There are a lot of reasons why cats hiss. However, these are the most common ones.
The mother cat might hiss in defense for her kittens from invaders. Two cats who have not been introduced yet properly might hiss at one another as one way of saying to stay away from them. In this scenario, the hiss serves as a warning to the other cat to stop doing what he is up to without really getting into a fight, wherein one or both of them might get injured.
When a cat meets a person that he thinks is unfamiliar, he might hiss at that particular person since he doesn’t know the person he just met. Also, there is a possibility that they have scents of other pets on their clothes with them. In that case, the cat’s hissing is a behavior to increase distance, which is a means of warning people, pet or intruders to stay away from them.
Cat hiss when they are in pain most especially at times when they are touched in a part that hurts. Cats sometimes hiss at the veterinarian because of the fact that they do not like being poked, handled, and prodded most especially when that prodding and poking produces pain.
When you have a lot of cats and you take one of them to the vet, the other cats might hiss the moment he comes back since he smells similarly with the clinic. And the smell of clinic is not a smell they would greet with joy. This behavior is part of the phenomenon called non-recognition aggression. Since the cat does not smell familiar to them, the cat then becomes a stranger ‘til the moment he acquire his “family scent” back.
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