Stray cat hissing when I go to feed her

There's a stray cat that's been coming around and I've been feeding her. The other day I went to put the food on the plate and she hissed at me for no reason. She has done this several more times.

I gave her food today and she didn't even eat. Is she sick?

Answer by kate
Hi, well if she is a stray or feral cat then her behavior towards you is perfectly normal. A hissing cat means that they are afraid of you and are trying to warn you off from coming any closer. if you are trying to befriend her then it can take quite a long time, the secret is to build her confidence and trust in you and she must do that at her own pace and must come to you. Any attempt by you to get near her or touch her will be seen as threatening behaviour so just continue to feed her and then move away from the food and some distance and just sit there, hopefully over time she will become less afraid of you and you will be able to closer to her or she may even come to you. But there are no garnatees with a feral cat that they will ever accept human friendship, it all depends on the individual cat.

Good Luck

Comments for Stray cat hissing when I go to feed her

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Shows what you know
by: Jon Martin

After a couple weeks of closing the door and making the cat come closer and stay there while I put his bowl of food in front of him, I can now pet and pick him up. He’s purring now when he sees me out and about. E now have a trust relationship between us. You have no idea what you’re talking about. A stray cat is not a has more intelligence.
I forgot to mention that I’m also an animal trainer. I wasn’t feeling the cat because it was hungry. I was feeding it to build a repore with it.

Hissing Stray cat
by: Jon Martin

I have one of those cats that will come to my sunroom door and look inside. When I see him I go to the door and with a bowl of cat food and when I open the door the cat will move about 4 feet away and sit there and hiss. He’s been doing this all winter. Now since he won’t come near me at all I will put his bowl down and I’ll stand there saying here’s your food. The cat won’t budge. So I then pick up the bowl and close the door. He then approaches the door. I open the door, he again moves away. I close the door again. We will do this about 5 times. Now it only take about 2 times and I can put the food right in front of him and he will start to eat with me standing there. I’ll teach him, it will just take time. I’m in no hurry. Oh I can’t keep his food out. Birds and raccoons, skunks and other animals will eat it. I only bought it for the cat. Birds and the other animals can find their own food.

Guy who thinks hissing is rude is an idiot
by: Giant cat lover

I was totally amazed and disgusted at the person who closes their door and refuses to feed a feral who hisses at him/her. Like a feral cat doesn’t already have an enormously difficult life, now u want him to behave politely in order to get a basic necessity to life. The reason he hisses is because he is terrified- possibly some crappy human did something terrible to hurt him in the past. Now u are just confirming that humans are rotten and should not be trusted. Like the other person who also responded, I have taken care of ferals for many years now and some of them have just naturally adjusted to humans but there is sometimes that kitty who hisses and runs away and no matter what kinda sweet talking and special treats, regular meals etc)- they just never come around. I am never inclined to punish a cat for not behaving with human manners. Or actually for any reason. If u love animals, u just love animals and don’t expect to enforce human behavior on them. I suspect people who will withhold food shouldn’t be around animals- or children for that matter. Cats don’t go to charm school and will usually warm up to kind hearted people if given a chance. My suspicion is that they know you are not one of them.

Hissing is not rude
by: Anonymous

Please don't stop feeding a feral cat because it hisses. They don't understand the concept of rudeness, they hiss because they are afraid of you getting too close. They want the food and love you for it, but they won't show it because they don't know how, never having been socialised with a human when they were kittens. To the man who shuts the door and refuses food because the cat hisses at him, you should go on leaving the food and love the cat anyway, no animal should be hurt this way simply because they have never learned appropriate emotions.And by the way, some ferals will never learn, but they are still worthy of human kindness, surely?

Ferals can be tamed!
by: Scoo

You are all silly. I have taken in feral cats and they can be tamed. They are still shy and hide at times but you all act like they can never be tamed. If you take them into your home they can. I only take the cats that will let me pet them now, but in the past I trapped a cat that was living under my mom's house and totally feral, and he became one of the best cats I've ever owned. Sadly, I had to have him euthanized after he developed a horrible stomach tumor that couldn't be operated on. But it took him months to approach me close up after I left food for him around my house. I let him come to me when he was ready for me to pet him. But he was a hisser and wouldn't get close to me at first. All they need is love. You people act like they can never change. They can.

