Everything You Need to Know About Cat Hissing

If you are a cat owner, you will probably have noticed that your cat often seems to have different moods. You can usually tell this by the behavior they display. One minute they are purring and stroking themselves around your leg and then on other occasions, they may hiss at you. With regards to the latter, you may have wondered why it is that your cat is hissing. Here is all you need to know about hissing cats.

Cat Hissing Origins

Scientists have researched how and why cats hiss. There are many feline behavior experts who believe that the reason cats first began to hiss when they imitated the sound of snakes hissing. There are many other animals that use a similar survival technique of mimicking the sounds of another animal. It is generally to warn off predators and to protect their young.

Inside the Brain of a Hissing Cat

There is actually a chemical reaction going on inside the brain of a cat when they are hissing. They will usually get a surge of adrenaline and this is because they feel scared, startled, or intimidated. This is as a result of the emotions they are feeling while they are hissing and these may include confusion, surprise, fear, or unhappiness.

The Reasons for Cat Hissing

Although there can be a whole range of reasons for cats hissing, a cat hiss will usually fall into one of four categories.

  • The first type of cat hiss is the warning hiss. Cats who have not met before may give a warning hiss or a mother defending her kittens may be the deliverer of this type of hiss. They may also give a warning hiss to unfamiliar people who come to your home and are far less likely to hiss at their owners than a stranger.
  • Another common cause of hissing is feeling pain. If your cat is in pain, they will let you know by hissing if you attempt to touch the part of their body that is the source of their pain. Vets are often hissed at by cats as they handle a distressed or hurt feline.
  • A third reason why cats may hiss is if they are being playful. This sounds different from other forms of hissing and is often a shorter hiss. A playful hiss is especially common amongst kittens who are generally more playful than adult cats.
  • Finally, there is a phenomenon called non-recognition aggression that can result in a cat hissing. The best way to explain this phenomenon is to give the example of an owner of more than one cat taking one of the cats to the vets. When the cat returns from the vet, the unfamiliar smell that it brings with them will cause the other cats to hiss.

How to React to a Hissing Cat

As a cat owner, it is important to know what to do if a cat is hissing. The first thing to do is to leave the cat alone as it is most likely that they are giving you a warning. Secondly, observe their behavior to identify what makes the hiss. If you have children, it is important that you teach them to leave the cat alone if it is hissing. Another trick is to give the cat somewhere in the main family room where they can have a high vantage point. This will allow them to spend time with the family, should they wish to do so, while also pointing them in a position where they can see what is going on in the room and a place they can escape to if they feel threatened in any way.

Handling a Hissing Cat

In most circumstances, it is best to leave a hissing cat well alone and this is what they are trying to communicate with you when they display this behavior. However, there are some circumstances when it is necessary to handle a hissing cat. For example, if it is a medical emergency. What is important in this situation is to protect yourself. If the cat is in pain or feels threatened, the hiss is a warning. Continued handling will often cause them to lash out, either by biting or scratching. Gardening gloves are a good idea in this situation.


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