Sounds that Cats Hate

Sounds cats hate
Sounds cats hate. Photo by The Last Cookie
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I went on an internet quest for sounds that cats hate and came up with very little. This does not surprise me as I don’t believe that there is a comprehensive list of sounds that cats, in general, hate. However, I know what sounds my cats have disliked. I also refer to the sounds that other people say that cats hate. A lot of cats might dislike, but not hate, certain sounds, while some cats might be terrified by some noises. There is one certainty, quiet and calm are good environment qualities for a domestic cat.

It is probably sensible to remark that a cat will dislike certain sounds for three reasons (there may be more):

  1. An inherited trait from parents – a personal characteristic;
  2. A hard-wired trait that goes back to the evolution of wild cat species  (a general domestic cat characteristic) and;
  3. Sounds that a cat associates with a bad experience – a individual or personal trait.

In this post, I am concerned with sounds that cats hate (dislike), meaning cats in general.

Google Search Results are Interesting and Depressing!

The top ranked search result from Google is an appalling quality YouTube video (Google owns YouTube, so favor YouTube) of a male human frightening a black and white cat with weird sounds that are similar to a dog barking or a cat hissing (perhaps). I believe his intention is to demonstrate that cats hate certain sounds.

In some ways the video sums up the rubbish that we are sometimes presented with on the internet. The cat swiftly moved away to the kitchen having approached the person who made the noise.

From this silly and nasty video we can conclude that the sounds people sometimes make are disturbing to cats. There is another well known video of an idiot yelling at his cats. The video is successful. The cats are upset. What does that tell us?

The next highly ranked search result from Google is a website called “Pawsense”. The mission statement of the site is:

PawSense is a software utility that helps protect your computer from cats…

The site lists two sounds cats hate:

  1. Harmonica (this sound seems to be similar to a hiss)
  2. Hiss

My message to the person who manages Pawsense: Why don’t you just gently move your cat’s paws away from the keyboard if your cat touches them? Even if a cat does touch a computer keyboard it is unlikely to cause a problem. This is a stupid website and Google should not have ranked it so highly. Sorry Google but you get things wrong sometimes.

The next is Wiki Answers, a very large site that has a poor reputation for rubbish answers but who are cleaning up their act. The author mentions these sounds that cats hate:

  • hissing noises
  • high pitched noises
  • loud bangs
  • any sudden noise

The bottom three are sounds that any animal does not like including people so it is not a very clever list.

Loud noises is a favorite from people who share their experiences but these are not noises specific to cats. We are not going to get much from the internet on sounds that cats hate.

My current theory is that cats learnt to hiss from snakes hundreds of thousands of years ago, perhaps millions of years ago as a defense mechanism. They learnt it because they knew it was frightening and at a primordial level it is still frightening even though they can make the sound themselves.

My Experiences

Here are the sorts of sounds I believe that cats might dislike based on my own experiences.

  • the sound of plastic bags being opened or rustled. The sound is similar to the hiss;
  • another sound similar to the cat hiss is removing a polyester sports coat from my rucksack. You get that high pitched grate as the texture of the fabric rubs against the sides of the rucksack.
  • vacuum cleaner- this always results in my cats getting out of the room. I have usually taken my out before vacuuming. Rarely some cats actually like being vacuumed, a great way to remove excess, dead hair.
  • lorries. Loud engines. Loud footsteps. These sounds are based on my experiences with my lady cat who has died. They are probably personal to the cat in question.

Clicking sounds:

My cat has developed sensitivity to clicking sounds causing twitching


My feeling is that cats are generally fairly tolerant of most sounds but quiet is definitely preferred. Sounds similar to a hiss will logically cause a cat’s ears to prick up because it is a hostile/defensive sound produced by a another cat. That will interest the cat hearing the sound.

Animal sounds of any kind will interest a cat but not necessarily cause concern or be hated by a cat. Charlie, my cat, responds to the sounds of urban foxes who can make a very loud calling/crying sound in the middle of night. It is more of interest to him rather than a sound that he hates.

