Why Is My Cat Hissing?

At one point or another, we have all seen our cats hiss. Whether it is because you picked them up the wrong way, or it is directed towards another cat in the family, cats use hissing to communicate. There are several explanations for why your cat chooses to use hissing as a way to express their displeasures.

So, why do cats hiss? Cats will hiss to let you know that they are unhappy or agitated with a certain situation. From playing rough to other cats to protecting their young, cats using hissing as a way to communicate. 

Learning your cat’s language, such as why they hiss, can help you understand what they are trying to communicate.

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What is a Cat Hiss?

A cat hiss is a noise that cats make for various reasons. A cat hiss sounds like a snake hiss, and experts believe that cats began hissing long ago when they imitated snakes to survive in the wild. When cats hiss, they are abruptly letting go of air in their mouth, which causes the hissing sound.

There may be specific body language that comes with a hiss:

  • Mouth open and with tongue
  • Flat ears
  • Flat whiskers
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hairs up on end
  • Arched back
  • Showing fangs
  • Waving tail

Many times, these forms of body language indicate fear-based aggression. The cat may feel threatened somehow, and they are trying to warn you to stay away. Different hisses could also have other meanings.

Why Do Cats Hiss?hissing in cats lake city fl

There are hundreds of sounds a cat can make. The hiss is a way of communicating, and it can mean many different things.

The following are some examples of what your cat may be trying to communicate when they hiss:

Cats Hiss as a Warning

The number one reason why cats hiss is to warn you. You may have handled your cat in the wrong way, and they are telling you that they are upset about it. If your cat is new, they may have been mishandled by someone else, and in that case, it can take some time to build up trust. You may have company at the house that your cat does not recognize.

If a stranger approaches your cat, they may hiss at them out of fear. They are giving you a warning that they might attack if provoked. If your cat is hissing at another pet or animal, they may feel:

  • Threatened
  • Victimized
  • Antagonized
  • Agitated

You may need to intervene and separate your cat from the other animal. If your cat is giving off a hiss that appears to be a warning, take heed. They mean business.

They Are Stressed Out

You may have just adopted another fur baby, moved to a new home, or maybe just rearranged the furniture. Whatever the case, your cat is not pleased. Cats are creatures of habit, and they depend on things remaining the same. If they see that something has changed, no matter how big or small, they may hiss to express their disdain.

Hissing due to stress can be a defense tactic for them. Noise may also be stressful for your cat. It could be fireworks, thunder, or someone mowing the grass; anything that disrupts their sense of normalcy can be a serious challenge for them.

They Are Protective of Their Kittens

Mother cats are no different than human mothers. They love their babies and want to protect them. Mother cats may hiss at someone who comes too close to her kittens. Even cats that have been well socialized may hiss at you if you come too close to their babies. Sometimes mother cats will hiss at her kittens to teach them how to respond in situations where they feel threatened.

Expressing Dominance

Some cats are very territorial, and they hiss to express their dominance. Cats do not like it when their space is invaded or compromised. They can become rather upset and do not want to share. When cats get aggressive due to expressing dominance, they can become quite aggressive. Some of their behaviors may involve:

  • Body posturing
  • Growling
  • Howling
  • Hissing
  • Stalking
  • Staring
  • Yowling

Cats will often use the hissing sound as a means of intimidation. Your cat could also be hissing at another pet for them to get love from you. Cats can be very jealous creatures and do not want to share what they believe solely belongs to them.

They Are Engaged in Rough Play

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Sometimes when cats are playing together and it takes a rough turn, the cats will hiss at each other. Cats that play too rough may exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Hissing
  • Biting
  • Scratching
  • Grabbing
  • Clutching
  • Pouncing
  • Chasing

Kittens often play rough with each other when they have not been properly or fully socialized. Sometimes, you may need to step in and separate the cats if the playing gets too rough and hissing occurs.

You Touched or Pet Them in the Wrong Spot

Some cats, especially those not socialized, may not like being pet. They often come around once they realize it is being done out of love and not to threaten or harm them.

The other scenario is that your cat does not enjoy being pet or touched in a specific area. For example, some cats do not enjoy being pet on their belly, as it is a very vulnerable area for them.

If that is the reason, it is best not to pet them in the area that caused them to hiss at you. Furthermore, some cats can only tolerate a certain amount of attention, and then they are done. Regardless, if your cat hisses at you after being pet, stroked, or touched, it is best to leave them alone.

They Are Experiencing Pain

Cats may not demonstrate any visible signs of pain, and they are frequently very good at concealing their pain. When your normally chill cat hisses at you, it could mean that they are experiencing pain.

If your cat continues to hiss, or if you touch them in their regular sweet spot and they hiss at you, they should be seen by the vet.


Cats will hiss for a variety of reasons. Learning your cat is hissing will help equip you to understand how they are feeling and what they are trying to communicate.

For hissing cats in Lake City, FL, Lake City Animal Hospital is here to help. Call us at (386) 755-0236 or make an appointment today!

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