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Do Cats Hiss When They Play Or Are They Fighting? Feline Behaviour Explained

One of the challenges of living with cats is understanding their behavior. While they can’t verbally tell us how they’re feeling, they are constantly communicating with us through their own sounds and body language.

Cats can make several different sounds, including hissing. Cats hiss when they are playing and when they’re feeling threatened or aggressive. So, it’s important to look for other context clues to determine if a cat’s feeling playful or angry.


Why Do Cats Hiss?

Cats can hiss as a warning to back off, but they can also make the same noise or a similar sound when playing. This is because cats can often have fun through play-fighting. Cats in the same social group can end up having rather rowdy play sessions that may look aggressive to humans.

However, as long as the cats are displaying other playful behaviors, they’re in a safe environment. An occasional hiss is completely normal behavior, but if the hissing becomes more frequent, it can become a precursor to an aggressive fight.

Other Behaviors Cats Display When Playful

When a cat’s feeling playful and friendly, it’ll have body language cues that will reflect these feelings. First, playful cats will have their ears up and pointed forward. They’ll look more alert and may even have more dilated pupils.

Cats that want to play may also look like they’re ready to pounce. The fronts of their bodies will be crouching low to the floor while their hind legs will be raised up. Their tails will also be low to the ground and may occasionally rise up and flicker.

a black cat hissing
Image Credit: Uta E., Pixabay

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Other Behaviors Cats Display When Angry

Sometimes, a cat may play too roughly and start to agitate the other cat. Agitated and angry cats may start to hiss more as a warning for other cats to back off. Along with increased hissing, an angry cat will try to make itself look larger and more threatening. Usually, it’ll raise its hairs to look bigger. Its tail will also be stiff or curled around its body.

While playful and alert cats will have their ears perked forwards, angry cats will have their ears lie flat against their back. Their whiskers will also be pulled against their face. They may bare their teeth and can also start spitting or growling.

If your cat starts to act aggressively towards another cat during a play session that’s gone awry, do your best not to directly intervene and break up the cats. This can cause them to feel more agitated or anxious and it may escalate the situation.

Instead, try to break up the play session by offering a distraction. Try luring them away from playing with each other by pulling out one of their favorite toys or shaking a box of their favorite treats. You can also try clapping your hands loudly to break their focus on each other.

angry cat
Image Credit: Fang_Y_M, Pixabay

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Final Thoughts

Cats hissing during a play session is normal and often isn’t much of a concern. However, it’s important to start paying attention when the hissing becomes more frequent. If hissing becomes more prominent, it can indicate that one of the cats is becoming agitated and the other isn’t respecting its boundaries.

If this is the case, remember to stay calm and try to break up the play session with a distraction. This approach is the safest way to end an escalating play session without negatively affecting the relationship between the cats and the cats’ relationship with you.

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Featured Image Credit: Stanimir G.Stoev, Shutterstock