Should You Hiss At Your Cat?


BetterWithCats.net may earn a small commission when you use one of the links on this page to purchase.

Should You Hiss At Your Cat

I’m sure most cat parents would love to understand and speak their cat’s language.

Some of us would use this gift to tell our feline companions how much we love them, and occasionally we would probably scold them for jumping on the counters or scratching the sides of the couch.

Perhaps we could still do it by using cat sounds, like hissing.

But should you hiss at your cat?

You shouldn’t hiss at your cat because they might perceive your hissing as a threat and become scared. Since cats use hissing as a defensive mechanism to express discomfort, stress, or fear and to avoid confrontation, you should also avoid using hissing to discipline them.

Mimicking your cat’s body language, especially hissing can affect your cat negatively, so let’s take a closer look at this behavior and why you should avoid reproducing it.

Should You Hiss At Your Cat?

Those of you who have been wondering whether hissing at your cat is a good idea might have different reasons for asking this question.

Perhaps you want to find a healthy command that will signal to your cat when you want them to stop a certain behavior.

Or you want to know if hissing at your cat will have any negative or positive effect on them no matter what’s your motive behind reproducing this sound.

Either way, it’s best not to hiss at your cat because cats hiss when they feel fearful. Usually, hissing is a warning sign, and according to PetMD cats will use it to tell other cats to stay away from them.

You also shouldn’t use hissing to prevent or punish unwanted cat behaviors. Your cat will perceive it as a confrontation instead and it can easily scare them. If you keep repeatedly hissing at your cat they might even start avoiding or running away from you.

Sometimes surprise tactics can work on some cats, like using think whistles, or sudden sounds like hand-clapping or shaking a can of pennies to stop them from misbehaving.

But just like you shouldn’t spray your cat with a water bottle, hissing shouldn’t be used as a surprise tactic, and even feline behaviorists usually advise against these tools to discipline a cat, especially on cats that have nervous personalities.

I also want to add that cats can use the occasional hiss or light bop on the head to discipline their kittens. But we’re not cats and we can’t replicate this exact sound, our timing could be off, and our cats could easily misunderstand our intentions.

Why Do Cats Hiss?

To have a better understanding as to why hissing at your cat is a bad idea, we need to understand why cats hiss in the first place. This way you’ll know what your cat might be hearing every time you make this sound.

They’re Afraid

As I’ve already mentioned above, the main reason why you shouldn’t hiss at your cat is that you might scare them.

We often see hissing as aggressive behavior that cats use before they attack another cat, pet, or even humans.

But hissing doesn’t express aggression or hatred. On the contrary, “when cats feel threatened or afraid, they will hiss,” Alana Stevenson, a certified animal behaviorist says, noting that “it is not something they can control.”

Some cats might also hiss at new objects like a toy or furniture in their environment because they feel startled.

When this sound is directed at living beings it’s usually a warning, which means that if they’re not left alone they’ll attack in order to defend themselves.

So, you can imagine what your cat is suddenly thinking if you’re hissing at them. Some might ignore it the first few times, or they might seem confused, but your kitty could also feel that they’re in a dangerous situation.

I don’t think a cat will associate your hissing with them doing something bad, instead, they’ll simply get scared of you.

During A Confrontation

Cats can hiss at other cats or people and when being on the receiving end of a hiss, this sudden sound can be startling and your cat will quickly associate it with a possible attack.

Dr. Marci Koski, states that “cats really don’t like confrontation with other animals, and hissing is one of the best ways to tell an ‘aggressor’ that they should just keep their distance.”

For a cat that has experienced catfights, hearing their owner hiss at them can be extremely triggering or confusing at best. So, if you’re thinking of hissing at your cat to see their reaction or to discipline them then you might actually make them think that you’re confronting them instead.

They Are Stressed

Hissing can also occur in stressful situations like, when you’re trying to put your kitty inside the carrier, when the vet is handling them, or hissing can happen between multiple cats that don’t have enough litter boxes.

Overall cats don’t deal well with stress, and certain situations can trigger their fight or flight instinct, and before running away or engaging in a fight a cat will hiss.

That’s why it’s always best to try and create a calm environment that will help our kitties stay relaxed. After all, most problematic cat behaviors stem from stress.

But by hissing at your kitty, you’ll most likely create tension, and exposing them to loud noises, especially threatening noises like hissing can make your kitty experience even more anxiety.

This is definitely something you want to avoid because long-term stress can create problems in your cat-humane relationship but also cause possible health issues.

According to PDSA, stress “may make medical issues worse and it can also cause medical problems, like stress cystitis, which is a painful and potentially dangerous problem for cats.”

To Protect Their Kittens

Cat mothers will also hiss when another animal, people, or even their favorite owner comes too close to their kittens.

They’ll also occasionally hiss at their own kittens when they’re misbehaving or being too annoying.

But if you try to hiss at your cat, I don’t believe that they’ll suddenly think that you’ve turned into their mother. Most likely they won’t view your hissing as a discipline tactic, so it’s best to use another way to communicate with your misbehaving kitty.

