Why Do Cats Hiss? How to Solve Your Cat Hissing Problem

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Why Do Cats Hiss? How to Solve Your Cat Hissing Problem

You know how sweet and comforting cats are. That’s why you’ve sought to qualify your pet as an emotional support animal. However, frequent cat hissing is hissing from a kitty is disconcerting.

Perhaps, you’ve had Kitty for a long time and hissing is a new development. Or, maybe you’ve just adopted a cat and it’s acting rather testy. Either way, a constantly hissing kitty can’t offer the affection you’d expect.

To unleash the love in your emotional support cat, you must eliminate the source of Kitty’s distress. Here are possible causes of hissing and how to keep it at bay.

Why do Cats Hiss? The Language of Hissing Translated

From Kitty’s appearance, you can tell that hissing signals discomfort. However, the behavior has various meanings. Translated into English, hissing can indicate:

  • I feel threatened.
  • That angers me.
  • I’m confused.
  • I’m uncomfortable.
  • You’re trespassing.
  • I’m hurting.
  • You’re too close.
  • I’m frustrated.
  • I’m scared. 

Warnings Ignored

Typically, hissing is accompanied by agitated body language. A cat may flatten its ears, arch its back, and fluff out or flop its tail. Under extreme duress, a kitty may also growl.

If cat hissing isn’t heeded, it may be followed by scratching or biting. However, the gesture itself isn’t aggressive. It’s just a defensive measure, a warning to back off.

hissing cat angry at owner

Actually, we’re fortunate that cats give notice of a pending skirmish. Hissing stems from a cat’s wish to avoid confrontation, say animal behaviorists. Felines don’t like fighting. However, if cornered, they may spar. For a precise interpretation of cat hissing, you must consider the context in which it occurs. Here’s what can trigger huffy outbursts. 

Unfamiliar Home Setting

Understandably, upon bringing a new cat home, it feels disoriented. Help Kitty feel secure by providing warm, safe places to snuggle. A cat bed needn’t be posh. A cardboard box lined with a soft blanket will do. Of course, a cat tree will be welcome, too!

Additionally, reserve for Kitty a small room, nook, or alcove, away from household traffic. Outfit Kitty’s haven with bowls for food and water, a scratching station, litter box, and playthings. Then, within each room of your home, ensure a high means of escape to which Kitty can flee if frightened. If you have time, you might design a few of these fun beds and toys

Lacking Confidence

A shy cat may initially run or hide. If so, dish up a sprinkle of catnip or a few yummy treats, placing them close to Kitty’s hideout. Then, spend about 15 minutes with your friend, speaking in soothing voice tones. If possible, lie on the floor. This low posture helps a cat feel more at ease, rather than a towering presence. Also helpful is reading aloud from a children’s book, familiarizing Kitty with your voice.

During the first week of adjustment, periodically visit with your cat. When your feline starts exploring, invite it toward you with a trail of treats. When the cat reaches you, let it initiate contact.

As Kitty gains confidence, cat hissing should lessen.

Going forward, avoid altering your cat’s sanctuary. If changes are necessary, try to introduce them gradually, accompanied by treats, praise, and lavish affection. 

Past Trauma or Abuse

A rescued feline, especially an adult, may have a history of mistreatment. If you adopted Kitty from a shelter and weren’t briefed on the cat’s past, call the facility and ask for details. Tell the staff your cat’s been agitated, and inquire whether they have any insights. For example, they may know if Kitty doesn’t like being picked up, held, or petted in a certain way. Another possibility is a general fear of men or children.

Along with following staff advice, refrain from making sudden movements. Try to keep your home peaceful. Also, avoid direct eye contact. Cats interpret staring to mean, “I’m the boss here.”

Instead, when you glimpse Kitty looking at you, gently squint your eyes. If he squints back, you’re on the right track – your cat is smiling at you! If squinting is followed by brief eye closure, this means the ole cat trusts you.

Still, don’t approach them! Let Kitty come to you.

Like a shy feline, a formerly abused cat may also hide. If so, follow the suggestions above for unfamiliarity with the home setting. Be patient. It can take days to weeks for a rescued cat to warm up to a new owner. Respond to cat hissing by staying calm and giving Kitty space. 

