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Why is he hissing?

Discussion in 'Cat Training and Behaviour' started by Cully, Jan 4, 2020.


  1. Cully

    Cully PetForums VIP

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    Misty and her pal, Sooty play together nicely and he comes indoors for at least 1 meal every day. His owner knows and is ok with it as he is not a well man and often forgets to feed Sooty.
    Sooty is about 8 yo and was neutered late, about 2 years ago. He seems healthy. His condition has improved since I have been feeding him. He is a ratter, although I'm pretty sure he doesn't eat them, but I have seen him 'playing' with them.
    When he comes indoors it isn't always to eat. He will lie behind my chair and has his own catnip toys to chew. I gave him his own to stop him stealing Misty's.
    The thing is, he sometimes hisses at me and I don't know why.
    The first time was while sitting on the windowsill looking outside. I was going out and didn't want to leave him shut in. So I gently touched his rear hoping it would make him go out. He bit my hand. Just a gentle bite as though to say, 'please don't do that, I don't like it'.
    Thinking about it after I thought he had probably been looking outside to see if it was safe to go out and I should have realised that and not tried to make him go.
    Lesson learned.
    Then he began to occasionally hiss at me. Once, I held my hand out to him while he was behind my chair and he hissed. I realised I was actually blocking his exit, so no wonder he warned me off.
    Another lesson learned.
    But most time he hisses is to do with food.
    I always feed him on the kitchen worktop, well away from Misty's feeding spot in the lounge. When he is eating I can gently stroke his head and back but I never do it for more than a few seconds. I'm just trying to show him I mean no harm. But if I try to pet him before I give him his food, he hisses, even though he knows, when he's in that spot, that food is on its way.
    If I'm outside and see Sooty I can call him and he'll come for a stroke, pushing his head into my hand. I guess he feels safe on his own territory.
    Why does he hiss at me? What am I doing wrong? Am I just going to have to accept he will never completely trust me?
    Sorry for long post it's just I don't know if there's anything I can do to improve things.
     
  2. lorilu

    lorilu PetForums VIP

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    Probably a self protective habit he has developed. I would stop trying to pet him before you feed him. He's told you he doesn't like it. Hissing is communication. It means "Stop that" or "I don't like that" or "Stay away". So, unless you are doing something that HAS to be done whether he hisses or not, I would pay attention and not do things if he hisses when you do.

    He sounds lovely.
     
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  3. buffie

    buffie Mentored by Meeko

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    Pretty sure that hissing is a vocal warning when a cat feels threatened and is warning you to keep your distance.
    I would just accept he isn't sure of you and let him do the approaching.


    Oops sorry @lorilu cross posted ,
     
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  4. Cully

    Cully PetForums VIP

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    @lorilu & @buffie , Thanks both, I do understand that hissing is a warning. It's just that he's been coming for meals for 3 years now and I'd hoped any distrust or uncertainty would have eased by now.
    I'll hold off with the petting. I think it has been my measure of how much he trusts me so it's heartbreaking to see he still thinks I'm a threat.:(
    I believe he was a rescue so who knows what may have happened in his past.
    Yes Lorilu, he is a lovely boy.
    IMG_20190713_083839~2.jpg
     
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  5. tyg'smum

    tyg'smum PetForums Member

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    Can't help noticing from Sooty's photo that there seems to be something a bit odd about his eyes. Is his sight impaired in any way?
     
  6. buffie

    buffie Mentored by Meeko

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    Well spotted , it may just be light reaction but his pupils do look different .
     
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  7. Cully

    Cully PetForums VIP

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    I did actually write a thread about the eye problem back in July, "What's Wrong With His Eye?".
    According to Sooty's owner he's had it since birth, but that's all he could tell me. I wondered if the mother had a virus which caused the damage. Just speculation after doing a little research at the time.
    As I mentioned in my thread, he had been seen by a vet when neutered (2 yrs ago-ish) so would have seen the eye.
    It doesn't seem to cause him any noticeable problems. Runs, skips,plays and hunts rodents.
     
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  8. buffie

    buffie Mentored by Meeko

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    I must have missed it , sorry :oops:
     
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  9. tyg'smum

    tyg'smum PetForums Member

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    I just wondered whether this might explain part of his behaviour: if, for instance, a sudden movement startled him.
     
  10. Cully

    Cully PetForums VIP

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    No sorry necessary :), we can't be expected to read everything.
     
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  11. lorilu

    lorilu PetForums VIP

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    It doesn't necessarily mean he sees you as a "threat". I think you are reading too much into it. Hissing is communication. It just means "Don't do that" or "Stay away".