Feral Kitten Hisses too
by: Anonymous

I’ve managed to get her/him/it in the house. Has no desire to go back outside-I’ve purposely left my backdoor open so it could. Left and came back thinking it went out only to find it under my sofa 😒.
Looks to be about 5 months old and has taken a real liking to my neutered adult male, almost as if it looks to him for how to behave? They chase each other about, eat together and play constantly. I’ve not attempted to touch it, but it doesn’t seem to have a problem touching my toes 🤨.
Now it thinks it can his when I’m feeding it - no! I hiss back & it runs and hides...its pretty annoying.

Hissing "rude". Foolish to apply human labels to a feral cat
by: Anonymous

A cat living in feral conditions is a wild animal, not your pet. That cat deals with weather, vermin predators (such as owls, foxes, coyotes, etc); starvation, sleep deprivation; disease and countless forms of cruel illnesses and death.

Expecting that wild animal not to act afraid or mistrustful of you, you who could eat, attack, injure or kill that cat at any moment- is ridiculous.

Do yourself and the feral cat you feed- continue to feed the cat and respect its nature. Give the cat food but don't expect it to use the napkin or leave a tip afterward.

I feed several neighborhood cats and one in particular is as feral as can be and I've fed him for well on six years. He barely lets me feed him and I think I touched the top of his head once. I love that darned cat and can't imagine him not being around no matter how wild he is.

I don't put expectations on "Anthony" the cat because I know how hard his life is as a feral cat.

Hissing Feral
by: London Paul

A feral has been visiting me for about a year now. She is a "Calico", mainly white, with patches of ginger tabby and black. I think she lives in my shed sometimes when it rains (I have seen her jump up and go through an unglazed window), and under my compost bin when it’s cold. She came into my house and took food I left for another (tame) cat that visits and hangs out.
The calico cat is sooo cute. I named her Wild Thing, but when I talk to her I call her baby, and sometimes "Wild Thing".
Wild thing hisses and used to go round with her tail curled around. I used to think she had a deformity, but she doesn’t curl her tail around so much now. She comes up and "head bumps" my hand when she comes in. Sometimes she comes looking for me upstairs if I am not in the kitchens when she wants food.
She is definitely a feral, and is unused to human contact. I like feeding her to help her get by. The other cat (who is quite posh and only eats tuna or ham) patrols to keep Wild Thing away. Posh Cat is the ‘boss cat" around these parts, and all the other cats take off when she appears.
Anyway, back to Wild Thing and her hissing. I actually think that it’s her talking to me as she doesn’t know how to miaow. I back off and let her get on eating once I put the food down. But even right after hissing she does the cat ‘friends" blink, and I do it back to her. Some of the hisses seem almost like she’s trying to talk. I feel that she trusts me, but is wary of humans.
Anyway, hissing or not, I really like her, and miss her if she doesn’t come around for a few days. I appreciate that she’s wild, and would never want to change her. She’s fine just the way she is - hisses and all.

Reply to No food for hissing cat
by: Anonymous

That's interesting. It'd be good to know if it learns never to hiss at you. Do please post progress.

If it's true that cats miaow only to humans, then that cuts down on the vocal range for feral cats who've never learnt how to communicate with us. They hiss as a warning, I suppose, rather than as a threat.

I'd be really interested to know whether, if you talk gently and constantly to your feral cat (if you can be bothered!), he learns to talk back to you? I don't have a feral cat at the moment, but, when I did, I didn't understand why he would hiss apparently indiscriminately but allow me to touch him without hissing at me.

no food for the hissing cat
by: Anonymous

Live in an area where have many cats going past, (and never fed as they are all likely pets) but this guy is different.
Started feeding him, and is either ferral, or been a stray for way too long.

