space as you don’t want to cause them to attack or display signs of aggressive behaviour. You should also always make sure that you keep a close eye on your cat’s body language, this way you’ll be able to determine how they’re feeling before petting them and could avoid your cat hissing at you.

Additionally, if you have children in the home, you should teach them about how to pet and treat a cat, as children find it difficult to pick up on the signs your cat being frightened or worried.

You should also make sure that you provide lots of hiding spaces in your home to make sure your cat has somewhere safe to go when they’re feeling stressed. Igloos, cat trees and spaces up high are perfect as they allow them to have some peace and quiet.

So now you know all the potential reasons behind why do cats hiss. Want to discover more about your cat’s behaviour? Read our article on why do cats wag their tails.