Do You Know Why You Have a Hissing Cat?

Whether your cat is new to the family or you’ve had him for years, it doesn’t matter—a hissing cat is a scary cat. Even if they’re friendly most of the time, a hiss here or there can really upset the situation.

Hissing may coincide with other abnormal behavior, like arched backs and whipping tails. Try not to assume the cat is angry at you, and don’t get angry back. Most likely, your kitty is just frightened.

Here are some situations to look out for. Thankfully, the culprit that’s causing a hissing cat is easily identifiable.

Maybe your cat is frustrated

Sometimes, your cat might be angry at a few things going on. Maybe it has an upset stomach or a hurt claw. It can’t exactly articulate in words why it’s angry; and you’re right there, so it lashes out.

You can’t always control what makes your cat mad. Sometimes it’s just that they saw a bird in the window that they couldn’t grab. Situations like that frustrate all animals; prey just out of reach creates a hissing cat.

If you sense that your animal is being aggressive, you might not be able to figure out why. That’s perfectly okay; as an owner, you can work towards fixing your cat’s pent-up anger.

Play with your cat a little! Wand toys are particularly effective for this purpose, as are laser pointers. You can also leave some cardboard boxes around for them to investigate. If you’ve been thinking about buying a scratching post, this might be the catalyst that pushes you to get one.

They might hiss because of a human visitor

Your home is your cat’s home, too; if your cat perceives a new human as a threat, they might hiss in response.

This kind of thing happens even when you don’t consider your guests as “visitors.” Maybe an extended relative is coming over for dinner, and your cat isn’t used to them. It can also happen with neighbors and friends—new smells and sights can turn a sensitive cat into a hissing cat.

If this happens, you can comfort your cat by having hiding spots in the house. After your cat screams at you for a little while, he can go over and sit in a room by himself to relax.

Some owners feed their cats treats often; if you’re that kind of owner, you can tell the visitor to give your cat a treat. Don’t think of it as a reward—it’s just something extra to get them used to each other!

Maybe he’s not the only cat anymore

If you’re reading this after getting a new cat or kitten, you can rest assured that that is the reason. Cats need time to get used to each other. This is so common that most pet owners planning to expand their household expect a hissing cat.

If the situation is now two or more adults, they need time to hiss and fight to create a pecking order. They need to “figure out” amongst themselves who is boss. For some, it may even feel safer to have more than one hissing cat; at least the cause isn’t you!

The same thing happens with adult cats and kittens. Adult cats need to show the younger ones who the one in charge is. If you have a hissing cat, one-sided “fights” may break out—no matter which one was doing the hissing.

Don’t worry if the hissing comes alongside fighting. Adult cats won’t attack a kitten specifically to harm it—it’s to keep the kitten in check. Even if your adult cat has never interacted with kittens before, they have natural instinct not to harm the young.

If the fighting is between two adults, you still shouldn’t worry. The fighting will sound much worse than it is because, well, cats don’t make those kinds of noises normally. Unless there’s an injury or they’re wrecking your house, you have to let them settle it the old-fashioned way.

It happens with mothers and new litters

When new mothers don’t want you to touch their babies, they hiss. It really is that simple. No matter how much they trust you, their maternal instincts usually override trust.

Your cat might have been completely normal for years, even to the point of silence. Don’t worry too much about it. Motherhood can turn the calmest kitty into a hissing cat.

There’s still plenty you can do to ease the mind of a mother hissing cat. Interact with her before interacting with her kittens in all situations. A few pats or the gift of food might make her remember that you are a friend, not an enemy.

Be careful when the kittens are still freshly born. Cats can be most irritable when they’re nursing. (Heck, all species can be.) They’re dealing with a flood of new hormones and fresh bodily pain. Treat them especially cautiously during this period, and you can minimize the hissing and aggression.

How can I get my cat to calm down?

The task isn’t always as insurmountable as you think. Even if you can’t identify the cause of the hissing, you can still work to make your cat as comfortable as possible.

Treat a hissing cat like a sick cat; you won’t always have medicine, but you can always try to ease the pain.

Try your best to ignore hissing when it occurs. Yelling or staring down your cat won’t help; most of the time, it may just encourage more hissing.

Eventually, after enough ignoring, your cat might realize that the hissing is pointless and be done with it. That’s pretty normal for certain aggressive cat breeds. Even though they understand the dominance order and don’t have much frustration, they might just like to hiss.

Rescue cats tend to be this way, too. They are generally more defensive, especially if they’ve been moved around in different households. Those generally aren’t the curious kind of explorer cats—they would prefer to be left alone.

If that’s the kind of cat you have, try to minimize confusion in the household. Take new experiences with your cat very slowly. If he needs to go to the vet in a week, try to get him accustomed to the carrier over several days. It’ll make his life easier, and yours too.


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