Why Do Cats Hiss?

A hiss is a sound that every cat owner has heard at some time. Even if you believe that you have the sweetest, most perfect cat on the planet- if he has ever felt threatened or needed to warn a potential enemy- he has probably hissed at some point in his life.

While hissing may sound funny to you- be assured that your cat is not trying to be funny. If he is hissing, it is because he feels threatened in some way.

How does the Hiss Happen?

A hiss happens when your cat forces air through his arched tongue. If you are close enough to the cat when he lets out a hiss, you may feel the air being shot through his mouth- but you may not want to risk getting caught in the crossfire. He will pull his lips back and flatten his ears against his head as well.

Why do they Hiss?

Put simply, a hiss is a warning to the other party. Since a cat typically doesn’t want to engage in physical confrontations, they will rely on their posture, vocalizations, and marking to fend off potential opponents. A hiss is a verbal warning to his opponent- a reaction to something in the immediate area that is making him feel he is in danger. This could be anything from the vet, owner, or another cat. The hiss lets the opponent know that if they don’t back off, there will be repercussions. A hissing cat is scared, but willing to engage in a fight if needed.

Many of the animal behavior experts believe that the hiss is meant to mimic that of a snake to chase off potential opponents. After all, mimicry is quite common in the animal world when it comes to surviving. There are some animals that will mimic a predator either visually or vocally to deter others. The cat counts on the hiss providing enough of a warning. Mother cats will often hiss if another cat or a human get too close to the kittens- or a cat may hiss if an unfamiliar guest (animal or human) comes over to visit. Hissing is often heard in vet offices- and if you have been the one handling or medicating a cat that is not comfortable, you’ve probably been hissed at.