Why Do Cats Growl? Different Kitty Sounds And Their Meanings

Oluniyi Akande
Jan 24, 2024 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Nov 02, 2021
Two cats growling facing each other on a wooden stool
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.4 Min

In a good mood, cats call with the most adorable meow, but when they are upset you may have to get ready to hear some aggressive noises.

Cats have been distinctive creatures from the get-go, which is why is quite difficult to tell how a cat feels. Nevertheless, you can still understand your cat growls just like you know what purring means, especially if accompanied by some physical sign or behavioral trait, you simply need to observe.

We know it may be a task to watch out for every movement your cat makes, which is we will help you decode your cat's behavior, especially when dealing with a growling cat. You will gain a perspective on the meaning of growls mean, what they sound like, body language cues, triggering factors in the environment, and how to stop the aggression and growling. You don't have to go frantic when you hear your cat's growl in the distance or if she's hissing at another animal because now you'll know why.

If you are a kitty parent, we've got some tips that will come in handy. Check out why do cats trill and why do cats sneeze.

Is it normal for cats to growl?

When a cat is growling, it's similar to when you shout or cry when you're annoyed or in pain. So, yes, it is normal for cats to growl because they feel aggression or threatened just like we do. Although growling is normal, it still suggests discomfort, and should be concerned about what is causing your cat to growl and whether you can do something about it.

There are different reasons behind all sounds your cats make and commonly they use a growl as a warning. Your cat's body goes into alert mode and stiffens up with its fur all bristled, an upright, ruffled tail, positioned ear movements, and eyes focused. This behavior coupled with a growling or hissing means your cat is sending warning signals for either you or another animal to back away because it wants space. Some cats growl as a defense mechanism when an intrusive cat or another animal enters their territory, even if they are harmless. You will also notice kittens growl or hiss when they meet a stranger, which is a warning that they don't want to be approached by an unfamiliar individual. Another situation in which cats growl as if they are scared, and if there's one thing all of us know about cats is that they will get startled at the drop of a spoon. If your feline is easily threatened by a loud noise, new animals, or even a change in environment, there is a chance the cat's going to growl or hiss. Unfortunately, the ones who have witnessed the wrath of a cat know how easily they get annoyed. Cats getting angry or irritated is usually accompanied by growling and hissing by baring their teeth. Territorial disputes cause several behavior changes among cats, and one of them is cats growling at each other to create noise and assert dominance. An injured cat, or one that's in physical pain and discomfort, will most likely growl at anyone that approaches it. Certain cats tend to growl or make a vocal rumbling sound when they are eating. They react in this manner if someone is getting close to their food bowl, especially other animals like dogs. Sometimes, the growl is more of an indication than aggression to let their owner know that they are hurt. Sometimes, old cats begin growling if they are suffering from UTIs or arthritis.

Kitty Growling Sounds And What They Mean

Cats have various indicative signs when they want us to know something, from sounds like purring, rubbing, and yowling, to floor kneads, growling, simple meows, and chattering. Cats are known to communicate through vocal modulation and physical touch, we just have to notice what certain sounds and behavior mean. Similarly different cat growling sounds can mean a variety of factors depending on the situation and their body language.

Before understanding what your different growls among felines mean, observe their body and how they are positioned. If the ears are forward, it means they are alert, if backward like 'airplane ears', they are angry or frightened, and if they are moving in different directions, your kitty is listening and being attentive to the tiniest of sounds. Your cat's tail also has a lot to say for itself. A bristled, fluffy tail means your cat is frightened or angry, if its upright with the fur flat then they are happy or inquisitive, if its low or tucked between their legs, they're probably feeling nervous or insecure, if it's moving back and forth, watch out because the faster the movement the more agitated the cat, upright, quivering tail usually means they are happy, or in unneutered cats, they are going to spray pheromones. Notice the eyes as well because dilated pupils mean nervous and aggressive if entirely dilated, but sometimes means playful too, and if they are constricted, your cat is either high aggressive so give it some space, or it's just content. Your cat's body also shows what it wants you to know. If the back is arched with spiked-out fur, your cat is either be a sign of anger or fear, but if the fur is flat, it means you're welcome to touch. When a cat is on her back and makes purr sounds, she's feeling extremely relaxed, but lying on the back and growling means she is upset and will strike. Now, we move on to the different cat growl types, but make sure you watch out for any behavior signs from the list above to accurately know what your cat is up to. Sometimes, loud purrs are mistaken for growling cats, but recognizing this behavior should no longer be a problem because you know what to look out for in their physical behavior. A low growl is usually a warning sign that the cat is under stress and wants to be given some space. A cat growling followed or preceded by bare-teeth hissing or spitting, definitely means something has triggered your cat and it's ready to fight. Kittens also display this behavior, only it does not always mean anger but may suggest that the tiny one is just being defensive. Sometimes, a weird prolonged moan is also mistaken for growling, but this is a yowl. The reason cats yowl is that they are sick, worried, or uncomfortable, mostly because of some territory issue or mating. Another intriguing sound made by cats, which may sound like a growl but isn't, is the caterwaul. These sounds are hollow and dense, something like 'ahh-roo-ugh'. Unspayed cats usually make this sound to inform the males that they are in heat. Oftentimes, screams can also be heard and mistaken for growling, but these noises maybe a head-on territorial dispute.

Cute Orange cat howling

Why do cats growl and hiss at their owners and other cats?

There can be a large jumble of reasons cats growl or hiss at their owners. If your cat has been doing that since she was a kitten, this means she has been poorly socialized, but if your cat hisses or growls at you suddenly, she may be frightened, in pain, or stressed.

Some cats don't like being interfered with when eating, and they would even hiss or growl at their owners if they get too close to their food. Sometimes, something in the surrounding, such as a loud sound or other animals, may cause stress in cats and their attention is diverted and fixated on the irritating object. When suddenly interrupted, the cat may get startled and growl or hiss at you, but once they realize it's their owner, they mostly calm down. Mild annoyance is another reason why cats hiss at their owners, especially when grooming like clipping nails, checking their fur, paws, or ears. Cats love their space and if anyone gets in the way, even their owners, they may growl or hiss when they've had enough. If your cat is acting weird and begins hiding or hissing if you try to touch it, you may be dealing with an injured or sick cat, and the only way to deal with this is to take the furball to the vet. In some cases, females display such behavior when they are pregnant, about to give birth, or already taking care of the young ones. If you've pet other dogs or animals when you were outside, and your cat is acting funny when you return, she's probably feeling threatened by the scent coming from your clothes.

How to stop your cat from growling?

Firstly, shouting at your cat or punishing them is not going to work. You need to understand that they are not dogs and using punishment will only make matters worse. The reason why they are acting like that could be a pain, fear, anxiety, stress, and anything that can trigger it. The best you can do is try to figure out why your cat is acting up and whether you can do something about it.

Start with letting your cat be on its own if it wants. Don't try to hold it or console it because constricting their movement will only make them go ballistic. If your cat shows signs of wanting to hide, let her, she'll come to you when she's safer. If possible, keep your distance, but try to communicate with her through supple vocal calls, nothing too loud or annoying, and do not stare into their eyes. Doing so intimidates them. Give your cat some time because it usually takes a few hours before she calms down. Eventually, bribe it with some food, start with a gentle pet, and work your way up. If you see signs of injury or pain, take it to the vet immediately.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do cats growl then why not take a look at why do dogs growl, or Bombay cat facts?

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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