Why do cats hiss?

Cats hiss whenever they get grouchy or angry, or whenever they feel threatened by something. You can usually tell the difference between the two fairly easily. When a cat thinks it's being threatened, it will hiss, but the hair on its back and its tail will stand straight up. This is a way of making the cat look bigger and thus more scary to predators. Hissing is part of the same idea. It sounds nasty and dangerous, and makes another animal think twice about attacking the cat. Some people think it is a natural way to imitate the hiss of snakes. They sound very similar, and many other animals have instinctive fear responses to the sound because of the danger snakes pose.


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Often a cat will hiss at its owner suddenly after you've been petting it for awhile. The cat's ears will flatten a little bit as well. This is just a way of communicating to you that the cat is annoyed with you. Usually this is because you've been petting the cat on a part of the body that is sensitive - the ears, belly, and feet are sensitive areas that some cats don't like to be petted on. If you pet them too much on a part of the body they don't like, they will hiss or nip gently at you. Sometimes this sensitivity is an indication of illness - if your cat has never done it before, but is obviously sensitive to part of its body, it may be injured or sick.

If your cat hisses at you, you should stop paying attention to it for awhile. You can also say "NO!" and clap your hands loudly if you want to try to train it not to. Do not get physically aggressive with the cat or keep petting it - many cats are just moody and hiss at you because they get grumpy.

If your cat is hissing at other cats, it is not a problem. Hissing and spitting will usually cause one of the cats to back down. Actual fighting and injuring each other are a different issue, but many cats will hiss frequently at new cats in their household.

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