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Why Is My Cat Growling: Disease, Aggression & More

Does your cat growl? Learn the various reasons they do this behavior and find out when to see a vet.

Stella Vickers and Patches the Cat

Last Updated: January 18, 2024 | 3 min read

dark grey cat growling close up

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Cats are considered to be very important pets in countless households across the world. They have an extensive vocal range, including hisses, chirps, purrs, and yowls, although most cats meow. However, cats can tend to growl at people – even if they were calm a few moments before. A growling cat is commonly interpreted as a bad sign, but it doesn’t always mean something serious when your cat growls at you.

So, What Is Growling?

The word ‘growl’ refers to a low, throaty noise usually accompanied by bared teeth. When animals growl, it can be an indicator of hostility or stress. When a cat growls, it usually means that they’re angry, but it can also indicate further health problems.

However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes a cat may feel protective over their possessions or need some space from people. After all, even your cuddly lap cat might get tired of all the constant attention and need some downtime.

Do Cats Normally Growl?

Although the behavior of growling is usually observed in dogs or other canine species, it’s not uncommon for cats to growl. Some cat breeds are very vocal, like Maine Coons, which make various noises from chirps to purrs. Others tend to be quieter.

If you have a vocal cat, pay attention to its body language to tell if they’re actually growling or just testing its voice for fun. For example, a frightened or angry cat will usually have its tail bushed up, ears flattened, and pupils dilated. In contrast, a relaxed feline should have normal pupils and its ears in a resting position. They might even be so relaxed they are breathing with their mouth open.

Why Do Cats Growl At Each Other?

Sometimes, felines will growl at one another, which is typically a form of aggression. This can signify that these cats are about to get into a nasty fight. However, cats may also growl at one of their siblings or friends because they look or smell unfamiliar (for example, if you’ve just taken one of your kitties to the vet). Finally, some cats growl to show off and display dominance toward any hostile strangers. They might even lick and then bite them too.

Some Reasons Why Your Cat May Growl

white cat growling as their belly is rubbed by woman wearing a ring

Possible reasons why your furry feline is growling may include:

  • Disease. Have you noticed your cat is more listless than usual, not eating as much of their food or hiding out more? They may be sick with something such as a dental disease or a urinary tract infection. If you think this is the case, see your veterinarian right away.
  • They’re feeling threatened. If you’ve recently adopted a new pet, your cat may be intimidated and trying to assert dominance. Cats don’t cope very well with change, and the animals should be slowly introduced rather than forcing them into a house together.
  • Your cat is being possessive. Taking something that belongs to your cat is an easy way to end up with a bite or a scratch. For example, mother cats are very protective of their kittens. In the same way, some felines get territorial over their toys, food, and even litter boxes.
  • You are playing too roughly. When a cat gets very absorbed in a game, the difference between play and reality can become mixed up. An overexcited cat may begin scratching, growling, or being generally aggressive. If this occurs, the playtime should be stopped, and your cat should be given time alone to calm down.
  • Something is stressing them out. Changes in an environment are complex for cats to adapt to. A stressed or scared cat will often hide from people and may have a reduced appetite. One way for your cat to release their stress is to buy them a scratching pad or post so they can take out any pent-up aggression. You can also purchase calming plug-in pheromones to help a cat relax.
  • Your cat may also be in an angry mood. When a feline feels particularly irritable, it might hiss, growl, or flatten its ears as a warning. Take this behavior as a sign that your cat needs some time to cool off.

How Do You React To A Growling Cat?

Since there are many reasons why your cat may be making this noise, you can handle the situation in a few different ways. For example, if you believe your cat is stressed out or scared by something, you should leave them alone and give them space.

They may also be getting aggressive during play, in which it’s ideal to stop the game and give your cat time to cool down. However, if your cat appears sick or injured, the ideal thing to do is take them to a veterinarian and get them checked out. The worst thing you could do is to yell at or attempt to discipline your feline. Doing so will only make them more scared and aggressive. It may also be interpreted as hostile by your cat, making them trust you less.

Final Thoughts

When your cat growls at you or another animal, it doesn’t always mean they’re sick or injured. They might just be feeling angry or needing some space. However, suppose you suspect something is wrong with your cat’s health. In that case, you should see a veterinarian sooner than later. Never discipline your cat physically, as they won’t understand what they’ve done wrong and will likely become more stressed. Instead, try using positive reinforcement like treats and petting when they do something right. In addition, try to keep a non-stressful environment for your cat by reducing loud noises and giving them plenty of space.

orange tabby cat about to eat a ice cream cone

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