You might expect it from an unknown cat with whom you cross paths in the neighborhood, but that guttural, rumbling, hissing warning coming from your own feline's throat can be very alarming. Hissing is more common in cats than you might think, however, even those who know and love you well. A cat growling and hissing is usually a cat who's scared.
Why Is My Cat Hissing and Growling for No Reason?
A hiss is just air
Your cat is just letting out a long, hard breath through her mouth when she hisses. You've probably caught your breath a time or two when something has startled you, and your cat has effectively done the same thing. Eventually, that air has to come out again. The air produces a hissing sound because it's escaping over her curled tongue. The cat growling sound has the same cause. The pent-up air is escaping around and through her vocal cords.
You'll almost certainly notice other signs of agitation and fear while all this hissing and growling is going on. She's probably showing her teeth to let her perceived enemy know she's armed and can be considered dangerous. Her ears might flatten, and she might arch her back. Her hair might stand up on end. Understand that none of this signals aggression. It's all a warning. She's not planning her attack. Her body is gathering itself up for fight or flight.
What’s the psychological cause of that cat growling sound?
When your cat growls and hisses, he's effectively saying, "Back off now, or else," but he really doesn't want to get to the "or else" part. He's not itching for a fight. What he wants more than anything is for you or whatever it is that's alarming him to retreat. He'll only fight if he has to. Sometimes the cause is simply biological impulse. Mother cats will hiss and growl to warn others away from their kittens. Some cats will sound the reflex to protect a toy or food. A cat that growls and hisses a lot is typically just the nervous type.
What’s new in your world?
You might be thinking to yourself, "My cat hisses at me for no reason," but there's almost always a reason. You just don't know what it is. The answer could be as simple as the fact that you've changed soap or shampoo. Your scent is different, and this can be cause for concern. Maybe you're feeling a little agitated after a rotten day at work. Your cat might pick up on your mood and become alarmed as well, particularly if your movements are jerky or your voice is unusually harsh.
New people and especially loud, playful children are notoriously hiss-worthy. Visitors to your home can easily bring on a growl, a hiss, or both, particularly if they forget their manners and approach your cat suddenly. Even a new toy suddenly appearing in the middle of your living room can prompt agitation. You thought she'd love it, and she might eventually, just not until she's determined that it won't harm her.
Does something hurt?
Rough handling or being handled by strangers can also be hiss-worthy events. Cats don't like to be manhandled, even by veterinarians who have good reason to turn them this way and that. This is particularly the case when some physical ailment is already hurting and troubling them. A cat who's in pain can appear to hiss for no reason, but he's reacting to something going on inside him. A visit to that touchy-feely veterinarian might be exactly what he needs.
Make some adjustments
The important thing to remember is that your cat has no control over this impulse. It won't help to scold him, and doing so could actually affect your relationship with him. If you yell or get physical with him, you've only proved to him that he was absolutely right to be alarmed.
The best way to put a stop to the behavior is to adjust external factors so he's no longer frightened, even if one of those factors is you. Stop what you're doing immediately if your cat hisses at you. Pull your hand back if you're reaching for him and remove yourself from his territory. Back off, or if that's not possible, at least avoid blocking his escape route. He wants to flee. He does not want to bite you or scratch your eyes out. He'll only try to do that if you force him. PetMD recommends leaving him alone for a while too. Let him come to you for your next interaction. Give him some time and some room to take a deep breath and approach the situation again on his own terms.
If the growling and hissing is caused by a stranger or another animal, the answer could be a matter of simply removing the offensive individual or the pet. Take everyone to another room if you can and let your cat stand her ground. Of course, if the new person or pet is there to stay, such as if you've just brought your new baby home from the hospital, you can't spend the rest of your days keeping everyone in separate rooms. Introduce your cat to the new kid on the block gradually in small increments, and be sure to reward him each time he reacts reasonably quietly or at least more quietly than he did last time. Treats work well in this situation.