If your cat hisses at you, you might feel surprised and shocked, but understanding what motivates that behavior can help you take the right response. Cats’ hissing is normal behavior, and your cat is hissing at you to convey a message. When this happens, you need to do three things right away. Doing them consistently can help your cat develop trust in both you and your family and can also get your cat to stop this behavior. Before you can take those right steps, though, you need to understand what might be causing your cat’s behavior.
So, what does it mean when a cat hisses? Cats can hiss for many reasons.
- Your cat feels threatened: One of the most common is that your cat feels threatened by you, another family member, or even another pet. If you reach out to pet your cat and she hisses in response, she’s warning you that she’s not comfortable, and if you keep trying to touch her, she might swat or bite. Similarly, if another animal is in your cat’s territory, your cat may hiss to warn him to back off.
- Your cat is a new mom: You might notice your cat hisses more often when she has young kittens around. Mother cats hiss to protect their kittens, and a normally laid-back cat may hiss at you more when she’s caring for her babies.
- Your cat is stressed and afraid: When exposed to a strange situation, like moving to a new home, your cat may hiss at movements, noises, and other unsettling aspects that she’s not used to.
- Your cat is in pain: If you touch or pick up your cat in a way that hurts her, she may hiss in response.
When your cat hisses, it’s important to recognize what’s prompting the behavior and then take appropriate steps to make your cat feel comfortable. If you’ve cornered your cat or surprised her with a pat, chances are she’s hissing out of fear. If this occurs just once in a while, then it’s best to back up, give your cat some space, and reapproach her when she’s calmer and aware of your presence.
If you have a new cat, she might hiss when you approach because she feels threatened. It takes time for cats to settle in and get to know you and your family, so it’s important to get your whole family on board in this situation. Give your new cat a place in the home that’s all her own, such as a room where no pets or other family members are allowed. If she hisses while out among your family, then get all your family members to back up and leave her alone. This can help remove the pressure that she’s feeling. Be patient with your new cat and let her start approaching you on her own before you try to pet her or play with her.
In general, when cats hiss:
- Back off.
- Give your cat space.
- Try to understand and address the root cause of the behavior.
In most cases, you can probably understand why your cat is hissing based on the situation. A cornered, frightened, or uneasy cat will naturally try to warn threats away, so hissing is understood.
But sometimes, your cat might hiss for an unknown reason, such as when you pick her up or pet her. If this suddenly becomes a new behavior, then a physical issue might be to blame. If you can’t otherwise explain why your cat is hissing, then it’s best to bring her to the vet for a checkup. Your vet might find a source of pain, such as an infection or arthritis, that has developed without your knowing. Treating the pain should make your cat comfortable again, and the unusual hissing behavior should stop.
It can be frightening to have your cat hiss at you, but remember that your cat is hissing as a warning. Instead of swatting or biting you, your cat will hiss to get you to back away and to show that she’s uncomfortable. The more you learn to read your cat’s body language, the better you’ll be able to identify when she’s feeling threatened or uncomfortable, so you can avoid actions that might make her feel unsafe. By giving your cat space and taking the right steps when she hisses, you can build her trust in you and she’ll probably hiss less often.
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