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Why does my cat hiss at her kittens?

My first response to this question is another question that, in the end, answers the initial question.

  • Q. Was there ever a time you hissed at your children or loved ones?” 

Every human parent has bad days, off days, days where things are not going right, and days that a mom or dad would just as soon forget. Human parents can be abrupt or short with their children during these days. Grunting, abruptness, and sharpness mostly happen when parents are trying to teach their children something, and the child wants to do as they will and refuses to listen. We have all been there at some time.

Hissing is typical cat communication since cats cannot talk. In human language, hissing can mean raising a voice, being snarly, sharp, curt, jeering, scoffing, taunting, deriding, and more. Hissing by a human is nothing to be proud of. However, cats have more reason to hiss at their young ones, and it is usually an acceptable form of cat communication.

Why Does My Cat Hiss At Her Kittens?

If you have other cats in the household, they may hiss at the kittens and the mother cat, although it is for different reasons. Some senior cats who have been the king of the castle for an extended time sometimes find it challenging to accept living with another cat or, worse yet, a bunch of kittens.

Your senior cat may hiss to show their disapproval of any new cats taking up space in their castle. Hissing, hopefully, is as aggressive as your cat becomes. Cats are a creature of habit, not change. Furthermore, bringing a new cat or kittens into their home is a tremendous change for your senior furry friend. It would be best to remember that a big part of a cat’s personality is naturally territorial, and new cats can bring about some jealousy which should decrease after time.

However, in the world of cat parenting, all a mama cat has is an excellent hiss to offer her kits when they are misbehaving or when the mama is trying to teach them, and they are in another kitty world. Hissing is the one thing a mama can do to bring her kits to attention.

When our first rescue cat, Beebe, had two litters of kittens, we learned a lot from her. We had first-time knowledge of how she handled discipline and punishment of her babies. She never hurt one kitten. Mama Beebe knew how to handle her kits at each stage of their life, and if we watched her close enough, we found that her discipline tactics changed as her children grew into adults and were able to care for themselves. However, she still continued to dote over the kits when they became adults. Believe me, when I say Mama Beebe hissed a lot. However, it was for all the right things.

At any rate, hissing from a mother cat or another cat is a normal response to two entirely different scenarios.

Is It Normal For A Cat To Hiss At Her Kittens? 

It is purrfectly normal for your mama cat to hiss at her kittens. However, if the hissing is heightened aggression, there may be a physical problem with why she is hissing.

  • Is your mama cat in pain?
  • Does your mama cat have a medical issue you do not know about?

There may be a few signs that something may not be quite right. Observe your cat for telltale signs of aggression such as,

  • Fluffy fur
  • Fluffed out tail
  • Ears laid back
  • Barring teeth
  • Sharp as sword starring eyes
  • Crouching
  • Turning away from her kits
  • Swatting

If your cat shows these signs, it is best to monitor her and intervene as soon as needed. When a cat displays most of these signs, it is in attack mode and is not backing down. A cat at this level of aggression moves like the speed of light and can cause someone or something damage with her teeth and claws in a matter of seconds.

A new mama cat could be fearful or anxious about something or someone she believes poses a threat to her kits. You may not be aware of her fears. It would be best to observe your mama cat and intervene if necessary until the signs of her unforgivable aggression go away. You best find the source of mama’s feelings of aggression.

According to some professional cat specialists, a condition known as a maternal behavior disorder is diagnosed for a few different reasons, such as,

  • Threats from other animals.
  • Threats by humans (heaven forbid) cause vocal aggression.
  • Loud noises cause immediate aggression.
  • The mama is too young to cope with motherhood.
  • Mama could be tired and worn out.

In all our years of feline rescue, cat, kitten, and newborn care, I have never seen a mama cat use this level of aggression on her babies. Mama cats are usually protective and nurturing of her kits. As I watched our mama cats, Beebe and Silly, with their kittens, I often said to my family,

“We women could learn a lot about child-rearing from these mama cats. They sure are excellent mothers.”