They Are In Pain

If you choose to hiss at your cat out of curiosity then you might find your cat looking at you with googly eyes, wondering what’s wrong with you.

You see, cats hiss when they’re in pain and if you happen to touch that sensitive part of their body or you accidentally stepped on their tail, then you’ll be on the receiving end of that hiss.

So, you might get the same surprised and confused reaction from your cat if you use hissing to tell them to get off your laptop. Even though this could be a stretch, instead of thinking that they did something wrong your cat might think that you’re in pain.

They’re Play Hissing

As we’ve already established cats don’t hiss when they’re happy, but I’ve witnessed my cat hiss at his toys during play.

That’s because, sometimes cats will also play hiss when they’re introduced to unfamiliar toys, or when they’re engaged in rough play with other cats.

If it happens mostly with toys old or new this could mean that your cat is completely immersed in their hunting game and when the toys jump up or roll away from them they’ll hiss in response.

If this happens between two cats that are playing, then one cat might hiss to indicate that they’re not comfortable and they want to stop.

But since we’re not cats, we shouldn’t use hissing when we’re playing with our cats because we can turn a playful activity into something aggressive. If the cat has scratched you it’s best to remove yourself from the situation and ignore your kitty until they’ve calmed down.

Is It Okay To Hiss Back At Your Cat?

While hissing at your cat won’t physically harm them, doing it is never a good idea, especially if your cat is agitated and they were the ones that hissed at you first.

If your cat is hissing at you this doesn’t mean they are misbehaving. On the contrary, they’re expressing their own feelings of stress, fear, or even pain.

By hissing back at your cat you’re confronting them and that’s going to make them feel threatened and they might even end up attacking you or redirecting their defensive aggression towards a nearby pet or person.

Instead of hissing back at your cat you should listen to your fluffy overlord and address the reason why they hissed at you in the first place.

Perhaps you picked them up when they didn’t want to be handled, or you were petting them in a spot they didn’t like.

I also want to point out that by regularly hissing back at your cat or using this sound when your kitty is already agitated, you’ll end up pushing them further away from you and that might even damage your bond.

That’s why it’s best to leave the room and let your kitty calm down on their own.

What Will Your Cat Think If You Hiss At Them?

We can’t know for sure what every cat will think or experience when they hear their owner hiss or hiss back at them.  But hissing can definitely have a negative impact on your cat’s mental health and overall communication.

Most likely your cat will be surprised to hear you hiss at them, and it might stop them from continuing whatever they were in the middle of doing.

Like this kitty that stopped biting his owner the moment they heard him hiss.

Thankfully, this video is really mild and nothing aggressive really happens. But there are plenty of videos where cats end up scratching their owners because they were mishandled and their owners hissed back at them.

So, if you continue hissing at your kitty they might run away, afraid of the confrontation that may follow or they might hiss back and become aggressively defensive.

I don’t think under no circumstances will hissing work as a scolding technique. The results can be unpredictable from cat to cat, and some might create more problematic behaviors.

What To Do If Your Cat Is Hissing At You?

Hissing is usually a warning sign that your cat wants to be left alone. So, if your cat is hissing at you then the first thing you need to do is to give them some space.

Don’t hiss back, don’t use water bottles or loud noises, because this might only make your kitty even more afraid, and they might run away, or they might even choose to attack.

Then you need to find out what’s causing this reaction. You’ll have to find out the source of their discomfort.

If your cat is sick or in pain then “she may growl, or hiss when people or other pets in the household approach them,” as Malcolm Weir, DVM, states.

In case this is a health issue, you’ll need to look for more signs that your kitty is unwell, but since hissing is such a drastic behavioral change, the best thing you can do is take your cat to the vet first.

If your kitty is healthy but they’re still hissing at you, then you’ll need to look at their environment. Sudden changes, like bringing an additional pet, or a family member moving out can stress your cat and they might take their frustration on you.

During these stressful situations, you’ll need to look at making your cat’s environment more cat-friendly. Get an additional cat tree and place it by the window, add hiding places and perhaps use artificial cat pheromones.

Dr. Tynes states that these pheromones, “send a specific comforting message to the pet, such as ‘you are safe here’ or ‘you belong here.”

You can check the Feliway Classic calming diffuser that’s available on Amazon. They could help calm your cat and reduce their hissing, keep in mind that you’ll still need to figure out what’s causing your cat’s hissing.

Closing Thoughts

We may not speak the same language but there are multiple ways in which we can understand our cats and they can understand us.

We can let our cats talk to us through their body language, their slow blinking, and their demanding meows, and we can even accept their hissing as a warning sign that we went too far.

But hissing at our feline companions is not an option for us, instead, we need to find other kind and stress-free ways to teach our kitties to behave.

Have you ever hissed at your cat and how did they react?

Marina Titova

Marina was cat-struck 8 years ago. It was early autumn when Dante, her grey cat, found her and adopted her. They’ve been inseparable ever since. Dante has been a great cat-teacher and BetterWithCats.net seemed like the perfect place to share his cat-knowledge.

Recent Posts