Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Why Does My Cat Growl and Hiss at Strangers? What to Know!

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

cat hissing

It would be nice if our pets could just use their words and communicate with us verbally. But since that’s impossible, we have to do all we can to interpret what their meowing, trilling, growling, and hissing sounds mean.

You might be feeling concerned if your kitty has been displaying aggressive behaviors like growling and hissing at strangers, but know that it’s normal. Cats are territorial, and any new person or thing in their environment can upset the very delicate equilibrium they have.

Keep reading to learn why your cat is growling and hissing at strangers and what you can do to help prevent this behavior.

Why Does My Cat Growl and Hiss At Strangers?

Domesticated cats experience very little variability in their environment. Their homes are predictable and safe places. Their daily routine is the same day in and day out, and they tend to like it that way. So, when a change happens in their environment, cats can feel disgruntled and start to act out.

If you’re having a weekend visitor, your cat’s sense of equilibrium is thrown off balance. This change in their daily routine can result in aggression.

Stranger-directed aggression is often born out of fear. They might be worried that their territory is being encroached upon. Cats are innately territorial, so if they feel your guests are taking over their space, their growling and hissing might be their attempt at showing dominance. They may feel that by acting big and scary, they’ll possess the power needed to scare your guests away.

Your cat might be feeling stressed and angry with the presence of a stranger in their territory. Both of these feelings can look and sound like growling and hissing.

Sometimes cat’s growls act as a warning signal to other cats and animals that they’re about to attack. If your kitty is particularly loyal towards you, they could act possessively over you. Your cat could be growling and hissing at your guests because they don’t know the guest’s intentions, and they’re trying to show you that they’ll protect you at all costs.

angry cat hissing
Image Credit: Fang_Y_M, Pixabay

What Do My Cats Growls and Hisses Mean?

When a cat is growling or hissing, they’re trying to give you a warning sign that they’re miffed about something. You might also notice that their tail position is different, they’re baring their teeth, or that their fur is puffed out. All of these behavioral signals put together should clearly tell you that your cat is upset.

When their growling and hissing are accompanied by the above body language symbols, your cat is trying to tell you to back off. They’re trying to make themselves look scary so they’ll be intimidating and threatening.

Not all growling and hissing is aggressive behavior, however. Your cats can become fearful and start to growl or hiss because of that fear.

What Can I Do If My Cat Is Hissing and Growling At My Guests?

There are several things you can try doing to help calm your cat if they’re stressed about strangers in their environment.

Inform Your Guests

If your cat is growling and hissing at your guests, you need to tell them to back off. This is not the time for your guests to try and approach your cat to “win them over.” Your cat is not pleased with your guest’s presence in your home and the last thing they want is this stranger to stare at them and try to pet them.

Abyssinian cat hisses
Image Credit: Slava Dumchev, Shutterstock

Give Him an Escape Route

You should always have an escape route for your pet. Do not lock him in a room or lock him out of rooms where he might try to calm himself. Keep your home wide open to him and let him choose where he wants to go to comfort himself.

Enrich His Space

If your cat is stressed with the presence of strangers in your home, you can try enriching his environment with toys. This will provide him with an outlet and a distraction.

Don’t Force It

As a cat owner, you should know that you can’t force a cat to do something it doesn’t want to do. The same rule applies to meeting strangers. You shouldn’t hold your kitty against his will and try to introduce him to people he’s uncomfortable around.

If your cat is curious about new people, he will approach them himself when he’s ready.

cat rubbing against owner
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

Never Punish Him

You should never punish your cat for growling or hissing. Instead, your goal should be to determine why they’re acting out and try to make their environment more comfortable for them.


Feline anxiety is as real of a condition as human anxiety. You need to remember that behavior modification will take time and that even slow progress is progress. Let your kitty lead the way and be patient with him as he navigates sharing his home with a stranger. Know that some cats just don’t do well with strangers and there may never come a time when he’s comfortable being petted or held by your guests.

Final Thoughts

Cats thrive on predictability and having a guest in your home will throw off that delicate equilibrium that your cat needs to feel safe. That’s not to say that you’ll never be able to have strangers in your home because your cat feels uncomfortable around them. With some time and patience, your cat may eventually come around to having new people in his space. Some cats, though, will only have eyes for their family members and you might just need to come to terms with the fact that your kitty will go into hiding any time you have guests over.

Featured Image Credit: yvonneschmu, Pixabay

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database