It's natural to feel a little offended when your cat hisses at you, but you have to choose your response carefully. Disciplining your cat for hissing may only make matters worse, so play it cool and think before you act the next time your little guy starts running his mouth.
Why Cats Hiss
Cats don't hiss just to be rude. Sure, they might do it because they're aggressive, but it's just as commonly a defensive action. If you felt threatened by someone, you might put up your hands and tell them to back off -- this is your cat's way of doing the same thing. When he hisses, he's telling you that he doesn't like your behavior, he needs a little personal space, he's frightened or all three. Cats don't hiss without a reason, so if yours is getting mouthy, take a look at the situation and try to figure out why.
While it's technically OK to discipline a hissing cat, that doesn't mean it works. Sure, you can give him a little tap on the nose as a sign of disapproval, but odds are, he won't learn anything from it -- in fact, you might just make him angrier. Discipline should be administered indirectly for the best results, because if you try to scold your cat like you would a dog, you're not going to get the response you're looking for.
One of the best ways to discipline a hissing, fussing cat is to just remove yourself from the situation. This gives him time to cool off, and your ignoring of his tantrum teaches him that he's going to face isolation when he acts out. Whether or not he wanted to be left alone in the first place, this is a win-win situation -- either he gets what he needed, or he learns over time that hissing is not the way to make friends.
Rewarding Good Behavior
Don't forget that any system of reward and punishment needs to have reward. Don't just teach your cat how to behave when he isn't -- show him the rewards of good behavior the rest of the time. When you cat is friendly and cuddly, go ahead and love him up with treats, pets, cuddles and playtime. It creates a stark contrast between the consequences of good and bad attitudes, so when he does act out, you can just leave him alone to his own devices.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.