All of our mama cats were wonderful nurturing mothers. However, this is not always the case. Some kittens have mothers who are not wonderful moms. Some cat moms even harm their kits. I am sure you would agree that some human children have bad mothers while others have wonderful moms. Cats and their kittens are the same.

Every cat owner has experienced their thoroughly contented and comfortable cat sitting next to them. You are sitting there petting Fluffy when, all of a sudden, Fluffy sits up as though it has sat on a burr. With its ears laid back flat against its head, hissing like a rattlesnake, it hauls off and hits you with an outstretched paw while racing away like a streak of lightning and you do not know what happened.

If Fluffy were really upset, it would have shown you a few claws across your arm. Lucky for you, Fluffy was only a little upset and decided to hit you gently with paw pads instead of its razor-sharp nails. Fluffy is back again in a few minutes, wanting to be friends.

Part of a cat’s natural makeup is an aggressive nature that can present as minor to all-out catfight aggression. Keep in mind that cat hissing is a form of aggression that is considered natural, and you should not worry too much.

Cats are excellent at hiding an illness or pain. If your mama cat who just had kittens is becoming aggressive beyond just hissing at her kits, it would be best to take mama for a medical examination to find out if she has an underlying health issue or is in pain. New mother cats do not usually display severe aggression towards their kits.

What To Do About My Cat Hissing At her Kittens? 

It is essential to find a safe and quiet place inside and out-of-the-way where there are no people or pets to bother mama and her kits. Our experience was I would find the perfect quiet place for our Mama Beebe, and she ended up moving her kits somewhere else that I did not know about.

My Mama Beebe always found good hiding places for her kittens, because I always had difficulty finding her. I never let her know I had found her secret place or she would move her and her kittens again. I was new to having a mama cat and newborn kittens in the house. Common sense told me I should not interfere with her parenting, yet I felt it necessary to keep a private watchful eye over her and her babies.

Make sure you bring your mama fresh food and water twice a day and place a separate litter pan in her new location. Be sure to clean this pan at least twice a day. Do not let her see you. Just make her essentials readily available close to her hiding place. Make sure that other pets do not have access to her and her kits soon after birth. Observe for aggression that goes beyond usual hissing.

Depending on her behavior, your vet can help by prescribing medication or possible hormone therapy for your mama cat. Your mama cat could have some pain or health issues after giving birth. You can separate the mother from her kits and hand nurse the kittens until mama cat recovers. However, let her see her kits, knowing her babies are OK.

The mama cat could be tired and worn out from dealing with motherhood. If you have had children, you know that sometimes you feel like a herd of buffalo trodding your body. At these times, it was when grandma possibly came to lend you a hand.

Sometimes other cats in the family are wise enough to help the mama cat. Sometimes you must help your mama cat out and intervene. I would not remove the kits from her if her aggressions are minor, but I would spend more time with her and give her and her kits more personal attention.

As the kittens grow older and it is time to wean them away, mama cat knows how to handle this situation. You may see the hissing increase.

According to professional cat specialists and my experience over the last 30 years, mama cats hiss at her kittens when,

  • She wants some peace.
  • She is fearful of nearby threats.
  • She is trying to wean her kittens.
  • She feels her kits must move on, and the kids need to learn to fend for themselves, such as, they must now bathe, hunt, and find food on their own. We could take some lessons from mother cats in these situations because they become ruthless when it is time to kick the kids out.
  • She does not feel well.
  • She hisses at her kits to make them mind her.
  • Continued stress causes aggression.

Usually, when a mama cat hisses at her kittens, she is being a good mother. Be aware that there is a fine gray line when the hissing becomes too aggressive, and the mother could hurt her kittens.

Be ready to separate the mama from her kittens and seek medical attention for mama. When she feels better, you can reunite her with her babies. Always let her see and know her babies are OK. Never sweat the minor natural hissing mama cats are accustomed to giving to her kits.