When a cat meets a dog or anything that poses a threat for the first time, you will notice that the cat either hisses, puffs out her paw, or spits at the dog.
If the dog doesn’t bluff after doing these, the cat may run, search out a spot to hide, withdraw or freeze till she feels the area is safe. Why then do cats hiss at dogs?
Many cat or dog lovers ask questions like ‘why do cats hiss at dogs?’ or ‘How can I stop my cat from hissing at the dog? In this article, we will discuss the leading reasons why cats hiss at dogs.
9 Reasons Cats Hiss At Dogs
1. Fear Of The Dog
Cats produce a hissing sound when they are afraid. In this case, the cat sees the dog as a threat and immediately puts on a fierce attitude as a defense mechanism. With this hiss, the cat gives the ‘back off’ warning to the dog to frighten it.
In most cases, if both animals aren’t separated, a fight might occur. Immediately you notice this, it is advisable to cautiously step in and calm the cat. You could do this by helping it gain comfort with the dog by:
- Bringing them both to play
- Keeping them in the same room but with a baby divider between them so that both cat and dog can see each other.
- Introducing each other’s scent so they can get used to themselves
- Providing a safe place for the cat, where he can run to
- Spending time with your feline friend
Below are some behaviors cats exhibit when they are afraid of dogs:
- Hissing, tail twitching, biting, and other similar aggressive behaviors like scratching.
- Going into hiding
- Sudden urination or passing out stools.
2. Territorial Behavior
Cats are territorial animals and tend to stop other animals from intruding into their territory. Both male and female cats exhibit this character, but male cats defend a large area compared to the females.
This territorial behavior is often exhibited towards dogs in the form of hissing. Cats usually mark their area by patrolling around, rubbing their chin, and spraying urine around the area.
Cats stalk or chase the dog to defend their territories and even exhibit offensive traits like hissing and baring their teeth.
While some cats launch sudden attacks or pursue aggressively, some slowly and menacingly prance towards the dog. Your cat might adopt the entire house as its territory or just a specific part. This really explains the reason why cats hiss at dogs.
3. Transfer Of Aggression
A cat might hiss at a dog out of redirected or transferred aggression. This is very dangerous as it may result in bites, scratches, and ultimately, a perplexing experience. Redirected aggression happens when a cat is vexed or feels agitated by something or someone beyond its reach.
This may be because of a particular obstruction, most commonly a glass barrier, between them and a fixated destination. Failure to reach the targeted object, attraction, or person causes an increase in its agitation.
The cat expresses its frustration through this aggression on another target (a dog in this case) nearby or approaching it. In some cats, there is usually a significant time lapse between when the agitation was triggered and when it was redirected.
This period may even last up to an hour. The cat’s bottled-up aggression can only be directed toward an approaching dog or a near dog.
This action is more of the unconscious, reflex action, more like a ‘without a thought’ move. This is why separating any confrontations involving cats and dogs might be unwise, especially if any of the cats involved is exhibiting these offensive and defensive characters.
4. Feeling Of Threat
A good reason why cats hiss at dogs can be a feeling of threat. When a dog meets a cat, especially in a new environment, the cat surely will feel threatened and give off the ‘stay-away-doggie’ warning through defensive and aggressive body language.
Don’t be overly alarmed, though. A defense mechanism is naturally encoded in every cat’s DNA composition. When you notice any of the following behaviors listed below in your cat, make a note that it is angry:
- She stiffens her rear legs and positions her body to form a downward slope from her raised backside to her head region
- She stands upright and stiff
- When she stiffens her tail, she keeps it straight, sloping to the ground
- When she gives a direct stare at the dog
- When she keeps her ears straight, stiff and rotates the back forward
- If her pupil is constricted
- When the hairs on her skin stand upright (piloerection)
- When she directly faces the dog or moves menacingly towards it
- Hissing or growling
To defend itself against the dog:
- The cat will Crouch
- You notice your cat tucking its head under its body in an upright position
- Your cat is staring blankly at you with its pupils dilated
- Its tail will be pulled around its body in a tight curve
- The cat’s ears will lay flat sideways
- The hairs on its body stand upright (piloerection)
- The cat turns sideways about its opponent
- The cat spits or hisses with its mouth open
- In most cases, the cat gives a strike with its front paw
What Triggers Redirected Aggression Hissing In Cats?
- Observing the movement of another cat from the window
- Careful observation and following of preys
- Sensing the odor from a dog, or an alien cat on the clothing of any of your family members
- Coming inside the house after you have been outside (suppose your cat is permanently always indoors)
- Hearing noises with a high pitch
- Having someone butt into a fight involving just cats or confrontations between a cat and a dog
- Feeling threatened by a dog
- Staying in a mixed animal shelter
Cats may hiss at dogs in an expression of pain. Just like humans, cats also have bad days sometimes. And, dogs just happen to be the natural target for projecting their frustrations on. Even well-trained cats are not totally off the hook.
6. Cats Can Hiss At Dogs Out Of Maternal Instincts
Mothers protect their children fiercely from anything or anybody that poses a threat to them. This is not different from cats. A mother cat can hiss at a dog when she feels his presence negatively affects her kittens.
Mother cats tend to be very aggressive when defending and protecting their young ones, especially if they were given birth a few days ago.
7. Idiopathic Or Generic Aggression
Idiopathic aggression is medically unexplainable aggressive behavior, either from a researched history or by conducting a medical examination.
Cats that exhibit similar character traits bite often and are seemingly permanently pissed.
8. Playful Hissing
Cats may be considered proud animals, but they still love to bite ankles and generally play around. Few take the bold step of playing around with dogs.
After some play time, the cat gets tired and sends the dog signs that it is exhausted. On the other hand, the dog is unable to read the cat’s body signs with keep pushing.
After several attempts of separation to no avail, the cat switches on to its defense mechanism, and hence the cat hisses at the dog
Cats are very possessive creatures. Yeah, so it’s a bad idea to let your cat pick up the scent of another dog or cat on you.
If you’ve got a dog and cat as pets, avoid this by playing with both simultaneously. Cats hiss at dogs for this reason, especially if they stay in the same house.
Why Do Cats Hiss At Dogs? – Conclusion
It is normal for a cat to hiss at a dog. However, there are several reasons why this occurs. Knowing the reason helps you understand how to solve the problem.
If you have issues with your cat hissing at your dog, I hope this article answers the primary question, “why do cats hiss at dogs?”.