When Will My Cat Stop Hissing at the New Kitten?

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Cats are commonly known to hiss at threats such as dogs or visitors they don’t like, but why might cats hiss at their own species and even an unthreatening member of their own species like a kitten?

Cats use vocalizations to express all manner of emotions like meows, chattering, and purrs. In this article you’ll find out why your cat might hiss at a kitten and if this is normal cat behavior.

Why Do Cats Hiss In The First Place?

hissing cat

A cat hiss is a sudden, explosive exhalation of air across a cat’s arched tongue and through the mouth.

We’ve all seen our cats hiss when an overly friendly Labrador has bounced up to them or we’ve picked them up when they’re not in the mood.

Their hiss could mean a variety of things. They might be downright annoyed and sending you a warning signal, however, they might also be in pain (for example, because of arthritis). The hiss notifies someone or another animal that they feel upset, and it also shows off their extremely sharp teeth, a pretty scary threat.

Also Read: Cat Teeth Plaque & Tartar: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Why Is My Cat Hissing at My New Kitten?

hissing cat

When cats hiss, they also display other related body language, including baring their teeth, pulling back their lips from the mouth and flattening their ears back against the head.

Cats are solitary and independent animals and hissing at new kittens is very normal. It might be triggered for a number of reasons:

1. Territory

Cats playing or fighting

Most cats in social groups will engage in play-fighting. It can be difficult to know the difference between social play and an aggressive altercation.

Firstly, cats are very territorial animals and a new animal on their turf should be warned that the older cat was here first. Cats have spent time spreading their scent around their area and that will include your whole house and possible outside area.

Once a kitten arrives, their new smell will feel like a threat has invaded their space. Your cat may hiss at the feline intruder as a form of territorial aggression. Make sure they still have plenty of ‘their’ things in the same place with the same smell to comfort them.

Also Read: How Do Cats Mark Their Territory?

2. Hierarchy

cat hisses at other cat

When a cat hisses, it is a sign that she is feeling threatened, fearful, or extremely upset.

Your cat may have been a solo cat for quite a while and won’t want a new kitten to come in and think they’re the boss. Your cat might want to set the hierarchy and warn the kitten who is in charge.

Kittens are notoriously playful and boisterous, and for a reserved, older cat this can be a little too much to handle sometimes. A quick hiss when the kitten has over-stepped the mark and annoyed the older cat is just a way of setting down the ground rules for them and forming boundaries.

3. Feeling Trapped

hissing cat

A hissing cat feels that she is in danger. A cat may hiss at another cat, at a dog or other animal, or at people.

If cats feel boxed in when being introduced to a new kitten, their fight or flight system will kick in and if there’s no space for flight, then they could resort to fight. A hiss will indicate that their anxiety about their situation and they want some space from the kitten.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Like Boxes? 8 Reasons Why!

What Should I Do If My Cat Starts Hissing At My Kitten?

cat hissing at kitten but not attacking

If you’ve recently adopted a new cat or kitten and notice a lot of hissing, give each cat a safe place to retreat and give it time.

A quick hiss is tolerable but if your cat starts looking more confrontational and starts swatting at the kitten, you may want to intervene and separate them. You don’t want to risk the kitten getting injured or causing your cat too much stress.

If your cat does hiss at your kitten, make sure you give them an escape from the interaction. They should be allowed to run somewhere that feels safe, for example, their cat trees. Otherwise, take the kitten away to a closed-off area away from your cat.

How Long Will My Cat Hiss at My Kitten?

It can be a huge adjustment for a cat if a new kitten arrives. And even if your older cat is usually very friendly, it can take a while for them to get used to a kitten.

You should expect a little adjustment time, but if your cat seems to be hissing at a kitten repeatedly even after two to three weeks, it may mean that they aren’t getting along, and you might want to intervene.

Also Read: How To Help Cats Get Along?

How To Stop My Older Cat Hissing At A Kitten

my cat won't stop hissing at new kitten

Sometimes, pheromone diffusers, sprays and collars can help calm cats down

Try separating them for small periods through the day to give your older cat a break, so that she doesn’t get overwhelmed. You might also want to consider sleeping them separately to start off with.

