Cats hiss at people to communicate pain, fear, displeasure or aggression. Also known as mimicry, the hissing sound cats make imitates the sound of a snake preparing to strike and is meant to intimidate. A cat that is hissing at people is sending a message that there is a problem.
Pain caused by injury or medical conditions could trigger hissing behavior in cats. If your cat hisses at you when you pet or hold her, she may be trying to tell you that she is in pain. Have your cat examined by a veterinarian to determine if your cat is injured or ill.
Cats sometimes hiss at people to express their displeasure with a situation. If you have recently brought home a new pet that your cat is not happy about, she may hiss at you to communicate her disapproval. Even if you have not brought home a new pet, your cat may hiss at you if she smells the scent of other cats or animals on your clothing.
Cats that have not been properly socialized are usually fearful of new people and will hiss to communicate their fear. Going to new places like a shelter, veterinary office or a different home can also induce fear in your cat and lead to hissing. Punishment is another fear trigger that will cause most cats to hiss as a warning to back off.
There are different kinds of aggression in cats that trigger hissing behavior. Redirected aggression is when cats release pent-up aggression on the nearest target. If your cat becomes agitated by another source, like another animal or loud sound, she may take it out on you by hissing at you when you approach.
Petting-induced aggression occurs in cats that have a low tolerance for physical contact. Whether caused by a traumatic event or natural aversion to touch, some cats will hiss to let people know that it is time to stop petting them.
Territorial aggression is when a cat hisses to assert dominance. Cats can sometimes confuse their owner for just another household cat and will hiss at you when you enter certain areas of the house or attempt to move them off of furniture.
Kristina Barroso is a full-time teacher who has been freelance writing since 1991. She published her first book, a break-up survival guide, in 2007 and specializes in a variety of topics including, but not limited to, relationships and issues in education. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Florida International University.