Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Picture a foreboding, hissing snake rising before you. Chances are that your reaction would be to back away — and that’s exactly the effect that your cat is going for when he hisses.
In fact, it's believed that feline hissing is a form of protective mimicry — an animal mimics a more dangerous creature to protect itself if it feels threatened.
When a cat channels his inner snake, he flattens his ears so that his head resembles the narrow head of a snake. At the same time, he exposes his fanglike teeth — adding some spit for good measure — while swishing his tail in a serpentine manner.
Although this is normal and happens occasionally in all felines, a hissing cat should not be taken lightly. It’s a warning that more aggressive behavior, such as
scratching, is coming if you don’t give him some space.
If your cat hisses a lot, especially when he's handled, it may indicate that he's in pain. So have your vet examine your kitty to rule out any underlying medical causes, such as
dental disease. Other conditions, such as
hyperthyroidism and nervous system disorders, can also lead to hissing.
If your veterinarian doesn't detect any medical problems, and you want to minimize the behavior, you need to determine what's causing your cat to have a hissy fit.
Some examples of why your
cat may hiss at people and other pets:
Fear-induced aggression. Your cat may feel threatened by new people, noises or other changes in the household.
Redirected aggression. If your cat is interrupted when he’s in “territorial mode” while watching another cat outside, he may inadvertently hiss at you.
Cats who were not socialized properly as kittens may be fearful of people and pets.
Petting-induced aggression. A cat may hiss to indicate that he’s reached his threshold while being handled.
Inter-cat aggression. Although this type of aggression is often associated with male cats who haven't been neutered, any adult cat may bully others in the household over territorial conflicts.
Predatory aggression. Cats may view other pets in the household —
birds, gerbils and guinea pigs — as prey and become agitated when they're near them.
Once you’ve determined what’s causing your cat to hiss, you can work with your veterinarian or a professional trainer to take steps to either avoid the triggers or reduce the underlying fear or aggression. With any luck, your cat will have nothing left to hiss about.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
FDNY firefighters used oxygen masks to
revive a cat and a rescue dog after a fire
spread to their Brooklyn home.
If you struggle to just get your cat to the
vet clinic, you’ll be amazed by the big
adventures Lily and Bug have…
Five interior designers share innovative
ways to create a dog-friendly home
without sacrificing style or function.
Whether it’s deep and dry or high and
phlegmy, your pup's cough could be a
sign of a serious health problem.
We combed our database of nearly a million puppies born this year to declare the hottest male and female monikers.
The energetic and extroverted Munchkin might be short on height, but you better believe that he’s long on fun.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.