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Reason for hissing?

2285 Views 11 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  LaurulFeatherCat
Trying to figure out what is happening with Barnaby & Baxter. This happens very seldom, but it happened last night.

Last night I heard what sounded like hissing coming from the basement. Just as I was about to go down there Barnaby comes running up with a puffy tail and Baxter chasing him and they both go behind the couch where there is more hissing.

I locked Baxter up in a room for about a half hour and when I let him out they sniffed each other and that was all. A little while later Barnaby was licking Baxter's head which he usually does before wanting to play fight but it didn't result in anything and they both just laid down.

About an hour later I hear hissing from the basement again. I go down there and Baxter is up on a bar stool and Barnaby is on the floor behind the bar. When Barnaby came around to the front of the bar he looked up at Baxter and hissed & growled. A few seconds later Baxter jumped down and went to the other side of the basement where there is a couch. Barnaby slowly made his way over there with his tail down low and would hiss and growl when he saw Baxter. Barnaby started to go behind the couch and when I went to pick Baxter up he ran to get away and ended up behind the couch where there was a short fight so I had to separate them again. Shortly after, they're fine.

Every time something similar to this happens it seems Baxter is the aggressor but if that is the case, if Barnaby is on the defensive, why is he following Baxter and hissing? He keeps a safe distance and doesn't initiate anything unless Baxter comes close, but he just stares at him and hisses.

We thought maybe it's territorial because Barnaby does spend a lot of time downstairs, but we took them both down there today and there is no problem.

So, what is Barnaby trying to say when he has his tail low but he's following Baxter just to hiss & growl at him?
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the only "cat language" i pick up is from jackson galaxy, and it seems to fit so that's good enough for me.

generally, a cat hisses meaning, "get away from me," or because they're afraid. baci is afraid of houdini (who's half his size and half his age but very into play fighting, swatting, chasing, etc.) he always hisses at houdini when he gets too close, but he also tolerates him.

that's why when you get a kitten and leave the carrier out, the other cats will walk by it and hiss, even though they were the ones who walked by. i always equate hissing with fuzzing up (or puffing out or whatever you call it)--it's a defensive tactic and not offensive.

houdini hisses wildly at any cat who comes home from the vet. i've never seen this before but my vet says it's pretty common. it only lasts for a day or two then everything goes back to normal.
Yeah I always thought a hiss was a way of saying "get away from me!" but it seems contradictory to have him walking toward Baxter saying "get away from me!" :lol:
I've seen similar behavior before. My grandmother had outside cats, inside, fed and treated hungry or wounded strays, etc. So I've seen a lot of hissing. My grandmother had a cat named Fluffy and one named Callie; every so often if Callie was doing something that made Fluffy uncomfortable, she'd do a walk-by-hissing - not too fast, not too slow. We always assumed in that instance, that it was her way of saying, "Hey, you're making me uncomfortable/irritating me, so if you get in my face, I will defend myself." It could be something similar. I have come to realize hissing can vary with the situation. It sounds like it could be a warning. Just a guess. I have no idea what the downstairs has to do with it, though. Could be territorial. Is it like a ground level floor, or like a basement? If a basement, is it possible another animal could've gotten in?
Barnaby will occasionally hiss at Baxter when he gets in his space, and Baxter is like a "me me me" little kid that always wants what someone else is having. If Barnaby finds a toy to play with Baxter will sometimes suddenly decide he wants to play with that toy and take it away. Same thing with a window sill, lap, brushing or any kind of attention/affection from me. If Barnaby is getting it Baxter decides he wants it too and invades his space.

Still, when any of this happens there isn't any hostility, even when he cuts in on his food. Seldom does he hiss and when he does it's usually a single "get away from me" hiss and it's over with but these last couple bouts are far beyond that and they need to be separated to cool off.

The basement is a finished lower level and no other animals could have gotten in. The house was built brand new less than 2 years ago. I thought about territory but there are a lot of times they are both down there without any incident.
You said it was a specific area down there that you find them . . . Have you checked it? Maybe something down there that they could want? Smell, object, food, plants, etc, etc. Now you've got me wondering what's going on.
I don't think it's a specific area. It started on one end of the basement and continued on the opposite end.
I assume from their names they are both males. I think they are playing at dominance games. It sounds like Barnaby is the slightly less dominant one. Hissing without physical attack is just communication; maybe 'you make me uncomfortable' or 'I see you there' or even 'hey, what do you want to do now?" If cats hiss, mix it up for a brief physical contact and then break themselves up, it is just social sparring and not a fight.

Think about it. You are with your friend. Your friend makes a statement you do not totally agree with. You tell your friend this. Your friend retorts something back and you laugh and... social exchange over. This is cats hissing, spating and leaving. Cats are much more physical than humans during social interactions.

Of course one of them might have a toy or prize object behind that sofa they are trying to defend. Max Cat hides his toys behind the recliner in the living room and has a fit when one of the other cats goes behind his chair and smells his toys.
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Laurul may have made a good point here. That does make sense.
The thing is, it turns more hostile and ends up in an actual fight if I let it go and not separate them. Barnaby also growls during these incidents.

I never see it start so I don't know who or what starts it. At least we didn't have any incidents last night.
We just went through something similar with our two female littermates. The Submissive one was on a hissing/growling/fighting tear for about a week. Whatever set her off it let to a fur flying fight and hostilities ensued. She'd go around the house hunting and keeping a close eye on her dominant sister. If she saw her she hissed/growled and generally tried to warn her off.

She was sweet as can be with us, but her sister was public enemy #1. I noticed the dominant one started slinking around corners herself waiting to be attacked. There's a thread about it when I was trying to figure it out.

My conclusion was it was a dominance thing exacerbated by my submissive kitty's fear instinct. She's the huntress/nervous one who startles at noises and hides in corners.

Could be that Barnaby got tired of Baxter pushing him around and is making it known he's had enough. He's challenging Baxter with the following and growling/hissing but not brave enough to outright attack him. I saw that with my Cricket. She did a lot of challenging of her big sister, but then ran off to a corner. And immediately after her one smackdown of her sister (we separated them when the dominant one was backed into a corner thereby making her the loser), well Bella was on a warpath the next day to get even.

FWIW we used a Feliway plug-in where both cats like to hang out the most. In a week they calmed down and are friends again.

I always thought hissing to mean "Get away from me! I don't like you!". Growling means "I really hate you and if you cross this line I'll scratch your eyes out." Puffy tail means "One of us will die and it won't be me!" Put them all together and you have an all out cat fight.
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If your cats are not tearing chunks out of one another during these 'fights' or drawing blood, leave them settle the dominance issue. You constantly interfering is just going to prolong the fighting. As long as physical injuries are not occurring, then they have it under control.

The only time I interfere with my cats' social spats is when they happen in my lap or on my bed. I have a firm rule there can be no fighting on me and I often have four or five cats on or around me on the bed or in my chair. Otherwise I just let them have their spats and they never go any where, do any physical harm or cause big problems in the pride. Every one knows their status in the pride and every one does just fine in regard to a relationship with one another. I do give extra attention to the omega cat, Inky, because she has not cat friends, but as long as she is getting her daily pets and pats and treats Inky seems quite content.
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