Why does my cat growl at me? -7 facts you should know

Why does my cat growl at me? -7 facts you should know

What causes a cat to growl?

By growling, the cat communicates its rage or sense of insecurity. It is better to simply ignore the cat until it calms down. 

If directed at you, this could also indicate that your cat wishes for you to follow it. Probably to its food bowl.

A fascinating study about the sounds that cats create was published a few years ago in the Journal of Veterinary Science

The researchers evaluated 21 distinct cat vocalisations, comparing them using audiograms — visual representations of sound. They discovered some truly fascinating facts.

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They discovered, for example, that domestic cats have a more sophisticated repertory of noises than any other carnivorous mammal, including wild cats. 

This astonished the experts, as they had assumed that a small prey animal, such as our house cats, would speak less. Noisy prey animals are frequently mistaken for someone else’s dinner.

When do cats growl?

Every type of animal growls. While we are all familiar with dogs growling, even small creatures such as hedgehogs and rats growl (albeit a rat’s growl is ultrasonic).

The grumble is a Level 1 hostility in the majority of mammals. It’s a warning of sorts, an indicator that the animal possesses more powerful weapons that they are not employing. Yet.

Cats growl in a variety of circumstances. This is a brief list of often occurring instances in which cats growl, and it is by no means exhaustive.

Any cat who is fearful, sad, worried, frustrated, perplexed, or agitated may convey her feelings with a growl.

When there are other cats or dogs around.

A growl may be a cat’s way of communicating, “I’m not interested in interacting with you.” Alternatively, “I am the dominant one.”

When petted.

A cat suffering from “stroking intolerance”[6] may be unable to tolerate a particular sort of caressing or a specific amount of petting. 

When a cat is uncomfortable with being touched or with being touched in a certain way, it may growl as a warning. If a petting human disregards the warning, the uncomfortable cat may progress to hissing, biting, and scratching.

When they are defending their food or toys.

Cats use growling to express possession of food or objects.

When a cat has discomfort.
According to studies

“pain associated with physical conditions such as urinary tract infections, dental disease, trauma, arthritis, and certain metabolic diseases such as hyperthyroidism can cause cats to growl.”

If your cat’s growling is uncommon for him, or if the growling is continuous, have him evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

When a cat feels frightened.

Is your cat’s growl reserved for the veterinarian? Growling is your cat’s way of communicating her stress or anxiety.

Numerous instances in which your cat may growl

When my cat plays, why does he growl?

When a cat wrestles with its prey, it is not uncommon for it to growl. Playing is a form of hunting practise, and the growling is often simply following its predatory nature. Hissing and growling during play is considered typical.

If you hear a higher-pitched cry while your cat is playing with another cat, one of the cats may be in agony. It is more than regular play in this scenario.

My  Cat Growls for nothing

Numerous factors can cause your cat to growl. It may appear as though your cat is growling for no apparent reason. In this scenario, the cat is most likely asking you to immediately back off. When this occurs, it serves as a warning, and the cat will not attack until you ignore it.

When touched, a cat growls

When cats growl in response to being stroked, it is almost always a sign of fear and thus protection. 

Consider additional indicators that the growling is motivated by fear. Additional indicators may include dilated pupils, bending back of the ears, or a twitching tail.

When I pick up my cat, why does he growl at me?

If you have a cat, playing with it is one of the most pleasurable activities. 

It’s astonishing how much you enjoy each other. Cats, in general, are amazing, and spending time with them is a joy.

One of the most affectionate things you can do for your cat is to take it up and snuggle it like a baby.

However, it occasionally growls at you when you pick it up. What does this mean? 

This indicates that it does not wish to be taken up and instead wishes to be left alone.

Therefore, leave it alone until it requests to be taken up again. Perhaps your cat simply wants to relax because she is in agony, and hence refuses to play with you.

What are your options if your cat growls?

If your cat growls at you, pay attention to the growl, both for your sake and his. 

For your own safety, avoid allowing the growl to escalate into a hissing, spitting, clawing, or biting. You have been cautioned. Now, heed the warning.

For your cat’s sake, pay attention to what your cat says. Your domestic cat is largely defenceless. He has almost no influence over her environment or existence. 

However, he may be attempting to communicate to you that anything you’re doing is making him feel uneasy, afraid, or insecure. 

Allow his space if possible. Allow him to be alone if you believe you are lavishing him with more physical affection than he desires.

If a cat and a dog in the same family growl, consider if you’ve chosen the right creatures to live together, whether you’ve set up your home safe for both animals, and whether you’ve properly introduced your pets to one another.

If the growling is limited to the cats in your household, it is not acceptable to just allow the cats to “fight it out.”

 If the growling occurs between an established cat and a new cat in the household, it indicates that the cats have not been properly introduced. 

If growling happens between cats who have always been friendly, conduct an assessment of your family. Consider what has changed. What is the source of stress?

Make sure that there are sufficient resources (food dishes, water bowls, litter boxes, and toys) distributed throughout the house to prevent the cats from having to share.

Make sure that there are sufficient “escape hatches,” particularly vertical space, that can provide an exit for a cat that isn’t wanting to escalate a confrontation, but simply wants out.

If the growling occurs between two cats who have never been friends, remove them and seek assistance from a specialist.

Contact a board-certified veterinary behaviourist or a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB). A professional can assist you in identifying and resolving domestic dispute before it worsens.

Final Thoughts

Physical discomfort is the most obvious physical reason of Growling in cats. When it comes to cat Growling or hissing, it is necessary to address underlying physical or behavioural problems.

There are numerous possible causes, and thus recognising the triggering events may assist in easing and/or resolving aggressive issues entirely.

As cat owners are well aware, cats are capable of making a wide variety of sounds. There are a plethora of hidden emotions and body signals in feline behaviour. 


Tavernier, Chloé, et al. “Feline Vocal Communication.” Journal of Veterinary Science, The Korean Society of Veterinary Science, Jan. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7000907/.  

Brudzynski, Stefan M. “Medial Cholinoceptive Vocalization Strip in the Cat and Rat Brains: Initiation of Defensive Vocalizations.” Handbook of Behavioral Neuroscience, Elsevier, 13 Jan. 2010, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1569733910700370.

Johnson, Dan H. “MISCELLANEOUS SMALL MAMMAL BEHAVIOR.” Exotic Pet Behavior, W.B. Saunders, 15 May 2009, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9781416000099500141.

“Handbook of Behavioral Neuroscience.” Handbook of Behavioral Neuroscience | ScienceDirect.com by Elsevier, 2020, www.sciencedirect.com/handbook/handbook-of-behavioral-neuroscience.

Crowell-Davis, Sharon L. “Feline Behavioral Disorders.” Handbook of Small Animal Practice (Fifth Edition), W.B. Saunders, 15 May 2009, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9781416039495501230.

Kelly, Cait Rohan. “Let’s Talk Cat Growling – Why Does Your Cat Growl and How Should You React?” Catster, 19 Jan. 2020, www.catster.com/cat-behavior/cat-growling-why-does-your-cat-growl-how-should-you-react.

“Aggression Between Cats in Your Household.” ASPCAwww.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/aggression-between-cats-your-household.

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Why does my cat growl at me? -7 facts you should know

About Content Reviewer & Vet Expert OnBoard: Antonella, qualified veterinarian. Antonella is passionate about Cats and loves sharing her knowledge and research with you.

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