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Is It True That All Cats Hiss? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

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	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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When coming in contact with a strange cat you’ve never met, your first reaction may be to pet this new kitty. Reaching your hand out and hoping for a head bump or nuzzle is natural for cat lovers. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the response we receive from cats.

Sometimes, when dealing with the less predictable of the pet world, hisses are what erupt when you first introduce yourself to a new cat. You may even hear hissing when two cats meet or are fighting with one another. While the sound can be frightening, and it’s part of a cat’s natural vocabulary, do all cats hiss? The answer to that question is yes and no. While hissing is normal, that doesn’t mean every cat is going to do it. Unless there is an anatomical problem with your cat they should be physically able to make a hissing sound.

In most instances, a hiss from a cat is a sign of fear, a defensive action. Understanding why a cat would hiss can help you understand why some cats don’t exhibit this behavior and why some may hiss daily. Let’s learn a bit more about your feline friend’s vocal abilities and why all cats can hiss but not every cat uses this sound as part of their vocabulary.

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What Is a Hiss?

Hissing is a common vocal noise made by felines. It is often compared to the hiss of a snake. Some even believe that cats learned this noise by mimicking snakes out in the wild. When a cat hisses, its mouth opens and a sudden burst of air is released which makes the hissing sound. Some cats even do a silent hiss where they go through the motions of hissing but don’t actually release the burst of air needed to make the sound.

According to the situation, a cat may silently hiss and then change to the more aggressive hissing that is most commonly heard and accompanied by spitting or yowling. Visually, you’ll see a cat’s mouth open with its tongue curled when they are hissing. Changes in body language such as flattened ears, a hunched back, and hair standing on end are often observed when cats are hissing.

a tabby mackerel cat hissing
Image Credit: strh, Pixabay

Why Do Cats Hiss?

Most people instantly associate hissing with anger because it can be followed by attacking, but this isn’t the case. Normally the hiss of a cat shows that something is happening that is making the cat fearful, stressing the animal, or causing discomfort. This sound is your cat’s way of asking for space and saying they want free of the situation.

Any change that can promote stress or fear can invite this behavior. Here’s a look at a few of the most common reasons your cat may be hissing so you can better understand the action.

  • If they feel scared or threatened
  • When having a confrontation with another animal
  • Finding themselves in an unfamiliar situation
  • Meeting a new or unfamiliar animal
  • Protecting their kittens
  • While experiencing or anticipating pain

Is It Normal for Cats to Hiss at One Another?

While it may be startling to watch, cats hissing at one another is completely normal. You may find this happening when two cats that are well acquainted get upset with one another. You’ll also see it when cats spot an unknown cat or other animals. Hissing is part of their daily lives. You may watch your cats play together all day long and then suddenly hear a hissing match breakout.

This doesn’t mean your cats have suddenly become enemies. It simply means one of the cats has become upset with the other and is letting their feelings be known. You may even witness a swat or attempted scratch when their feelings are being expressed. This is simply the way cats roll.

angry cat hisses at one another
Image Credit: Gurkan Ergun, Shutterstock

Why Does My Cat Hiss at Me?

Unfortunately, even though you may love your cat to pieces, you can still inadvertently distress them. It may take you by surprise or even hurt your feelings when your cat suddenly hisses at you when you attempt to pet or cuddle them, but it’s a normal expression if your cat is uncomfortable with the situation. Your cat isn’t always going to be in the mood for your affection. And while you may try not to upset your cat, you still can. Pay attention to their body language and the situation they are in and respect what they are telling you- usually to leave them alone.

Bringing home strange smells on your clothes, new items for the home, or even surprising your cat while they are sleeping can cause them to hiss. It means they are asking you to give them time to acclimate to something new or to be in the mood for you.

When Hissing Can Be an Issue

As we mentioned, hissing can also be a sign that your cat is in danger. If you pet your cat and they are fine, then suddenly hiss when you touch a certain spot, they could be in pain. You may also find that when your cat isn’t feeling well they may hiss more often or avoid you altogether.

If you see this type of behavior appear suddenly, a trip to the vet will be in order. Your cat could have an injury or illness which is causing pain or discomfort. If you see any odd behavior from your kitty that you can’t pinpoint the underlying cause of, your veterinarian is the best person to reach out to for assistance.

cat hisses at owner
Image Credit: osobystist, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

As you can see, hissing is a normal part of a cat’s communication repertoire. Yes, all cats hiss. Even those that are happy and content with their lives. It’s simply their way of showing that something about a situation is stressful or scaring them. If your cat is prone to hissing, they are sharing their boundaries with you and the other animals around them.

If hissing is new to your cat, however, and nothing has changed around the house that could prompt this reaction, consider a trip to the vet. The last thing you want is a cat that is trying to tell you it’s in pain or feeling under the weather and you misinterpret their communications.

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Featured Image Credit: Slava Dumchev, Shutterstock