Cat Growling 101: What It Means and Why They Do It

Felines are curious, puzzling and often times quite misunderstood creatures. Strangely enough, sometimes it seems as though they’re coming from a completely different planet than ours. It’s not only that we don’t speak fluent meow – it’s just the way cats are.

If you’re one of those pet parents who are having a hard time understanding their kitty – don’t worry! We’ve all been there!

As a cat owner myself I know how frustrating it can be. You’re doing your best and you still can’t understand what you’re doing wrong. Your cat’s refusing to play with you or snuggle, or even let you touch it without growling at you. Oh, yes, that growling can be quite alarming and even scary! After all, cats are excellent predators and can leave some pretty nasty bite marks which could and will scar you for weeks!

What is growling and what’s the deal with your cat?

Growling is a raspy, guttural sound that kitties produce on a number of occasions. Sometimes it may sound like a grunt, whereas other times it may remind you a bit of yowling. It all depends on the cat’s mood, vocal cords and the reason behind its actions.

The growling is usually preceded by hissing or is followed by it.

In cases like these cats are giving the so-called double warning. This type of vocalization might seem unnatural if the kitty is growling at an inanimate object or at a person for no clear reason. Go check out my article on cat hissing if you want to find out more about why your pet might be producing the hissing sounds.

Why is your cat growling?

Cats don’t growl because they’re grumpy in general or because they’re trying to punish their owners. True, they might have woken on the wrong side of the bed, but that’s not the only reason. Here are the most common causes of growling.

Warning

If you take a closer look at your pet’s body language, you’ll see some warning signs. Ear movement, bristled fur, tail position, etc. are just some of the treacherous signs. Growling as a warning is usually accompanied by a specific body position and bristled fur/ tail. The eyes are focused and the cat’s entire body is alert.

Kitties give warnings like these when they don’t want to be approached any further. Sometimes they’re protecting their territory from some harmless animal on the other side of the window. In other cases they’re trying to warn off their owners because they want their personal space.

Fear

Not all warnings are derived from your cat’s aggression or territorial behavior. Cats can get scared by almost anything. The growling can be derived simply from fear.

As a way of making themselves bigger and more menacing, kitties bristle up their fur and produce wild sounds. If your furball thinks someone or something poses any type of threat, it could be growling out of fear. And if that’s the case, you can try to calm it down with a more successful outcome compared to trying to calming it down when it’s truly angry.

Anger and annoyance

The worst type of cat is the annoyed one. Vengeful, agitated and utterly unpredictable, it can do some serious damage to you and your home.

Just like we, human beings, produce irritated sounds like grunting, cats growl at people, animals or objects. You can even think of it as cursing. And if the cat keeps growling, you’ll see that its expression changes too – from mildly annoyed to full-time-bare-teeth raging. In cases like these your best option is to back away.

Dominance

When your pet is upset by something or someone it might want to show dominance. That’s mostly caused by the inborn territorial sense of felines. If that’s a persisting issue, you might want to opt for an animal behaviorist or trainer’s services.

Physical pain

Yes, cats can indeed growl out of pain. Similarly to the way they would meow or cry out of pain, a physical injury might make them growl. Injuries or diseases like arthritis and urinary tract infection can lead to growling. This type of growling occurs when someone is trying to approach or touch the kitty. However, you may also hear a growling-like sound if your pet’s own actions are worsening its hurting – like a painful landing for example.

Regardless of why your cat is growling at you or someone/ something else, don’t ever punish it!

Try to pinpoint the reason behind the sounds. Shouting or punishing your pet in any other way will only stress it out or anger it even further. Needless to say, this will deepen the cat’s negative emotions and might even ruin the pet-owner bond.

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Emily Parker
 

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

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