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Why Do Cats Hiss at Kittens? (And How to Stop It)

cat hissing
Image Credit: yvonneschmu, Pixabay

Even if you’re certain that your cat will love and accept a kitten, bringing one home may prove to be a different story. We often think that older animals will automatically get along with a baby animal of their species. But animals think about things much differently than we do, so this isn’t always the case. If you’ve ever introduced your cat to another animal, even a kitten, you may have seen this reaction: flat ears, staring eyes, frozen stature, and maybe even an arched back. Then, their mouth opens and they hiss loudly. It sounds menacing and it’s designed to. Cats hiss for many reasons, but some experts believe that the hissing started in wild cats that were imitating snakes. To make themselves more threatening, cats started hissing, and eventually, it became instinctual. So, what does a cat hiss mean? It’s normal cat behavior, but there are a few reasons that it happens.

hepper cat paw dividerWhy Do Cats Hiss?

Most people assume that a hissing cat is an aggressive cat. The hiss is actually a warning. It’s a way for the cat to say, “I don’t like what’s happening now.” Even the sweetest, most affectionate cat can and will hiss if they feel like they have to. Hissing doesn’t mean the cat has a mean personality. Common reasons that a cat will hiss include:

  • Pain: Cats may yowl and hiss if they’re sick or hurt, as a way to express how they’re feeling.
  • Fear: When cats are afraid, they hiss as a way to protect themselves, and it’s not always something that they do voluntarily.
  • Feeling threatened: Cats that feel like they are in danger may hiss in a confrontation with another animal or hiss at a person whom they don’t feel comfortable around.
  • Anger or annoyance: If your cat is upset, they can hiss as a way to voice their irritation.
  • Imminent attack: Since the hiss comes as a warning, if the action that is upsetting the cat doesn’t stop, an attack might come next.
  • Claiming territory: Cats are territorial, and another animal coming into their space can trigger hissing.

a tabby mackerel cat hissing
Image Credit: strh, Pixabay

Cats Hissing at Kittens

When you bring a new kitten home, hopefully, your resident cat is elated to share their space and enjoys having a new buddy to hang out with all day. If this isn’t the case, the cat could be feeling any mix of things, and hissing may happen.

Your cat may be feeling protective of their home and territory. They may not want to share their space. Cats that are set in their ways won’t enjoy a new kitten coming along and changing up the routine. Older cats might resent a kitten for always wanting to play when they just want to be left alone. If a kitten is jumping on a cat or trying to entice them to play when they aren’t feeling like it, hissing is a common result. Sometimes, older cats hiss at kittens just to establish dominance. The cat is letting the newcomer know that they’re the boss. Cats that have been the only animal in the home for years may not like having to give up their role as the center of attention and share the spotlight with a kitten. Jealousy plays a big role when cats hiss at new members of the family.

Why Do My Cats Hiss at Their Own Kittens?

Parent cats hiss at their own kittens too. A mother cat might be hissing at her kittens to try to show them something and get them to pay attention to her. If she’s teaching them how to behave, hissing is a normal way of communicating. She also might be reprimanding them if they’re starting to annoy her. A father cat will hiss at his kittens if he doesn’t know that they’re his or if he thinks that they’re invading his territory. Both parents, if separated from their kittens for a long enough time, may hiss at them because they don’t recognize them and consider them to be threats.

cats hissing at each other
Image Credit: Astrid Gast, Shutterstock

How to Stop the Hissing

Bringing a new kitten home to a current resident cat should be handled with care to ensure that the least amount of stress occurs for both felines. We know that cats hiss when they’re in some sort of distress. So, to help them avoid feeling the need to hiss, make this as calming an experience as you can. Even if your cat does hiss at the new kitten, remember that this is normal and to be expected. The best that you can do is try to stop the behavior from continuing.

Separation

When you bring your new kitten home, plan to keep them separated from your cat for a while. Your kitten should be in their own room and have access to food, water, toys, a bed, a litter box, and any other necessities. Your cat and kitten will be able to smell one another and get used to each other without any face-to-face contact. Certain pheromones can also help calm cats, and using a plug-in diffuser can be a helpful way to ease anxiety and stress.

kittens rubbing face in mans legs
Image Credit: Piqsels

Seeing Each Other

Using a baby gate, screen, or clear partition to block the doorway, you can allow your cat and kitten to see one another through the barrier. Hissing or growling is normal during this period and should not be punished. Instead, make their interactions between a barrier fun by giving them treats, wet food, and toys. If they eat near one another, they will get used to each other more quickly and start to associate interactions with positivity. If there is no hissing from either cat for a few days, you’re ready to move on to the next step. If the hissing persists, the cats will need a little longer to get used to one another.

Removing the Barrier

When no hissing occurs through the barrier after a few days, you can remove the barrier and let the cat and kitten interact. Without forcing the other to move faster than they’d like, allow them to approach and smell each other. Treats or favorite foods are a good idea to have on hand to promote positivity with this experience. Hissing, growling, and even swatting are normal during this time. Just be sure to not leave the two of them unsupervised, to make sure no one gets hurt. If you notice one cat getting agitated, continually hissing, or acting aggressively, separate the two once more, and try again the next day. By gradually increasing the amount of time that the two interact, they will get used to one another more each day.

cat lying on the couch
Image Credit: Piqsels

Free Roam

Once your cat and kitten have become acquainted with each other and have free roam of the house together, hissing may still happen from time to time. As a way of communication, your cat may be telling the kitten to behave, stop doing a certain behavior, or simply remember who’s boss. Jealous cats benefit from extra attention, playtime, and affection from you to ease their stress about a new kitten. It’s also important to make sure each cat has a separate eating area and litter box. If your cat feels like they have to share their space with the kitten, they may become resentful. The older cat needs places to go to get away from the kitten and feel safe and secure.

Make sure your cat has certain spots that are just their own. The kitten should not be able to eat out of the older cat’s food dish, sleep in their bed, or play with their toys. Your cat needs their own things without the kitten deciding that they want to take over. It’s much easier for an older cat to accept the kitten if their routine isn’t wildly changed. By showing your older cat that their life can remain normal and you still love them the same, a new kitten can eventually become a friend. If that never happens, they can at least learn to get along and exist peacefully in the same house.

angry cat hissing
Image Credit: Fang_Y_M, Pixabay

hepper cat paw dividerConclusion

Bringing a new kitten into a house with a resident older cat can be a stressful experience for both felines. Introductions should always go slow. Hissing is a normal part of a cat’s behavior and is done for various reasons, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your cat is aggressive. With a kitten, your cat may just be showing the kitten that they’re the dominant one. If hissing is combined with aggression, such as biting, scratching, or fighting, the two should be separated, and the introduction process should start over another day. Eventually, your older cat can learn to accept a new kitten. By keeping the routine as normal as possible for your cat, the kitten won’t become a source of resentment. Remember that your cat loves you and wants your affection and attention, so be sure to provide plenty of it to avoid your cat feeling like they were replaced by a younger version.


Featured Image Credit: yvonneschmu, Pixabay