Note: If you have a cat topic that interests you, which you’d like me to write about, please leave a comment and ask.

Associated post: Smells that cats hate.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

18 thoughts on “Sounds that Cats Hate”

  1. It’s not really a sound, but my husband brought home a large helium balloon for my birthday and both my cats hate it. At first they ran from the room, then after a while came back but kept a wary eye on the scary thing near the ceiling. Then they relaxed some but if you pull the string and move the balloon they are immediately on guard again.

  2. My cat absolutely hates the sound of a “Waterpik Flosser”. If I have it on for 2 seconds she meows very loud and hisses at me and it takes about 1/2 hour for her to settle down. After reading all the comments, I agree with all and particularly the vacuum cleaner. However with regard to the vacuum cleaner, she simply disappears and when I turn it off she re-appears and is not stressed. Her reaction to the Waterpik Flosser is much much stronger.

    1. Hi, interesting comment. I don’t know the Waterpik Flosser but I guess it supplies a jet of water. I think this is a sound like a snake. Cats learned to copy that sound (the hiss) because they were frightened of it (as it was made by a snake) and knew therefore that it was an effective defensive. When they hear the flosser they hear a snake.

      That is a wild guesstimate but a guesstimate nonetheless.

  3. my cats hate the sounds of the vacuum though Ozzie and some of the others are slowly getting used to it. I would say im going to get your friend the vacuum out and usually they would shoot outside straight away. They dont like the noise if they here kids coming esp Smokey i believe something possible happened when he was little as is very skittish. another thing is strong scent or high pitch noise

  4. New Year and Fourth of July holidays are nightmares here. Fireworks are shooting off everywhere and my babies coward and hide. I stay up all night with them and not because I’m celebrating!

  5. When I was living with Gigi 1st in Canada I would occasionally pour a fizzy drink into a glass full of ice. I think this was possibly the most frightening thing to her and I would always be careful not to catch her by suprise with it and only pour a tiny bit as a warning etc. The bubbles and clinking of ice cubes really bothered her. I think it seemed as though the things in the glass were coming to life and she really didn’t like it.

    Other than that depending on how jumpy my cats have been then the usual list of high sounds etc were their least favourites. I can say Lilly doesn’t mind the sound of the vacuum cleaner and will chase it around when i am trying to vacuum. She doesn’t like very specific high sounds that when they come from my computer she will come straight over and start biting my arm until it stops. Usually it is some kind of high squeeky sound in music or from the many sounds that come out of a computer. She is not scared of them but they honestly seem to bother her and she gets annoyed and bites me so I stop the sound.

    Most of my cats get very turned on by the sounds of plastic and papers. Not long ago I had a couple sheets of big bubble wrap – each bubble being over and inch in diameter. They loved that stuff so much they even like the loud popping sound it made if they jumped on it and popped bubbles. I left that on the floor for about 4 or 5 days and they were constantly ambushing each other from on or under it. They love the sharp sound of rustling plastic and follow the sound to its source right away.

    1. …pour a fizzy drink into a glass full of ice. I think this was possibly the most frightening…

      Once again the sound of “fizz” is a akin to the sound of a hiss. It is not very close but similar. I may have this wrong but I feel there is a similarity to the other sounds that cats hate that have been mentioned. For example the clinking of ice as well as the fizzing. Isn’t this similar to aluminum foil being rustled? Do all snakes move their tail when under threat? If so this movement may create a rattling sound which when added to the snake’s hiss is similar to the household sounds referred to.

  6. Walter and Jozef hate to hear me sing! Not all the time, if I sing normally they take no notice, but when they’ve stayed in bed a bit too late on an evening and we want them to go and have their last patrol before bedtime if I sing in a really loud, fruity voice while sitting in my armchair downstairs we can hear their feet thump as they both come down from the beds or wardrobe tops, sometimes they have a look in my mouth to see where the noise is coming from but mostly they give me a really dirty look as they pass by on their way out the door. The songs they hate the most are God Save The Queen and The Old Rugged Cross.

