Why Do Cats Hiss?

Cats will use many different vocalizations as a mode of communication with both humans and other animals. Just like meowing and purring, cats will occasionally hiss as a way to get their point across. So, why do cats hiss anyway?

There are many potential causes for hissing in cats. Most of the time cats will hiss because they are feeling frightened or threatened by something. However, cats may also hiss when they are protecting something, are in pain, or are feeling stressed about something. Cats will sometimes also hiss if they are playing.

In this article, we will be explaining why cats hiss. In addition to this, we will also be explaining what cat owners should do when their cat starts hissing and behaving aggressively. Let’s get right into it!

Why do cats hiss in Terre Haute, IN

5 Causes for Hissing in Cats

There are five main reasons why cats hiss. Most of the time, cats will hiss when they are being territorial or are afraid of something. However, cats will also hiss when they are stressed or in pain, and some cats will even hiss when they are playing. Here we will be taking a closer look at why cats hiss.

1. Your Cat is Being Protective or Territorial

Many cats will hiss when they are being protective or territorial. Here the hiss essentially means that a person or another animal should stay away from the cat’s territory or resources. Territorial cats may engage in some other aggressive behaviors such as swiping and biting along with hissing as well.

2. Your Cat Feels Frightened or Threatened

It is also incredibly common for cats to hiss when they are feeling frightened or threatened by something. Cats will hiss in these situations as a way to attempt to scare off the person or animal that is frightening them. Fearful cats may also engage in other aggressive behaviors in addition to hissing when they feel threatened. These aggressive behaviors can include scratching, swiping, and biting.

3. Your Cat is Stressed

Stress can also cause a cat to hiss. Think of a cat that is at a vet visit. They are likely hissing and trying to hide. Cats do this when they are feeling stressed as a way to protect themselves. Like fearful and protective cats, cats that are very stressed may also do things like scratching or biting in addition to hissing. Very stressed cats may also attempt to escape an enclosed area.

4. Your Cat is Sick or in Pain

Cats that are feeling sick or are in a lot of pain may also hiss at their owners when they go to pet them or pick them up. Most of the time cats will do this when they are sick or in pain because the pain gets worse when they are handled. As a result, it is a good idea to take your cat to the vet if they are suddenly hissing at you when they never used to.

5. Your Cat is Playing

Like with play growling in dogs, some cats will hiss when they are playing. Most of the time this is nothing that cat owners need to worry about, especially when this behavior is normal for them.

What Should You do When Your Cat Starts Hissing?

Knowing what to do when your cat hisses will set both you and your cat up for success. Here is what you should do when your cat hisses broken down into a few simple steps. Remember, these steps are for cats that have hissed aggressively and are not playing. Let’s get into it!

Step 1: Assess the Situation

The first thing that you should do when your cat hisses is assess the situation. Try to figure out if something specific triggered the hissing from your cat. For example, did you try to pet them or pick them up? Do they seem to be protecting something? Are they showing any signs of sickness or pain? Are there sudden changes to your cat’s environment that could be causing them stress or anxiety?

Answering these questions could help you discover the cause of your cat’s hissing. Once you believe that you may know what happened you can start to help your cat and prevent them from lashing out by making them feel more comfortable and secure.

Step 2: Give Your Cat Some Space

If your cat has just hissed at you, then it is best to give them some space to cool down. This will prevent your cat from biting or scratching you, and it will also allow them to hide in a location where they feel safer.

Step 3: Book a Vet Appointment

Next, it is a good idea to book a vet appointment, especially if your cat doesn’t normally hiss at you in this way. Booking an appointment with your vet is a good idea even if they are not showing obvious signs of sickness or pain. This is because cats will commonly show very few signs of illness and medical conditions. As a result, hissing may be the only sign for cat owners to go off of that something is wrong with their cat.

Taking your cat to the vet when they are suddenly hissing will give you some peace of mind. After all, a vet can tell you for certain if something is wrong with your cat. If your cat has a medical diagnosis, then hissing and other aggressive behaviors should subside once they are feeling better.

Step 4: Decide How to Move Forward

However, not every cat that hisses will be sick or in pain. If your cat has a clean bill of health from the vet then it is likely that your cat is hissing due to stress or anxiety. From here, speaking with an animal behaviorist or another professional that specializes in feline behavior can help. They will be able to pinpoint what is causing your cat stress or anxiety and how you can reduce it. Once this stress or anxiety is reduced in your cat, so should their aggressive behaviors like hissing.


Cats hiss for a variety of reasons. Most of the time, cats hiss because they are upset, scared, or uncomfortable. Cats also may hiss when they are playing. You now know the steps to take if your cat starts hissing more frequently out of nowhere.

If you are concerned about your cat hissing, Brown Veterinary Hospital in Terre Haute, IN is here to help! Reach out at 812-645-0715 or make an appointment today.

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We are here to serve as your partner in keeping your four-legged family member healthy, ensuring you have all the tools you need to provide them with a lifetime of outstanding care. Our animal hospital in Terre Haute offers a full range of services to nurture and extend your pet’s life, from wellness and preventative care to critical care, exotic pet care, and dermatology.