I still remember watching Pet Semetary as a child. The iconic scene with the hissing Church the cat terrifies me to this day. A hissing cat can be disconcerting, to say the least. When the hiss is directed at your other cat, you may also worry they will harm each other.
The good news is hissing can be a part of your cats establishing healthy boundaries with each other. However, it can also be a sign that things aren’t going well between your feline companions.
Why does my cat hiss at my other cat?
Perhaps you’ve recently adopted a cat, and the resident kitty isn’t taking it very well. Perhaps you have had both cats for some time, and they suddenly seem to be at war with each other.
There are several reasons why your cat may hiss at your other cat. These range from fear of the other cat to jealousy.
Why Cats Hiss
Before we look at why cats hiss at each other, it’s important to understand what your cat’s hiss means. Essentially, your cat is saying, “Leave me alone. I’m warning you” when it hisses.
The hiss can convey feelings of anger, fear, or aggression. You can think of it as the cat version of shaking a fist at someone.
It’s theorized that cats use the hissing sound to mimic a snake. Cats are instinctively afraid of snakes, because they are one of the cat’s natural predators. Let’s face it, when a cat hisses, it can be almost as scary as a snakes.
The sound of a snake can warn off many potential predators. After all, most animals have a natural fear of snakes, because running across one can be fatal.
One of the reasons cats hiss at each other is a lack of socialization. Cats who aren’t socialized as kittens may struggle to get along with other cats in adulthood. If you have an adult cat that doesn’t play well with others, it could be because they weren’t socialized as kittens.
In addition to a lack of socialization, negative experiences with other cats can also impact your kitty’s current relationships. Cats have a good associative memory, which means they will remember whether interacting with other cats was a good or bad experience.
Cats were once considered solitary creatures, but it turns out their social hierarchy is much more complex. Some cats live in social groups in the wild. They generally hunt alone, but share a territory, and even form close friendships with each other.
Cats in social groups will often form a close bond with one other cat, who is essentially their bestie. They will get along with other cats in the group, but won’t bond in the same way.
The social hierarchy can be complex. Hissing is one of the ways it is established and challenged. It may occasionally turn into a fight, but in most instances, the cats work out their hierarchy without outright violence.
Cats use hissing as a defense mechanism. This means they will hiss when they are afraid. If your cat is afraid of the other cat, they may hiss in defense. Just like people, cats have a fight or flight response. When they feel threatened, they may act aggressively to ward off a potential attack.
Anger or Jealousy
Cats will also hiss at another cat if they are angry with it or jealous. If you have a new cat, or you’ve recently spent special time with one, this may be the cause of the commotion.
Cats can form a close bond with their owner, which makes them prone to being jealous when they aren’t the center of attention.
Each cat within your home will have their own territory. It can be divided up by rooms or even specific areas. For example, one may have the couch, and the other may have the windowsill. They mark their territory by spraying and rubbing their scent glands on objects. Once they’ve claimed a territory, they will defend it from other cats.
If they are bonded with another cat, they likely have an open door policy. However, other cats will quickly be warned away with a hiss if they step over the boundary.
Limited resources can encourage cats to hiss and fight. Human bathrooms are a great example. If you have a large household and only one bathroom, you are going to hear plenty of arguments. It’s a resource that everyone needs, and must be shared.
For your cats, space is one of the most coveted resources. However, it’s not just about square footage. It’s about the quality of the space. High areas, for example, are prime real estate. Litter boxes and food bowls may also prompt fights, if there aren’t enough available.
Why does my female cat hiss at my male cat?
Male and female cats can fight like cats and dogs, as the saying goes. In addition to the reasons listed above, there’s a few reasons why your female cat may hiss at your male cat.
If your male isn’t neutered, he may be trying to mate with your female. When a female comes into heat, she will emit a scent that tells males she’s fertile. This begins at the beginning of the heat cycle, before she has reached her fertile period.
If the female isn’t ready to mate, she will hiss and even swat at him to turn him away. Once she’s reached the fertile part of her cycle, she will signal that she’s ready to mate.
The other common reason female cats hiss at males is because they have kittens. Males will sometimes kill kittens, especially if they belong to another male. Females will instinctively keep males away from the kittens, by hissing.
Why is my cat suddenly hissing at my other cat?
It can be surprising and confusing when two cats that typically get along begin hissing at each other. Why are they hissing at each other? Are they still friends?
Often, the problem is that one cat suddenly smells different. Cats recognize each other, and their favorite humans, largely by smell. Cats pick up a specific scent from your home, that blends with their own scent. If your cat has recently went to the vet or even the groomer, they will smell different than they did before.
This can lead your other cat, who is normally friendly, to be standoffish and even hiss, because they don’t know the cat is their friend.
Just like humans, cats can get stressed out. When you are stressed, your patience level goes down. You are more likely to snap at someone, or simply want to avoid people.
Your cat can also experience these moods. When they are stressed, they may be less social or quicker to lose their temper.
Your cats may also hiss at each other due to a territorial dispute. Your cats undoubtedly each have their own territory. However, sometimes one cat wants to overtake another cat’s territory.
This can also occur if there’s been a change in the household. If a cat has left the household, the remaining cats may hiss at each other to determine who gets the recently vacated area. If there’s a new cat, they will have to acquire territory through any means necessary, including hissing or even fighting.
How to get my cat to stop hissing at my other cat?
You can call a truce between your cats with a few steps and lots of patience.
Often, the best course of action is to temporarily separate your cats. If they are only hissing occasionally, this may not be necessary. However, if the hissing escalates to fighting, separating them is a good idea.
Place them in different areas of the home, and reintroduce them slowly. Be sure their interactions are positive. You may give them treats when they are together, or have some playtime. If they begin to hiss, separate them and end the session.
Increasing the resources in your home can also help stop hissing. You need a food and water bowl for each cat within your home. Feed them in different areas. You’ll also need plenty of toys, and at least one litter box for each cat.
You should also provide shelves or other high places, as well as hiding spots on the ground. Cat houses are also an option, but be sure each cat has their own area.
Redirecting is a great way to train your cat not to hiss, but you must redirect before they begin hissing. For example, as soon as you see aggressive or defensive body language, intervene.
Use a cat toy or a treat to redirect your cat’s attention. Be sure to treat both cats equally when interacting. If your cat hisses, redirection won’t work. It can actually reinforce the bad behavior, by rewarding it.
Give Your Cat a Safe Place
If one cat is frequently the victim of bullying, you may need to give them a safe place. You can purchase a cat collar that unlocks a cat door. This allows the bullied cat access to a room or area of the house, but won’t allow the aggressive cat to follow them.
Spay or Neuter
Hormones can trigger hissing and arguments between cats. Two males will fight over territory and the attention of female cats. Females will hiss at males when they are in heat or have kittens. Spaying or neutering will not resolve all cat aggression, but it can reduce it.