The Savannah cat breed is a cross between a domestic cat and a serval cat. It is elegant in appearance, with large ears and a triangular head atop a long, thin neck. It is also much taller than a normal house cat thanks to its long, slender legs.
Savannahs are often described as having a personality closer to that of a dog than a cat. They are quite expensive, but those who choose to buy these cats as pets do so for their wonderful personalities and dispositions.
Hissing is one of the traits of Savannah cats, and this can be a bit intimidating or even scary, especially since they are so much taller than a typical cat.
There are various reasons a Savannah cat might hiss. We will discuss those in this article, as well as what you should do if your Savannah starts hissing at you.
To learn more about the behavior of Savannah cats, just keep reading.
Do Savannah cats hiss?
Savannah cats hiss in the same way any other domesticated cat would hiss. Wild servals also hiss, but their hiss can be much louder (and more frightening!) than that of a domestic cat. Because both their parents – or ancestors – can hiss, this trait is naturally passed down to subsequent generations of Savannahs.
While every Savannah cat is unique, many owners have discovered that Savannahs, as a breed, have a unique hiss that they describe as fascinating. Numerous owners have observed that their hiss is louder than that of a typical house cat, and they can even sound more like a snake than a cat. This is thanks to their wild serval ancestors.
Because not all Savannahs are the same, these cats might produce a variety of noises at a variety of frequencies. In other words, while many have a distinct hiss that sounds similar to a snake’s, do not be concerned if yours sounds like a normal cat’s hiss instead.
What is the origin of the Savannah cat’s hiss?
Nobody really knows when or how Savannahs – or any domesticated cats – learned to hiss. However, there are a few widely accepted hypotheses. The hissing of a snake is thought by some experts to have taught cats how to hiss before they were first domesticated. For defense against their predators, cats began to imitate the hiss of a snake in an attempt to scare away attackers.
Thus, the idea of a Savannah making a snake-like sound is not too far-fetched after all! Cats simply began hissing over many, many centuries, and this is now one of the most common sounds they make in certain situations. Cats are not taught to hiss by their mothers; rather, it is a matter of instinct.
All cats are one-of-a-kind household pets. Some hiss louder than others, and some do not hiss at all, depending on their breed and temperament. However, even if you have never heard your Savannah hiss, this does not rule out the possibility that they can or do. Instead, it might just mean they have not yet had a reason to do so. You might be relieved that you have not heard your Savannah hiss, once you know the reasons for cats’ hissing in the first place.
What is my Savannah cat hissing?
Your cat wants your attention
If your Savannah cat is hissing, you might assume it is for some negative reason, but this is not always the case. They could be hissing just because they are trying to catch your attention. They may feel you have been distant and are telling you, in their own way, that they would like you to spend some time with them.
When this is the probable cause of your cat’s hissing, take a few minutes out of your day to be extra affectionate, so that they do not feel neglected regardless of how busy you are.
Hissing could be inherited behavior
Savannah cats are the direct result of a cross between a serval and a domestic cat. Servals are well-known for their hissing, so it can be deduced that this trait is a characteristic inherited by Savannahs from their wild ancestors. While there may sometimes be a reason for their hissing, at other times it might be something they do without even realizing it.
Hissing can be an act of aggression
Cats, in general, are territorial creatures, and if they feel threatened by someone or something, they will attempt to scare them away in order to defend themselves. A hiss could be interpreted as a simple warning to refrain from an action they disapprove of.
The majority of indoor cats hiss when they are bothered or when they feel their space is being intruded upon. Other indoor pets or children may act in ways that annoy the cat from time to time, and the dissatisfied cat will likely hiss as a warning.
The cat could be feeling ill or uncomfortable
Another reason for Savannah cats to hiss is if something is wrong with them. They could be ill or in pain, or anxious about something. In this case, the hissing – possibly accompanied by other vocalizations – may be persistent until the cat feels relief from the uncomfortable situation.
You could be mistaking the cat’s heavy breathing for hissing
Heavy breathing can sometimes be mistaken for hissing. When cats are active or playful, they tend to take in a lot of air, and this increased air flow can cause a sound similar to hissing. This is normal and should subside within a few minutes; if not, the cat may be attempting to communicate with a hiss about something they do not agree with.
What do I do if my savannah cat is hissing?
If your Savannah’s hissing is clearly a response to something or someone who is causing them to feel threatened, there are a few things you can do to help calm them down. First and foremost, you should try to deescalate the situation promptly. A lot of the time, this entails removing the animal, person, or object that is causing your Savannah so much stress.
If it is another animal or person causing the stress, do not approach your Savannah even if they are not hissing at you. This may cause them to become even more stressed, and they may lash out at you, especially if they do not understand what is happening.
It is important to have a place in your home where your Savannah can escape to when they are upset or stressed. All cats need a safe haven where they can be alone and unwind in peace. This could be an entire room, a bed that they can crawl under, or a piece of furniture they can hide behind. A cat tree or condo for your Savannah to climb is also a popular choice.
What do I do if my Savannah cat is hissing at me?
If your Savannah is hissing at you, allow them to go and be alone for a while. They might be stressed by something you are doing, or even something you are wearing, and you could be totally unaware. Cats are fickle creatures that can become stressed or scared by something as insignificant as you wearing a hat or sunglasses. Allow your Savannah the freedom to run away and hide, so they can de-stress.
If your cat is frozen in place and will not stop hissing at you, try to slowly exit the room rather than yelling at them. Remember that hissing is often a last resort before attacking, and you definitely do not want to encourage that situation. Savannahs are not known to attack their owners, but if yours feels threatened for any reason, it is a good idea to deescalate the situation as soon as possible.
Whenever your Savannah hisses, remove the cause of their hissing, even if that cause is you. Allow your pet enough time to be alone and decompress if they have fled to hide after hissing at you. Do not waste your time looking for them; they will come out of hiding and return to you as soon as they feel the threat is over.
Studying your pet to learn their likes and dislikes is the best way to understand their reasons for hissing.
Like their ancestors, Savannah cats are very capable hissers. However, their hiss is slightly different from that of a regular house cat, probably due to their part-serval ancestry. In fact, their hiss often resembles that of a snake, which can be a little frightening if you have never heard them hiss before.
One of the most common reasons for a Savannah – or any cat – to hiss is when they feel threatened, and this is often their last resort before attacking. However, if you have an early-generation Savannah with a lot of serval characteristics, you might also hear them hiss when they want attention.
Image: istockphoto.com / photo by Volchanskiy