What Does it Mean When a Cat Hisses?

what does it mean when cat hisses

If you have a cat, chances are that it has hissed at you a few times. You might think that the cat is mean or aggressive, but this is usually never the case. So, what does it mean when a cat hisses?

Threatened by People

One of the main reasons why a cat will hiss is because it feels threatened or fearful, especially when it comes to people. What needs to be understood is that hissing is usually never sign of outright aggression.

A cat is not going to hiss out of aggression just because they feel like being mean, but out of fear when they feel threatened. However, hissing is a clear warning for people to back off, and it’s most often a sign that increased measures are to follow, such as biting or clawing.

Cats often feel threatened when they are handled roughly, especially when people go to pick them up. This is especially true for strangers who try to pick up your cat. If your cat does not know somebody, and they still try to pick it up, especially if the person is being rough, the cat may feel threatened and respond with a hiss.

This is something which also often happens when taking cats to the vet. Simply put, hissing is a clear indication that the cat feels threatened in one way or another. If your cat hisses at you, try to back off slowly and give them a bit of space. If you continue to do what caused the cat to hiss in the first place, it probably won’t end well.

A Warning to Other Animals

Owners are not the only ones who are going to get hissed at on occasion. Cats will also hiss at other cats and other animals when there is a confrontation in the works. Cats are known for not being big on confrontations, and in fact, cats prefer to avoid confrontations.

When they feel threatened by another animal or if they want to warn another animal to back off, a hiss is what will be heard. It’s nothing more than a way to tell other animals to back off; it’s a defense mechanism.

Defending Their Young

One of the most dangerous animals in the world is any mother who is taking care of her young. It doesn’t matter if it is a house cat or a grizzly bear, a nursing momma or a mother cat who is still caring for her young is going to be one of the most defensive, alert, and aggressive animals.

Cats have especially strong maternal instincts when it comes to their kittens. It does not take much to cause a mother cat to feel like her kittens are being threatened. If you have ever tried to approach a cat with her kittens, or even pick a kitten up with the mother nearby, chances are that you will be greeted with a hiss.

The Mating Hiss

Unneutered male cats who are in competition and on the prowl for a mate will often hiss at each other as well. Now, this is one of the few times when a cat’s hiss is not defensive in nature, but offensive. Male cats looking for a mate have to compete for the right to a specific female.

This is no different than we see in the animal kingdom all across the world. Male cats will hiss at each other, and fight each other too, for the right to reproduce with a female cat. Of course, when competing for a female, male cats will do much more than just hiss, as they will often get physical with each other.

They’re Annoyed

If you love to play with your cat in a very rough manner, or maybe even harass it, chances are the cat will hiss at you at some point. In this case, a cat may hiss at you for no other reason than because it is annoyed. If you have been chasing it around the house or harassing it with a toy, the cat might just hiss because frustrated; it’s telling you that enough is enough.


This is one of the least common reasons why cats hiss, but it does still happen. If a cat is injured or in pain, it may hiss to let you know about it.

Although, what happens more often is that when you try to pick up an injured cat, if you touch them the wrong way and cause the pain to intensify, they may very well greet you with another loud hiss. This is a way for the cat to tell you to put them down and stop touching them because it hurts.


There are many reasons why cats may hiss, but the reality is that it’s usually always a defensive mechanism, a way to tell humans and other animals to back off, or else more severe measures are to follow.

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