As a cat parent, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of some hissing or growling at some point. Sometimes the cause is apparent – perhaps there’s a new cat in the neighborhood, or maybe you’ve had to take your feline family member to the veterinary clinic. But what if the cause isn’t so obvious? What can cause your cat to hiss and growl?
Usually a mild problem; however, these behaviors can become a serious issue.
Any cat can develop behavioral issues, including young, old, male, and female. If cat hissing is caused by negative feelings, changing the cat’s environment can play a huge role in their behavior and make your cat feel more comfortable.
Cat hissing is very typical behavior for cats and is your cat’s way of letting you know that they are feeling uneasy, angry, or afraid.
Depending on the situation, they may not make much noise at all but assume the typical facial expression with a wide mouth, bared teeth, and flat ears. This silent scowl acts as a slightly gentler warning. In more acute situations, where they feel very threatened and need immediate results, or if their previous warnings have been ignored, they may forcefully hiss and spit.
Because it is often a normal behavior, many cats won’t show any symptoms of ill-health alongside a hissing sound . However, if the hissing is caused by stress, you might notice that your cat is passing urine or feces in strange places or that they are overgrooming and pulling their fur out. They might also develop cystitis or blood in their urine, and the overgrooming might lead to bald patches. If your cat is hissing or growling because they are in pain or feeling unwell, you might notice other symptoms like a limp, a reduced appetite, lethargy, or vocalization.
Stress is a common cause of growling and hissing in cats.
If your cat hissing is occasional, but it tends to be in appropriate situations with a clear reason, this is normal feline behavior. However, if your furry friend is regularly hissing, spitting, or growling, they might need to see a member of our veterinary team.
Your veterinarian will be able to give them a thorough check over, looking for any signs of pain. They’ll be able to feel their abdomen to check that there’s no source of pain internally, as well as checking their eyes, ears, nose, mouth, spine, tail, and legs.
If the veterinarian decides that your cat is in pain, they may use blood tests or x-rays to get more information. They might also ask you questions about any changes to your cat’s routine, as well as any building work or new cats in the neighborhood. This is because stress is a common cause of growling and hissing in cats.
Cats might growl or hiss at new pets or new children in the household as a way of setting boundaries and warning the new addition not to cross them!
Growling and hissing are your cat’s way of communicating that they want to be left alone. You might hear them hiss as you approach them, especially if you approach them too quickly. They might also growl or hiss at new pets or new children in the household as a way of setting boundaries and warning the new addition not to cross them! Although it can seem that your cat is hissing for no reason, that is rarely the case. If you or another person, or pet, ignore their warning, they will likely lash out by biting or scratching.
If your feline feels more angry, afraid, or antisocial than usual and lets you know by growling and hissing, there might be more to it than normal contrary cat behavior. It could be that your cat is feeling sore somewhere, and by warning you not to approach them, they are protecting themselves from the pain caused by being touched or handled.
They might also be feeling stressed and anxious, so by hissing, they are telling you to stay away and give them some space.
Remember, hissing and growling are your cat’s way of warning you not to approach.
Occasional growling and hissing are normal behaviors for your cat and don’t require treatment. However, if you want to stop your cat from hissing so often, you can try watching their body language more closely and only approaching them if they seem receptive. If their ears are flat, or they seem hunched or are withdrawing away from you, it’s important not to enter their space.
If one of our veterinarians thinks that your purr-fect puss might be in pain, they will try to find the source of pain. A trial of pain relief medication should help the signs subside. You should find that your cat is more amenable to handling and interaction and is soon behaving more like themselves. If stress is the cause of your cat’s irritable behavior, your veterinarian might suggest trying an anti-anxiety or calming medication. These medications might help to keep your cat feeling more chilled.
Remember, hissing and growling are your cat’s way of warning you not to approach. Therefore, ignoring the behavior or punishing them for it is unlikely to get you very far. You might even risk a nasty bite or scratch. Getting to know your cat’s body language and watching out for signs that they are feeling worried or uncomfortable will help you avoid an altercation.
Sadly, if your pet is in pain, there’s nothing safe to give them as a home remedy. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are toxic to cats, so you should take your puss to see one of our team. If needed, we can prescribe a medication to help them feel more comfortable.
If you suspect that stress might be causing your cat’s hissing, you should try to identify any possible causes. A new cat on the street, noisy neighbors, building work, or a new baby can all cause your cat to feel anxious. If the stress is unavoidable, anti-anxiety diffusers and sprays are available, which might help your cat feel more chilled.
If your cat’s behavior has changed, you should always see a vet to get them checked over. Subtle behavior changes can sometimes be the first sign of a medical problem, so noticing the change can help with early diagnosis and treatment. As a pet parent, you don’t want your fur baby to be in pain or distress, so seeing the veterinarian can help provide some reassurance.
Cats tend to hiss when they are feeling fearful, angry, in pain, stressed, or threatened. By hissing at you, they are telling you to leave them alone and respect their space. If you ignore their warning, they may lash out by biting or scratching.
Cats hiss to communicate with the person or animal that they are interacting with. Hissing is always associated with negative emotions such as distress, apprehension, or pain. It indicates that your cat does not want to be approached.
If your cat’s behavior changes and they start to hiss more frequently, it can signify that they are in pain, feeling unwell, or feeling stressed. Although it can be tempting to turn a blind eye to behavior changes, it’s essential to speak to your veterinarian so that they can rule out any underlying medical cause.
If your cat hisses only occasionally, in situations where you can see that they are uncomfortable, it’s likely to be nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if any aspect of your cat’s behavior changes suddenly, it’s a good idea to make an appointment to see one of our veterinary team to make sure that they are A-okay!
Dr. Hannah Godfrey MRCVS graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2011. Although she initially worked in mixed practice treating all species, she found a love for small animal work and has worked exclusively with dogs and cats since 2014. She lives in Wales with her partner, son, and two cats (named Poppy and Ashton Kutcher), and writes comedy fiction in her spare time.
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