Why hiss of a cat makes your skin crawl?

One of the scariest vocalizations made by cats is hissing. Sometimes, if you enter an empty room and hear a sudden hiss,  skin or your neck may crawl. It’s that horrifying for a good cause and very well relates to the reason why cats hiss in the first place.

Cat hissing
Attribution Some rights reserved by The Consumerist

But have you ever got angry at your cat just because he hisses at you? It comes natural because we tend to assume hissing as a sign of disrespect and call our cats ungrateful for feeding, caring or even saving from certain death in shelter.

However, you can’t blame your cat for hissing, it’s beyond his control.

Hissing is an involuntarily reflex exhibited by cats when they are scared by a surprise. Involuntarily means it is controlled by his nervous system and the cat cannot help but hiss. It’s like when a fist comes to your face, you duck. It’s a defensive reflex.

But do you know what is common for most reflexes? While with exceptions, most of them have something to do with the survival of an animal.

For example, if a human baby falls backwards, his hands will move upwards in order to grab in the “fur” of his mother. If the food blocks your airway, you will cough. If a cat is scared by a surprise, it will hiss.

Now, how can a hiss save a cat in conditions of life threat?

It’s easy. What do you think, which other sound is the closest to a hissing cat? Yes, it’s a snake – the most dangerous reptile in the jungle.

Many animals, including cats, have another reflex developed. If they hear a hiss of a snake, they will either jump up, jump back, freeze or flee. And they will do it instinctively, as a reflex to the hiss. Why?

Because an animal who hisses, the snake, that is, can send others over the rainbow bridge with one bite. One… tiny… bite. Thus, the animal will not have a second chance to lean back, freeze or run away if a snake gets in their way.

So, the mother nature made the cat replicate this sound. When a cat is surprised by a larger predator, he hisses, which makes the attacker freeze. Not for long though, but a fraction of a second in enough for the cat to retreat to safety. And it’s all thank to two involuntarily reflexes – hissing, and freezing because of it.

So, next time when your cat hisses at you, don’t be surprised it makes skin or your neck crawl. Remember, in the wild, this sound could send you over the rainbow bridge with just a tiny bite.

But your cat? He cannot help that, he hisses without his own will in charge, he does not want you to go to the other side  he is just scared, and this is why your cat hisses.