    Think about it this way. Everyone has her or his own comfort levels,, boundaries, including cats. You can say to someone "can you please step back a pace I feel a bit crowded" or "please don't touch me like that it makes me uncomfortable" without feeling hostile about it. A cat doesn't have words. A cat hisses instead. :)
     
    #11 lorilu, Jan 4, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2020
  12. Cully

    Cully PetForums VIP

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    He's been coming here long enough to recognise the environment, smells etc so he should realise it's me and I'm no threat, just a food supplier. He also runs here if he needs a safe house (stranger/bully/rain). He's not afraid to defend himself and I've seen him involved in a few fights. He seems to actually try and protect Misty if a bully cat is paying her too much attention.
    I have tried to check if his sight is limited in either eye by approaching him from different angles but it doesn't seem to be. No expert of course!!
    I do know one other cat who got annoyed by Sooty's constant attempts to befriend him which led to a fight. Poor Sooty, just looking for a friend!
     
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  13. Cully

    Cully PetForums VIP

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    Thanks. I'd hate to think he doesn't trust me. Don't mind if he's just telling me off.
     
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  14. tyg'smum

    tyg'smum PetForums Member

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    Point taken (I was actually trying to explain the thinking behind my previous post)
     
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  15. lorilu

    lorilu PetForums VIP

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    Well if I were you I would work on adjusting your own attitude about it. :) Remember that cats are emotional barometers. If you are worrying that he thinks you are a threat, he will pick up on your tension. Make up your mind to stop worrying about his hissing. As you say, he's been coming to you for 3 years. He knows he has nothing to fear from you. He simply has boundaries that he wants you to respect. He is communicating those boundaries to you. The more you listen, the better he will trust you.

    My cats hiss at me when I over step. If it's appropriate, I back off. If I am about to do something necessary they dislike, I acknowledge to them that I know that they will be unhappy about it and tell them why it is necessary, and keep on. (like nail trimming, or weighing for example)

    They also hiss at each other now and then. It's just communication.
     
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  16. Cully

    Cully PetForums VIP

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    :)
     
  17. Cully

    Cully PetForums VIP

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    I do actually talk to him quite a lot, as I do Misty.
    I don't think he gets a lot of attention at home, I've never seen any toys there and he has a 24/7 open cat flap. I've seen him in the garden at 2 - 4 am, and he's inside my kitchen as soon as I open the window at about 6.30am.
    Poor lad, I long for him to have some affection.
    I'll back off and hope he comes to me in time.
     
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  18. TriTri

    TriTri Standing up for cats

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    @Cully this reminds me of my sisters old cat Rosie. I mentioned her on here recently. It’s like lorilu says, it’s a boundary thing, Sooty has plenty of space outside, but indoors can feel cornered or overwhelmed and just needs you step back a step. I’m sure he thinks the world of you, but needs his own space. Imagine his old life was like Rosie’s (my sister’s old cat):
    https://www.petforums.co.uk/threads/how-do-i-cope-with-rehoming-my-much-loved-cat.522662/
    I’ve taken on two black cats before, similar in Sooty’s behaviour, which eventually changed.... just give Sooty more time.
     
    #18 TriTri, Jan 5, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2020
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  19. Cully

    Cully PetForums VIP

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    @TriTri ,He's ok with me around him while he's eating. I have to lean over him and pass things over his head, also using the taps and doing washing up right next to him and he's fine, even when his tail droops in the full washing up bowl. He doesn't mind household noises, so he's obviously used to it.
    When he doesn't think I'm looking he will explore the flat, quite happy to poke his nose into cupboards and boxes. I have to be careful as Misty does get a bit miffed at times. She just sits and watches him, or goes into a loaf. She sometimes licks her lips too so I know she must feel a bit stressed. Maybe afraid he is taking over her territory. They play together, occasionally batting each other, but no big problems so far.
    She deliberately brings him in sometimes and they sneak off together to the bathroom. It's funny, as she lets him lead while she keeps looking back at me to check if I've seen them. Like a pair of teenagers sneaking off to the bedroom.
    He may go into the bathroom but he never uses her litter tray.
    He does, after all, already have an owner, who I know is not a well man. I just hope that I'm providing Sooty with a little bit of what he's missing from home. I couldn't bear the thought of him going hungry. Unfortunately I have to draw a line once Misty is in for the night and not allow Sooty inside. He is free roaming and would never accept being shut in, and I could never allow Misty out after dark.
    I just hope they remain friends.
     
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  20. SuboJvR

    SuboJvR Joey’s Mummy

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    It could just be a habit as well, I think? Something he is used to doing, even though he doesn't mean anything by it.

    The fact he comes to you for head bumps sure shows you he trusts you and appreciates you :)

    I bet in another six months time, you will have more milestones in how his behaviour develops. It's something I have seen with my dad's boys, we don't notice the small steps day to date but looking back in big chunks there's leaps and bounds.
     
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