Defensive Hissing Friendly Cat

For me, a cat hissing at every opportunity is a sign of chronic, defensive behavior.  I had not seen this before. One of the tabby cats who visits hisses constantly. It is so engrained into his behavior that he will rub against you while hissing 😉 In the video he puts his head into my hand and hisses. Sweet but contradictory behavior. It is like a switch turning on and off rapidly because it is not working properly. He is friendly to me and head butts my face, which is a strong sign of friendliness, and hisses pretty much simultaneously.

It was a bit unnerving, at first, for me because a cat that is hissing should be treated with caution and respect. This is because he could lash out if approached. Common sense tells us to keep away and respect what he is telling us with his hisses.

Head butting is a sign of friendliness. Hissing is a signal that says, “stay away, I am dangerous”. The two signals conflict as far as I am concerned. Yet, they can happen at the same time, more or less.

To me it indicates a cat who has some manageable psychological problems. I could be wrong on that assessment but it looks like that.

[In the video you will hear a plane going over. It is landing at Heathrow about 6 miles away]

If I am correct, how did this cat end up in this almost perpetually defensive state? My theory is that his owner is not around enough so he roams and visits other houses. Entering a strange house is dangerous for a cat.  So, he developed the super hiss to protect himself in these strange places.

His hiss is like a beacon. It is switched on a lot of the time sending out a warning signal to stay away.

I would call this cat problem behavior to an owner if he does it to his caretaker. A person does not want to live with a defensive cat. The ideal cat companion is confident, outgoing and friendly.

His sibling is similar but hisses less. You can see her in the video at the beginning. There may also be a problem at their home. I have wondered if the woman who owns and cares for them has a husband who does not like them. A wild guess. Alternatively, the owner is just not there and has an irresponsible attitude towards her cats. She also lets them wander across busy roads and such like.

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Defensive Hissing Friendly Cat — 11 Comments

  1. This cat is saying ‘I want to trust you but I’m warning you not to hurt me or I will hurt you back’
    This is exactly how Etty, one of the rescue cats who ended up next door acted. She would allow us to stroke her but she swore and cursed at us, just like that cat in your video.
    It’s very sad because cats like that badly want to trust us but they just can’t quite relax enough.
    Etty ended up living at Kays Hill for a long time after she and her sisters and brothers were abandoned and she became more trusting, eventually she was pleasant enough to rehome. Sadly the last we heard she had died.
    Cats like her and the one in your video need a lot of love and understanding.

    • I agree with what you say. I wish this cat could feel more relaxed and trusting. It is sad that he feels anxious and stressed even when there is no danger.

  2. This is exactly what Lilly did for about 4 or 5 days upon arriving here in Switzerland in my new place and meeting Red for the first time. Red was very curious about her and he basically fell in love with her but she was very hissy for a while, the first 4 days to the extreme like in this video. She wanted cuddles but she kept hissing. She was just nervous about Red being around. My guess is this cat can smell Charlie and is making himself known to Charlie incase Charlie is around. I think hissing is usually reserved for other cats more than anything. He is nervous like Lilly was – almost like he has just arrived in a new place and knows it’s another cat’s territory and is just nervous and defensive about it but also really craves human attention badly enough to go into another cat’s territory.

    • Nice thought. I think it goes beyond cat to cat to general situations that are threatening. I agree the major threat is another cat and being on that cat’s territory but there are other “animal dangers” (humans) and he hisses every 10 seconds the entire time except when he is waiting to get in to the flat to be fed. If I go up to him as in the video (he was waiting on the railing) he likes the attention but hisses. A perpetual state of alertness and defensiveness.

  3. Poor cats yes very defensive against a person but desperate to be stroked and fed and loved.
    I think those cats don’t have a good home and it’s a shame because they are beauties.

  4. Our neighbors two houses north of us have a little tuxedo male, unneutered. He comes running as fast as he can when one of us returns home. Just as soon as he starts rubbing against your leg, he hisses btwn purrs. This was disconcerting at first, but we quickly became used to it, cooing to him as we gave him the love and attention he seemed so desperate to get. Slowly but surely, as we also feed him, his hisses gave way to inquisitive meows. It took about six months for him to trust us fully. I’m pretty darn certain that the household where he lived mistreated him. (I say “lived” because they left him behind when they moved just a block away. It took him only a couple of weeks to meow at the front door, asking to be let in. Soon as I opened the door for him, the grateful meows were peppered with hisses and growls. He gets along great with Shrimpster, my red tabby neutered male, which is wonderful because it looks like we are about to adopt him as our own!

    Note: I tried for months to persuade the mother, before she moved, to let us get him neutered, warning her that he would need vax resulting in Animal Control demanding that she license him. My housemate was more than willing to pay for the costs, but she refused in a very unkind way… Looks like we will get to take care of these issues w/o her permission, as he now spends more time sleeping here than he does there. (He just walks right in, demands his food, then heads for the basement to curl up with Shrimp.) What do you think? I tried respecting her children’s feelings about this little cat, but at this point, I’m thinking that I have unspoken rights to care for him. ???

  5. Michael, I had an experience yesterday exactly like this. A friend’s cat had been hissing and she took it as aggression and asked if I could come and see the behavior as she was concerned that he might bite. I was on the floor and he began rubbing up against me and hissing, but never tried to bite and I didn’t pull away intentionally so I could see if it continued in a non-aggressive manner. It did. My friend also has an older dog (a Shitzu). They seem to get along okay. I was just very surprised at this non-aggressive hissing, which almost seemed to me to be friendly in a way as he was rubbing up against me and making “trilling” noises at the same time. Cats are curious creatures indeed!

    • Yes, in the case of my visiting cat, the hissing was a “default position” automatically delivered in case some hostility arrived and then the friendly behavior was superimposed on that. He is very defensive because he visits other people’s homes and I presume gets kicked out!

  6. When Ozzie met Jasmine things were abit tough too. Ozzie hissed and Growled at Jasmine, even though jasmine basically went close to him all the time. It took about a week or two. We Gave Jasmine & Ozzie both equal patts and lots of love. Saying this is your new Sister and saying your not being replaced. Until Ozzie, realized that she was safe, he gave that look like OK, I suppose I’ll accept her. Now, they play together everywhere, he was really upset when she had her Surgery & Couldn’t find her anywhere. I think Ozzie would be really upset,If I ever had to split the family up which I have no attention to at this stage. The other Cats took awhile, Tiger still struggles at times but he Copes with it a whole lot better now. I still think he misses Cassy lots. As we all do. He’s a very shy Quiet boy.

    • That’s the secret Kylee, making sure every cat has equal attention and not fussing the new one in front of the others, thanks to that your Jasmine did fit into your family very smoothly 🙂

      • Yes I wanted them all to feel that they were equal loved and no-one is being replaced. Wasn’t an easy task, but then Jasmin basically made herself known with all of the Cats she was very super confident and still is after her surgery.

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