Why is my cat kneading and hissing at the same time?

by c salzano
(columbia, md)

Our cat has been getting into our bed and kneading the comforter and hissing at the same time, sometimes when we are in it. Do you know what this means? Thanks!

c salzano

Hi… thanks for visiting and asking. I will assume the “conforter” is what we call a “duvet” in Europe; a down or foamed filled blanket with a cover.

On the face of it these are signs of conflicting emotions. Kneading is a reflex kitten response to stimulate the flow of mother’s milk. When it is done to us (say on our legs or in this case the comforter) it is a throwback to the kitten/mother time signifying that the cat sees us as mother cat.

Hissing is a defensive/aggressive sound to try and frighten off intruders. It is also instinctive. A stray cat we feed does it because he is unsure of my two cats when he comes in to be fed.

I think, though that kneading and hissing can go together. Someone might have a better answer but my theory is this (and this is not researched but straight out of my poor head).

When a kitten finds a mother’s nipple there may be some competition from siblings. A kitten normally sticks to the same nipple when feeding on mother’s milk (colostrum).

In the case of your cat this competition may have resulted in a bit of hissing to ward off another sibling from the chosen nipple. The kneading follows to stimulate the flow of milk and the purring also follows to communicate with mother that all is well. Kittens can purr while drinking the milk.

That I think is the reason. In other words for your cat the close interaction with mother while being nursed had an associated element of unwanted competition which led to the two actions, kneading and hissing becoming part of the same process.

Hope this sounds sensible! Any other suggestions in the comments would be welcome.

Picture (added by Michael) of a cat kneading, sucking and purring on a throw:

Day 271-Pixel and her woobie
Photo: Lee (Flickr)


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Why is my cat kneading and hissing at the same time? to Why Do Cats

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Why is my cat kneading and hissing at the same time?

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Jul 29, 2010
by: c salzano

Thanks so much for your comments– She is tiny–about 4 pounds, and when she does this, she isn’t acting aggressive either before or after. She is content, hops on the bed, kneads and hisses, and then hops off, and then if I am around, she will rub against my legs– But the hissing seemed so strange. Thank you again–this makes a lot of sense!

Jul 29, 2010
I agree
by: Ruth

I think Michael is right.
Your cat probably came from a larger than usual litter of kittens and had to battle for every drop of milk. So that when he did manage to grab a nipple it was instinct to warn his siblings off with a hiss until he’d had his share.Or he was maybe the smallest and that was the only way he could make sure he had his share.
Kneading is a sign of contentment so I wouldn’t worry about this and if your cat is young he will probably grow out of hissing as he matures.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

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Michael is retired! He retired at age 57 and at Aug 2018 is approaching 70. He worked in many jobs. The last job he did was as a solicitor practicing general law. He loves animals and is passionate about animal welfare. He also loves photography and nature. He hates animal abuse. He has owned and managed this site since 2007. There are around 13k pages so please use the custom search facility!

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