It’s an interesting question. When a domestic cat hisses it is a signal to the recipient that they are dangerous, as a snake is dangerous. It is a evolutionary behavioral trait learned by the cat for self-protection. A cat hisses to get rid of an animal in front of them. It may be a dangerous animal or it might be a person who is pestering them. But should we do it to our cat?
It’s interesting to me because Dr Bruce Fogle DVM in his book Complete Cat Care provides readers with one of his tips. He calls it a “distraction tip”. Dr Fogle is a respected cat and dog behaviourist and a veterinarian and he hisses at his cat from time to time but he advises that the technique should be used sparingly otherwise your cat will understand that it is meaningless.
He might use it when his cat is planning to attack a bird in the garden. In order to distract his cat from the intensity of the hunt he produces a “sharp hiss”. He describes this as a “simple way to stop a cat in its tracks long enough for you to put it off what it’s planning to do”.
He also says that the sharp hiss is one of a range of sounds that you could employ to distract your cat long enough to, in this instance, to allow a bird to fly away or to get hold of your cat.
There is an interesting discussion about people hissing at their cat of the quora.com website. One guy on that site says that on one occasion he was visiting his relatives and their cat jumped up on the dining table. His mother politely asked her cat to get off by saying, “Winnie! NO! Get down.”
His mother was about 6 feet away at the time and this guy was much further away and he made a “long, low, hiss”. He said that, “Winny snaps alert, looks at me wide-eyed, and got the hell down.”
He says that he uses it sometimes to good effect. Another man said that he hisses at his cats daily (too much, I’d say). On one occasion he hissed at a feral cat that he wanted to feed. This is because the cat hissed at him. His hissing drove the cat away but he came back because they were starving hungry. Over time when he hissed at the cat it was totally ignored. He said that, “He understood I was all show but no action.”
The conclusion is probably that there might be occasions when hissing at your cat can be useful to distract him or her but it has limited value. Perhaps we should take our lead on hissing by noting that our domestic cats hiss very infrequently. It is used sparingly by them and only when they are under threat and they need to send a strong signal that they are dangerous and to be avoided.