Cat Hissing: What is Your Cat Trying to Tell You?

If you’ve ever heard a cat hiss, you’ve probably found yourself wondering what this means. Is it normal? Is your cat mad at you every time he hisses, or does this behavior sometimes mean something else? You’re not alone in wondering what cat hissing really means, and we’ve got information to help you learn more!

Cat hissing

Common Causes and Types of Cat Hissing

Below, you’ll find out what causes cats to hiss and why you should learn to recognize the different types of hissing your cat may exhibit. With the help of this information, you can better understand your cat and his body language, too.

6 common causes and types of cat hissing include, but aren’t limited to:


Cats hiss when they want to warn humans and animals both before an attack. Most cats will hiss to give the offending animal or person a chance to back off, and cats really prefer not to get into fights if they don’t have to.

Mother cats may hiss frequently when they’re trying to make animals and humans stay away from their kittens. Male cats, especially those who are not neutered, may also hiss often when they feel like someone else is encroaching on their territory. If your cat hisses at you, take this as a sign that you should step back before trying to figure out the problem.

Anxiety and Fear

Most of the time, when a cat is anxious or scared, he will just hide. They may tuck themselves into a corner or under a piece of furniture, and they will hold their tail and ears close to their body to make themselves look as small as possible.

However, some cats may be prone to hissing when they are afraid or anxious. This type of cat hissing is your pet’s way of letting you know they’re scared. You can comfort them from a distance, but do not get in their way, as they may attack.


A cat who is in severe pain does not want to be touched. If you touch the affected part of an injured cat’s body, they may hiss to tell you they don’t want you to bother them. Additionally, a cat in pain (or a cat who is very sick) may hiss when they are approached, simply because they want to be left alone to deal with the problem themselves.

Of course, you may need to pick up your injured cat to take them to the vet. You might end up being bitten or scratched, but it is important to get your cat the vet care he needs regardless.

When it comes to taking your cat to the vet, Heart + Paw’s Founder and Chief Veterinary Officer, George Melillo, says, “Often, the veterinarian will have advice on how to pick up your cat without injury, such as the use of heavy gloves (used for fireplaces) or a thick towel.”


Many times, if your cat is hissing, this means they’re angry. You may be irritating them, or they could be upset that another animal is doing something they dislike. For example, if your cat hisses at you when you pet them for too long, they may be trying to tell you to stop that.

Cats may hiss at young children who bother them too often, too. It’s important to teach your kids early on that hissing means they need to back off for a while and leave the cat alone.


Although it’s not as common as other types of hissing, some cats may hiss while they’re playing. If cats hiss at each other in play, it usually means “stop, you went too far.” However, if they hiss when playing by themselves, it could just mean they are a little overly invested in the game.

You may notice your cat hissing at their favorite toys when they are extra energetic at play. They’re enjoying themselves, in this situation, and as long as they are playing normally otherwise, there isn’t anything to worry about from this type of hissing.

Being a Kitten

Kittens hiss much more often than adult cats. This is partly because they do not have much more in the way of a defense system, and partly because they are learning how to communicate with others. It’s not uncommon to see kittens hissing at each other while they play, or even hissing at human family members for no reason at all.

As long as you’re sure your kitten isn’t hissing at you in pain, it’s usually okay to just ignore the hissing. They may be trying to tell you to leave them alone, but chances are good they’re just being a kitten.

When Should I be Concerned about Cat Hissing?

Hissing is a negative reaction in cats, meaning that they only hiss when something is wrong. However, some cats may be much more prone to hissing for very little reason (such as a minor annoyance) than others. For this reason, it’s crucial to pay attention to your cat’s body language and the context clues of the situation to figure out what’s going on.

If your cat has suddenly started hissing at you frequently and this is not a normal behavior, they may be sick or injured. Take them to the vet to rule out any physical issues before focusing on the behavioral ones.

Because cat hissing can be an indicator that your pet is either sick or injured, it’s important to find the underlying cause of this behavior. If your cat is hissing and you don’t know why, or if you know it’s because of a medical reason, contact our team at Heart + Paw today. Your cat’s health and comfort is extremely important to us, so we always make sure they get the care they need, when they need it. You can contact us by booking an appointment online at any of our locations or by calling us.

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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