What is cat hissing?
Hissing is the sound created by a cat when a burst of air is released from its mouth over a curled tongue. It is perceived as an intimidating sound because the cat arches its back and shows its teeth as if it is ready to attack. Hissing is actually a cat’s way of communicating with its owner or with other animals.
To regard hissing as an aggressive behaviour is a misconception. Hissing is believed to be a form of protective mimicry. As such, it is an attempt to mimic a more dangerous animal as a defensive tactic. Mimicry is a natural behaviour in the animal world for survival.
Why do cats hiss?
Cats hiss by exhaling air intensely and exposing their fangs. Though they try to appear menacing when they hiss, a hissing feline actually feels threatened, insecure, and uncomfortable. Hissing is an emotional expression.
Let us decipher what your cat is telling you.
- A warning when threatened. Your cat is giving a warning that it wants you or anyone to stay away. Cats hiss for the following reasons:
- Mother cat protecting its kittens
- Presence of dogs or other animals
- Unfamiliar place
- Having new toys or things at home
- When in pain. Hissing can be a sign that the cat is in pain. It indicates that the cat does not want to be approached when it is at its weakest. An innocent touch that could hurt a wounded area is what it’s probably trying to avoid, hence it isolates itself.If the cat is in pain, immediately take your cat to the vet.
- When stressed. Loud noises or abrupt movements are some leading stressors. It doesn’t feel safe when stressed; therefore, it would react defensively.
- When annoyed. Quirky cats hiss to express their annoyance. They tend to walk away more often as if saying they don’t want to do anything.
An aggressive cat vs a hissing cat
One common misconception is that the hissing cat is taunting the other cat, dog, or person. Often, the ‘victim cat’ is usually recognised as the one who has behavioural issues or is ‘aggressive.’ However, the feline being hissed at is almost always the threat, antagonist, or aggressor. Following, stalking, suspicious prolonged staring, going over places that other cats may have previously claimed, and chasing are all common aggressive behaviours.
Here are the telltale signs of the cats exhibiting offensive postures:
- A stiffened tail, placed lower, straight down to the ground
- Directly meets the stare of the opponent
- Constricted pupils
- Directly facing the other cat
- Stiffened, straight-legged upright stance
Defensive postures include:
- Head tucked in
- Tail tucked in
- Does not meet the opponent’s stare; instead, it turns its attention sideways
- Open-mouthed hissing and sometimes spitting
- Ears flattened sideways or backwards
How do you handle a hissing cat?
The best response to your cat’s warning is to give your cat time to calm down. Do not try to aggravate the situation by hugging or carrying the hissing cat. Respect the space it’s asking for and gradually introduce new toys or things. When gradually exposing your cat to new things, provide some treats or affection to help your cat relax.
Never punish it for hissing. This could encourage your cat to be completely withdrawn. Instead, be mindful of the triggers and try to avoid it.
Hissing is one way to tell you that something isn’t right in your cat’s world. Take hissing as a red flag and a time to retreat.
Want to learn more about your cat? You may be interested in the following articles:
- Why Does My Cat Bite Me?
- What Is My Cat’s Meow Telling Me?
- Can Feral Cats Make Good Pets?
- When My Cat Wags His Tail, What Is It Saying?
- Cat Spraying: Reasons and Solutions