Make sure you provide lots of facilities for your cat to ‘escape’ to that the kitten can’t reach, for example, outside, high perches or a cozy cave.

Will Cats Eventually Stop Hissing At Kittens?

cat won't stop hissing at kitten

Most cats learn to at least get a long, even if they don’t love each other.

The majority of cats will become acclimatized to having a new cat around and stop hissing at them after about a week.

Especially so when the kitten becomes more mature and is less likely to irritate the older cat. Once they are both in their new routine and used to sharing a space with each other, the hissing should stop.

Also Read: How To Introduce A New Kitten To An Older Cat

Do All Cats Hiss at Kittens?

my cat is hissing and growling at my new kitten

Hissing or even growling is not necessarily a sign that a cat is angry, nor is hissing a sign that you have an aggressive cat on your hands. Hissing is an expression of fear and a warning to stay away.

Not all cats hiss at kittens, but it is not uncommon. If you know your cat is less tolerant of new animals or people, or has been rescued and they have previous trauma, it is worth being extra careful and slow when introducing a kitten to them.

Some cats may accept a new kitten very quickly and not hiss at all, but you should always treat them just as attentively with a new kitten as any other cat.

How To Get Your Cat Used To A Kitten?

new kitten hissing at resident cat

You can play calming music in the safe room to drown out any scary sounds.

If you know you’re about to bring home a new kitten, get your cat used to the new toys and supplies for the kitten the week before. By making sure you’re prepared ahead of time for the new pet, it’ll mean you’re more relaxed, and this in turn will mean your cat will also be relaxed.

When your kitten arrives, it is useful to have a room where you can shut your kitten off from your cat and they can spend the first few days or week in there. This means that your adult cat can get used to the sound and smell of the kitten without having to meet it in person.

Also Read: The 7 Best Cat Treats For Kittens

Giving your cat some time to gradually become accustomed to a new animal in the house without direct contact will mean they are less likely to become highly stressed and lash out at the kitten.

When you do finally allow direct contact, let them get to know each other for short periods of time which you can gradually increase if everything goes well. Make sure you give them lots of space and positive encouragement with vocal praise or treats.

Also Read: The 7 Best Cat Treats For Kittens

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal for cats to hiss at kittens?

It is fairly normal for cats to hiss when introduced to a new kitten. This is a very new scenario for the cat and they will feel undoubtedly a little stressed because of it. As long as the hissing doesn’t turn into aggressive behaviour, it should eventually stop if you’ve introduced the cat to the kitten carefully and slowly.

Should I let my cat hiss at the new kitten?

A few small hisses should be expected and allowed, however, if the hissing becomes very prolonged and starts looking like it’s turning into aggressive behaviour, then it would be wise to give your cat a break and separate them from the kitten for a while.

Do mother cats hiss at kittens?

Mother cats may hiss at their kittens when they’re really young if they stray outside the nest she’s created for them. She won’t want them putting themselves in potential danger as prey where she can’t save them from a predator, especially if she’s leaving them to go eat.

How long does it take for a cat to stop hissing at kittens?

As long as you’ve been careful and thoughtful when introducing your cat to a kitten, they should stop hissing at them usually after no more than three weeks. Once you’ve not noticed your cat hiss at the kitten for a full week, you should be in the clear and you can let them socialize with each other freely with less supervision.

Will an older cat hurt a kitten?

If an older cat feels extremely threatened by a kitten due to territorial or behavioural reasons, they might hurt a kitten. When a cat makes a hissing sound at a kitten, reading a cat's body language can give away if they might actually hurt the kitten as well.

A cat swat can cause injuries with their sharp claws, especially a scratch to the eyes. If the situation is not diffused, the cat might resort to even more aggressive behavior and bite a kitten. If you are worried that your kitten has been scratched or bitten by an older cat, please always consult your veterinarian.

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About Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS

Dr. Joanna Woodnutt (MRCVS) is a small animal veterinarian and writer who is passionate about helping owners to learn more about their pets in order to improve animal welfare. She loves to write and wants to empower owners to make the best decisions for their pets by giving them all the information they need. In her spare time, she takes consultations on the small island of Guernsey.

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