Why do cats hiss?

Have you noticed how a cat’s hiss sounds very similar to that of a snake? That is intentional; it is hard-wired in almost all creatures to recognise the hiss of a snake as a warning sign. A cat hissing is a form of protective mimicry, a defensive tactic.

Therefore it is in the cat’s best interest to give the impression that it too could be venomous.

A hiss is a warning back off, and most of the time, hissing is accompanied by other body language. The ears are back, hackles raised, the cat is either be crouched down, as if backed into a corner or standing tall, back arched.  He is feeling angry, afraid, hurt but is in fight mode if you cross that boundary any further.

Spitting is another word to describe hissing.

When do cats hiss?

There are two main reasons why a cat will hiss: fear and anger.

  • When approached by a stranger
  • When at the vet
  • When approached by another cat, or dog
  • Your cat may even hiss at you if he is in pain and you go near him

A hissing cat is warning you to back off. We have already covered injuries caused by cat bites and scratches. It is vital that we read their body language and the signals that they are giving off.   A hissing cat is telling you to back off, even if it is your cat, who knows and loves you, he’s warning you.

What to do if a cat hisses at you

Heed his warnings and back off. If he’s your cat, give him some space and then try again once he has calmed down. If you have a cat who suddenly starts to hiss for no apparent reason, he should see a veterinarian as there may be an underlying medical reason, such as pain.