    1. My cats are pretty laid back as ours is a very relaxed household of kids,cats and dogs,oh and me lol but even so none of them like the vacuum cleaner and they don’t like anyone whistling either. I laughed so much at your comment Babz,your cats are obviously not royalists or christians lol lol I wish you would write more cat articles,you are a very entertaining natural writer.

  7. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    I hate seeing videos of people frightening cats in any way at all.
    Cats ears are so very sensitive, much more sensitive than ours are, so what to us may be a loud noise, to them is deafening.
    I think vacuum cleaners have a sort of underlying high pitched hum and high pitched noises particularly distress cats.
    We don’t vacuum any of our rooms our boyz are in, they wait until later.
    Plastic bags, well that was something I hadn’t thought about as ours always run to ‘help’ unpack our shopping and find their treats, but yesterday I decided to do the ‘banana treatment’ which is supposed to leave your feet beautiful lol Both cats had settled, I put the squashed ripe bananas on my feet and plastic bags under socks for the 10 minutes waiting time, they both jumped up spooked as I padded about upstairs. I had to go and wait in the bathroom lol and after all that and the hot and cold rinses all I ended up with was the bath to clean of banana, feet not beautiful and 2 cats wary of me. Thankfully they forgave me once they saw the bags had gone in the bin.
    Cats hate the sound and feel of blowing, I’ve read of idiots blowing in a cat’s face to punish them, then wondering why the cat lashed out.
    Yes I think it’s all about deep down instincts from the wild, how their long ago ancestors learned to avoid danger, certain noises stir that instinct even now.

  8. My Abby hates the sound of plastic bags rustling especially produce bags you get at the fruit stand. She freaks and runs like a banshee. It’s funny though because if an empty produce bag is on the floor, she’ll play with it. She also detests the hand-held hair dryer. I don’t even have to turn it on; if she sees me pick it up, she runs and hides. Lastly and probably the funniest, Abby hates the sound of flatulence, LOL! I used to think it was the smell that drove her batty, but nope, it’s the sound!

    1. It seems we have a pattern of sound types building up (not gas)….. 😉 The harsh, slightly shrill sound of air passing through openings (forgive me) seems to be a common dislike. The sound of a plastic bag rustling is not that far from the sound of air passing through and opening.

      My current theory is that cats learnt to hiss from snakes hundreds of thousands of years ago, perhaps millions of years ago as a defense mechanism. They learnt it because they knew it was frightening and at a primordial level it is still frightening even though they can make the sound themselves.

  9. Tootsie is very scared when, me having a roll of aluminum/ aluminium foil in hand, I pull some out and cut it from the roll. She runs away as fast as she can. No amount of trying to tell her “it’s okay” makes any difference.

    It’s odd, because that’s the only kitchen noise that really spooks her.

    Oh, and, of course she hates the vacuum cleaner noise, but most cats seem to.

    1. V. interesting VG. Aluminum foil makes a sharp rustling type sound like plastic bags being rustled. Not that far removed from the sound of air passing through a small opening at high speed. Is this about the snake’s hiss? The snake’s hiss must have had a big impact (through fear of it?) on the cat during its evolution because the cat copied the snake’s hiss.

      A vacuum cleaner is like a big animal that is constantly hissing and make shrill sounds.

  10. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

    Monty hates the sound of rain on the window panes, strong wind that rattles windows and the sound of thunder, especially. If he is outside rain and wind don’t bother him, or even thunder, so long as it isn’t too loud or close. But when inside he will get very upset by these sounds and hide under our bed or in the basement.

    When I was a kid our cats were fine with my playing musical instruments. They didn’t even seem to notice. But Monty doesn’t hear me play so often, because I don’t practice like I did when I was a kid. So if I play he looks surprised and goes out of the room. My sister’s cat upstairs is the same way. Once I brought my clarinet up there to show my sister a new mouthpiece I had bought. I was playing for her and her cat Kobe gave me the funniest look. It was like he was saying, “What are you doing? Why would you be doing that!?” It was so cute. He didn’t seem to dislike it necessarily, he just looked completely confused, as if I had lost my mind to be doing something so strange.

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