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Why Do Cats Hiss and Growl at Strangers? Behaviour Explained

Hissing and growling are ways cats communicate how they’re feeling. Hearing your cat hiss and growl can be shocking and a bit embarrassing if he’s doing it when you have house guests. Cats hiss and growl at strangers because they’re frightened and don’t feel secure around people they don’t know.

The sounds your cat associates with strangers visiting your house may scare him, like a loud ringing doorbell, a pound on the door, or doors opening and shutting. When you add a strange person into the mix, it’s no wonder your cat growls and hisses when someone unfamiliar shows up.

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How to Stop a Cat from Hissing and Growling at Strangers

Hissing and growling are both basic forms of feline communication, and these behaviors are meant to be intimidating. While it’s not easy to stop your cat from hissing and growling at strangers that show up at your door, you can help your kitty feel more comfortable and secure, so he doesn’t hiss and growl so often.

A good way to curtail this behavior is to give your cat an escape route to bolster his sense of security. Adding a cat condo to the area where your cat hisses and growls at strangers may do the trick. Because cats like to hang out in high places, it’s a great idea to mount cat shelves on the wall, so your cat doesn’t feel trapped when strangers are around.

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Image Credit: Piqsels

Spend Quality Time with Your Cat

Spending quality time with your cat can help reduce his fear and uncertainty around strangers. A little one-on-one time every day can do wonders toward making your feline feel more confident and self-assured.

Use an interactive cat toy for some fun playtime, do some clicker training with treats, or go for walks outside on a harness. Nobody knows your cat as well as you do, so figure out ways to make him feel more confident so he purrs more and hisses and growls less at strangers. Encourage your family and friends to spend time with your cat because the more people he’s around, the better!

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Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

Other Reasons Cats Hiss and Growl

Besides expressing fear and uncertainty around strangers, cats also hiss and growl for other reasons, including the following:

  • To express pain: Pain caused by an injury or medical issue can trigger a cat to hiss and growl. If your cat hisses or growls when you pet or hold him, he may be in pain. Get your pet to the vet as soon as possible to see if he’s injured or sick.
  • To express unhappiness: Your cat may hiss or growl to tell you he’s unhappy with something. Maybe it’s a new pet you’ve brought home or the smell of another cat on your clothes when you enter the house.
  • To express aggression: If your cat feels irritated by something like another animal or a loud sound, he may hiss and growl. In this case, hissing and growling is used to ward off a perceived threat as a form of self-protection.
  • He’s ready to mate: If your cat is an unneutered male, he may hiss and growl around female cats to attract a mate. An unfixed male cat typically makes these sounds as a part of mating behavior. If you hear your unneutered male cat carrying on loudly, the chances are good there’s a female cat nearby!
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Image Credit: Stanimir G.Stoev, Shutterstock

Older cats may make unusual sounds when they’re disoriented and especially if they’re suffering from feline cognitive dysfunction or cat dementia. Elderly cats with dementia often wander around at night growling, howling, and even hissing due to confusion. If you have a senior cat that is vocalizing at night, set up an appointment with your vet.

Additional Information

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Even though it’s not nice to see your beloved cat hiss and growl at strangers, it’s normal feline behavior. To quell this behavior, give your cat an escape route, so he’s less likely to feel threatened or scared when strangers come around.

You should also spend some quality time with your cat to boost his self-confidence. With a little work, you should be able to put a damper on all that hissing and howling!

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