Doesnt meow, and noticed many times it hisses at me. (not always hissing either). Will eat while I hold the bowl even so it will come close.

Ive had it with its hissing.

So from now on, when it hisses, I close the door and dont feed it. Wait half an hour and try again. We did that today, took a few hours, but finally able to leave it food without it hissing.

Hissing is just plain rude.

Hissing !!!
by: sandra

For the past few months I have been feeding an abandoned entire male cat. when I walk over to him with the food he runs towards me but instead of meowing he is hissing. Its like he doing it wrong. Before I put his food on the floor I stop and he gives me the tiniest meow. He's not aggressive, just timid. Has anyone else come across this behavior, its really wierd

Hissing cat
by: Anonymous

I started feeding a stray/feral cat when I realized she was nursing some kittens. Now she comes my patio every evening looking for me to feed her and her 1 surviving kitten. The problem is she hisses at me as soon as I open the door. Should i stop feeding them or maybe away from my patio?

Yes, they must all be different (or some were pets long ago)
by: Anonymous

I'm following on from Paul's post.

We've moved house, so I don't know what happened to my hissing feral tom. I hope he's found someone else to feed him.

Years ago I had a stray who took 6 months to cross the threshhold but then became a very loving cat; another stray who would never come in, but when my parents took him over became the most clinging & loving cat they had ever had (followed my mother everywhere & lay on her feet whenever she paused); & one who slept in the rough den we provided, & ate, but wouldn't come in & just disappeared after 6 months or so. None of these hissed after the first few days, however.

It depends on the individual
by: Paul

I fed a feral cat who over time became friendly enough to be let into the house and eventually followed me everywhere. He never lost some of his feral ways, but he was a sweetie. He was unfortunately run over and I miss him a lot. I am now feeding an old feral cat that comes every evening but always hisses at me. He does not like me to get close and only comes for food. As soon as he has had enough he quietly leaves. He is too old to socialise and his fear is deeply ingrained behaviour. I feed him because he is now too old to hunt, he will never be a pet.

Hissing cat
by: Anonymous

I’ve been feeding a ferrle cat for 2 years now. She is much more comfortable than in the past and waits outside for her dinner every night. When I go out, she meows then makes the meanest hissing face and sounds. I don’t know much about cats, do you think she’ll come after me one day? I care about her/him and just made him a home for the winter. I put some catnip in it and hope he’ll use it. Any suggestions? Thanks.

STILL HISSES at me... the feral or homeless cat I've fed daily for 2 years!
by: Otherwise sane highly-allergic cat cohabitator


Have a previously non-chipped homeless cat, now very well loved! Took about 6 patient months for her to trust enough to come near & finally choose/be happy to stay inside house. She is very sweet & never hissed at people.

[Am highly allergic to cats & symptomatic even with allergy shots, so not looking to adopt more cats but they seem to find us animal lovers...]

The hissing cat:
He appears older. Has been eating very well out back for 2 years now, at least once per day. But STILL frequently hisses at me, even if my arm just carefully slides buffet platter out onto deck. Has allowed me to stroke head while eating a couple times, tho I would not attempt to pick up (for vet visit at least). Had wondered if he's not quite right in the cat-head, but perhaps 2 years of daily feeding exposure can't overcome what may be a long, hard feral life of survival by trusting no one.

Then again, 2 years hasn't been long enough to overcome my startle reflex at his sudden hisses! It's still unnerving and sometimes frightening.

Hissing cat & her kitten
by: Marie

I started feeding a cat and then realized she has a baby. I feed them both but the mama is really wild and the baby wants to come near me but when it's mama is near it acts just like its mama. Why is that? The baby will feel more comfortable with me when its mom is not around. And the mama hissed at me when I go to feed her every time but she's right here waiting for me to feed her & even waits for me at my door.

Hisses when fed, but despite that allows stroking
by: Bronwen

I've been puzzled by a young full tom who comes to be fed several times every day. He is sitting leaning against the glass back door first thing nearly every morning.

When I go out with the food he sometimes hisses at me before I put it down. But once it is down, he goes to it and allows me to stroke him without flinching or twitching, and no hissing.

