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Why Do Cats Growl? 5 Reasons for This Behavior

Cats have a few signature sounds: meows, purrs, and hisses. Cats can also create another vicious sound: growling. When cats growl, it sounds very similar to a dog growl, but sometimes cat growls escalate into a hiss.

Is your cat picking up a growling habit lately, and do you want to get to the bottom of it? We are going to look into all the possible reasons that cats growl and what to do about it.

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Why Does My Cat Growl?

If cat behavior, in general, is unfamiliar for you, or you’ve never been around a growling cat before, you might not understand why cats growl. Cats growl at other cats, people, objects, or when they are alone. A cat making a growling sound can be alarming, and it should be. Cats growl for many different reasons, but they all usually mean one thing: back off!

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Image Credit: Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay

What Does It Mean When a Cat Growls?

Your cat can tell you how she feels with not only her sounds but by her posture as well. It’s important to note how your cat looks when she is growling. An angry or aggressive stance will look like dilated eyes, ears up, and an arched back. However, a scared cat will have normal eyes, ears back, and tail under her.

Though you should not immediately go to your growling cat, you can run through a few of these different reasons why cats growl and see if any apply to your cat’s situation. Then, when you know the reason, you can better calm or comfort her to potentially stop the growling.

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Why Do Cats Growl? (5 Reasons)

1. Anger

Anger might be the most obvious reason a cat growls. Frustrated and angry cats can show their emotions through growling. When your cat doesn’t want to be put in his crate, he could respond with growling. He might growl at you if you try to touch or move him when he doesn’t want to be moved.

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2. Aggression

Aggression and anger are closely related, but it’s worth talking about aggression separately since there are many reasons cats get aggressive.

Two main ways cats may give you or another cat a growl could be due to non-recognition aggression and possessive aggression (or dominance aggression). Non-recognition aggression happens when a cat previously was familiar with a person or other animal, but since they have been gone for a while, the cat no longer recognizes the leaving party.

Possessive aggression growling happens when your cat doesn’t like that you give another pet or person the attention he alone deserves from you. Your cat can also display their dominance with aggressive growling at another offending party.

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3. Fear

Cats don’t always growl from a defensive stance. Sometimes, cats will growl to convey that they are confused or scared.  This can happen when a foreign object or person enters your home that has never been there before. A growling cat in this situation isn’t sure what to make of the new thing, so she growls.

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Image Credit: Fang_Y_M, Pixabay
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4. Pain

If your cat is growling while she is alone and not displaying aggressive or fearful body language, she might be suffering from physical pain. Some cats growl when they have internal pain you may not be able to see, like a urinary tract infection or aching teeth. Your cat might make the pain known to you through growling.

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5. Mild Annoyance

Sometimes, cats who growl often are just communicating that they don’t like something that’s going on. A cat might growl when your vet is checking out his teeth during his checkup, getting his nails clipped, or while he’s getting his temperature taken.

Some cats will be more easily annoyed by things than others. A lot of this will depend on the personality and their past. Cats with a less-than-ideal kittyhood might growl a lot more often than cats who grew up with good care.

One cat owner discovered her cat growled every time the owner was interrupted from petting or scratching the cat!


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How to Respond to Cat Growls

Don’t Console

Take note of your cat’s stance. Does she look like she could attack right now, or is she super scared? Either way, you probably shouldn’t try to console your cat with physical touch. A growl might lead to an attack and injury for you.

Don’t Reprimand

A verbal or physical punishment to a growling cat will just add fuel to the fire. This is not the right time for reprimanding. It’s best to leave your cat alone for now.

Get to the Bottom of It

The best thing to do for your distressed cat, whatever the reason, is to try to pinpoint the reason for his distress. A cat that’s possessive of attention should be praised when he is not showing aggression. A cat that’s scared of another animal, object or person should be gradually exposed over a period of time and get rewards for staying calm.

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Conclusion: Growling Cat

If you have not discovered the reason behind your cat’s growling yet, it’s probably time to take her to the vet. The vet will check for possible pain points or run through behavioral troubleshooting with you to help you come to some solution.

Hopefully, you will soon find out why your cat growls and put an end to it. Or, you have a rescue cat who just communicates this way due to a rough upbringing, and you will realize that there is no real reason for it and get used to this odd behavior!

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Featured Image: pixbull, Shutterstock