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how much of a Hiss is a warning?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Hi -
I took Lucky out today again on her harness, and we met with the neighbor's cat on the way... She is an inside(mostly)/outside cat, very healthy, but very territorial... Lucky, for my complete surprise, was all happy, and wanted to go there, an sniff/meet her. Of course the other cat (Gracie) hissed at her. I immediately scooped Lucky up, but she wanted to go down and still meet little Gracie!
Lucky had a good time outside, smelling the plants and getting in little places/spaces... I am excited to go out with her everyday, now that her flea problem has been taken care of.
My question is: Should I let her get closer to Gracie? Gracie is not feral at all, and pretty sweet... but I don't know how much of a warning the hissing is. Is she definitely going to attack Lucky? Should I just keep them distant? What to you think?
Both are UTD on vaccines.
post #2 of 4
From what I've read, cats will hiss when they are being defensive. From an evolution perspective, a cat's hiss is their way of mimicking the sound of a snake, which other animals have obviously learned to take as a warning. So as for why the cat is hissing, perhaps it is taking a defensive position out of fear, perhaps because they are uncomfortable with the presence of a strange animal, or perhaps because of some other reason.

As for what happens after a hiss, I've seen all kinds of different results. On one end, when we bring our cats over to visit the family on long weekends, their resident cat will hiss, growl, and grumble for a few days before calming down. However, at no point does the hiss progress to anything more than talk. I think the cat is pretty much saying "I don't recognize you, so stay away", but this particular cat doesn't seem to ever want to do anything to back it up. Maybe he's just setting the rules for house too, establishing a little dominance. It's hard to tell, but it's gotten to the point that the family cat can hiss right in our cats' faces, and they won't even flinch anymore. They know it's all talk.

On the other hand, I've also seen hisses break out into full blown fights. It probably depends on the personality of the cat. Just like humans, some cats will probably use caution and avoidance as their way to deal with an unknown situation. Others will try to intimidate and become extra aggressive. I personally find a cat's body language to be much more telling than the hiss itself, but the problem is that cats are so quick that by the time you can decipher the body language, a fight may have already broken out.

As for what to do, I'll leave that to someone else who may have dealt with a similar experience. The best I can do is try to explain what the hiss means.
post #3 of 4
I also just stumbled across this site on cat communication:


I haven't had a chance to read through too much yet, but there does seem to be a lot of useful information there. Hopefully others here can vouch for the accuracy of the info.
post #4 of 4
Hissing is a general expression of "respect my space". Although usually not extreme sign of attack behavior, should be respected by keeping a distance. Cats are much more territorial and wild instinctual then dogs. The term domesticated cat is commonly used for a reason. That is awesome that she walks on harness and leash, not all cats accept or enjoy this! I tried to introduce Maia to harness and leash at a very young age, the older she got, the bigger clump of kitty in the harness. She would go into kitty coma when the harness was on!
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