(I have three other cats: two neutered, who are in or out until night; and an 11-year old neutered tom who has to be a cared-for outside cat because he sprays constantly in the house and even my legs given a chance. This neutered tom and the stray full tom seem to get on, or at least tolerate each other, at quite close quarters.)

We started feeding this stray, if he is one, because was have to feed our outside cat outside, and this stray would come and clean up whatever was left and wander around the house in circles yowling loudly.

Lunchtime today (second feed), he spat at me three times as I was outside putting the food in the bowl, each time leading in with a short miaou:"Miaou-hiss; miaou-hiss; miaou-hiss" but went to the bowl without fear and didn't react when I stroked him several times. He had in fact stepped inside the house as I was opening the sachet: I said No, firmly, but he paid no attention and I had to go in and stand in front of him to steer him outside. He didn't hiss then.

Why does he not seem to mind being stroked? It's almost as if he has feline Tourretes and doesn't know what he's saying.

My main worry is that although he lets me stroke him I believe I won't be able to pick him up to get him to the vet (is he chipped? what about jabs? etc) or kennels. So when we go away he will go hungry.

The advice here is not to attempt to touch such a cat, but that's not been a problem so far.

Any thoughts on his behaviour? I want to continue with softly softly, but I don't think I'll make enough progress before we go away.

hissing feral cat.
by: Ben

i feed a feral Cat who had two kittens about a year ago, so i feed them as well. She always hisses at me and curls her tail on her back, but one of her kittens has become very friendly and actually meows and comes to greet me when i pull up outside the house, and has started to let me stroke her. But the Mother follows still hissing. I think maybe thats just how she is and its just natural for her. i blink my eyes at her and she blinks back. like a mutual smile. She comes very close but if i go to stroke her she hisses and moves away. So thats my signal to not try it. But the kitten is friendly.

by: Anonymous

Steph, do you get closer to the cat than your husband?

I get more hisses than my mother who is the other less frequent feeder of ours but whereas he will get fairly close to me (see an earlier post) he keeps a good few yards from her.

Speculation of course but I'm wondering whether that although getting closer might mean more trust, the cat might also feel the need to give out more warnings because he is closer?

Feral cat
by: Steph

We have a 21 year old indoor cat and a feral cat that adopted us during severe winter weather 5 years ago. Feral cat has been hissing at me more and more lately even though I'm the one that feeds him/her most of the time. He/she never hisses at my husband. Any clue why this happens?

by: Anonymous

I've been feeding a feral tom for about 2 years. His latest approach is to stand a few yards in front of where I put the bowl (the previous way, he would walk round and stand behind the where I put the bowl hissing as I approached). I walk a yard towards him as he hisses, h backs off a yard, faces me and hisses again. This is repeated 3 or 4 times until he gets behind where I put the bowl.

I stood still for a while this morning when he got to the proper place. To my surprise, he decided to approach me. Even that had to be accompanied with hissing!

He's an odd one. We've tamed and kept feral kittens and an older cat who I'm pretty sure had known life with people before (abandoned?) becoming feral but I'd guess this one has gone 5 or more years from birth without knowing people. I doubt he will ever become really friendly but he's interesting.

Inside cat got outside
by: Anonymous

I recently brought a stray cat inside my home it was outside for at least two years that I'm aware of, it has been 6 months inside, though quite fond of me, the cat got out after searching for hours I found her and it took me quite awhile to get her back inside, I managed to get her in and now she seems different, stares out the window alot and doesn't seem to be attached to me like before.. what happened?

taken in stray but she does not like my female cat
by: wendy

I have two cats brother and sister aged 2 , they are good together, then we took on a stray ,female tsbby, pretty cat,and can be loving,but not with my female cat, chases her off and she is so scared of her, hides, the boy cat tolerates her ,only just! I just want them to get on, the stray cat we found out later was left when this family moved home! We dealt so sorry for her, but feeling more sorry for our original cats, they are really soft nice cats,don't no what to do? Help

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