Fearing Certain People

Does Kitty only hiss at specific household members? If so, determine what human infraction is spooking your cat. It could be a loud voice, strong odor, or routine rough handling. Once you’ve identified the offensive action, it’s easy to eliminate. If you have children, teach them not to tease, bother, or harm your cat.

Seeing visitors can elicit fear in Kitty, not knowing what to expect. Ask guests not to approach your cat, letting it come to them. Then, let Kitty sniff their fingers. Familiarity with the way people smell makes them less ominous.

Smile and be friendly to your guests, assuring Kitty they’re not a threat. If Kitty warms up to your callers, show them how your cat likes to be petted. If guests wish to play with Kitty, bring out a favorite toy. However, if Kitty isn’t sociable, respect your cat’s preference to be left alone. 

Dreading Vet Visits

Kitty may balk at being confined to a pet carrier, then subject to a harrowing car ride. At the vet’s office, Kitty feels assaulted by strong hands, flattening it against a cold exam table. Then, there’s the stress of being poked and probed.

To ward off a barrage of cat hissing, first, accustom your cat to handling. Regularly, stroke Kitty from head to tail. If Kitty doesn’t mind being picked up, do so gently. Build acceptance of paw touching with a slight pressing of Kitty’s toes, followed by giving treats. By the way, if Kitty hisses when you attempt nail trimming, try this type of desensitization.

Next, create a positive association with the carrier. Increase its appeal by adding comfy bedding and a catnip toy. You might try spritzing the crate with kitty pheromones. These are synthetic fragrances designed to pacify felines, sold by pet supply retailers. After sprucing up the carrier, place it where Kitty likes to sleep, inviting frequent use.

cats hissing at each other

Once your cat likes its basket, teach it to abide the car ride. This is best done in stages. Place Kitty in the carrier and bring it to your car, immediately followed by giving a treat. Then, return your cat to the house, release it, and award another treat. Do this twice weekly. Once the sequence goes smoothly, progress to driving around the block. Gradually, Kitty may realize that car rides are tolerable, maybe even fun! 

Eyeing Animals Outside

WhenSafest is keeping your cat indoors. This precaution protects Kitty from encountering animals and parasites, such as ticks. Avoid distressing signs of being “in heat” by having your cat spayed or neutered. Otherwise, you’ll be struggling against the feline instinct to run outside and find a mate. Efforts to escape can include clawing your window screens, furniture, and doors.

If he is already spayed or neutered and still pines to be outside, attach a tether and supervise its outdoor time. If another animal approaches, quickly intervene, saving Kitty from possible injuries and death. Mere hissing won’t likely ward off harmful creatures.

If he likes to perch at a windowsill and hiss at other animals, consider closing off the view with blinds or drapes. 

Feeling Pain

If you’ve ruled out other possible cat hissing triggers, Kitty may be in pain. For example, an arthritic cat may hiss after jumping from a chair. Another clue to discomfort is flinching while being petted.

Once you suspect pain is causing hissing, take your cat to a veterinarian. Also, schedule a check-up if you can’t pinpoint the root of moodiness. There may be environmental factors you haven’t considered. If your vet doesn’t know the source of cat hissing, ask the doctor for a referral to a cat behaviorist. Alternatively, use this locator tool to find a cat behavior consultant near you.

Here’s a slideshow, summarizing common hissing catalysts. 

No More Cat Hissing Equals a Happy Cat and Happy You!

When the reason for chronic hissing isn’t obvious, probe further. For Kitty to offer you comfort, the cat must feel secure. Determine whether Kitty feels threatened by a new home setting, certain household members, visitors, the vet, or other animals. Perhaps your cat is timid by nature, needing more confidence.

Another possibility is pain. A former shelter cat may recall past traumas, triggered by something in your home. Remove the source of Kitty’s qualms, and it can be the sweetest ESA.

About the Author:

Emily Parker is a cat mom to two black cats, Gus and Louis. When she’s not exploring her neighborhood for the newest cat cafes, she spends her time researching and writing for her website, Catological.com, where she helps cat parents love their kitties better.

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