Why do cats hiss?
Have you noticed how a cat's hiss sounds very similar to that of a snake? That is intentional, it is hard wired in almost all creatures to recognise the hiss of a snake as a warning sign. A cat hissing is a form of protective mimicry, a defensive tactic.
Therefore it is in the cat's best interest to give the impression that it too could possibly be venomous.
A hiss is a warning "back off" if you (or a predator) continue towards the cat, there is every chance that you will be bitten and/or scratched. Most of the time, hissing is accompanied with other body language. The ears may be back, the, hackles are raised, the cat may either be crouched down, as if backed into a corner or standing tall, back arched. He is feeling angry, afraid, hurt but is in fight mode if you cross that boundary any further.
Hissing is also referred to as "spitting".
When do cats hiss?
There are two main reasons why a cat will hiss. Fear and/or anger.
When approached by a stranger
When at the vet
When approached by another cat, or dog
Your cat may even hiss at you if he is in pain and you go near him
If you are confronted with a hissing cat it is a definite warning to back off. We have already covered injuries caused by cat bites and scratches. It is vital that we read their body language and signals that they are giving off. Many pet owners are injured by their cat because they fail to heed the warning they've been given. A hissing cat is telling you to back off, even if it is your own cat, who knows and loves you, he's warning you.
What to do if a cat hisses at you:
Heed his warnings and back off. If he's your cat, give him some space and then try again once he has calmed down. If you have a cat who suddenly starts hissing (repeatedly) for no apparent reason, it may be worth having him checked out by a veterinarian. There may be an underlying medical reason, such as pain. Any changes in behaviour should be investigated.