My Cat Is Hissing at My Teenage Son, Worried Cat Might Become Aggressive to Baby

Updated on October 18, 2008
M.B. asks from Milwaukee, WI
21 answers

Hi everyone. I was wondering if any of you have experienced this and if so, maybe you'd have advice for me. We adopted a female kitten from the Humane Society about 2 years ago. My teenage son named her and she was his "baby". My son shares his time between my home and his father's home out of state, living here about one third of the time. We have a 13-year-old cat and thought she might be lonely so we got the kitten, but our older cat was not pleased. Over the past two years the cats worked it out (the older one usually avoids the younger one.) A little over a year ago the younger cat started HISSING at my son. That just about broke his heart, she's his baby and he's always gentle with her. She will come near him and rub against his leg then HISS for no apparent reason! He's here now and it keeps happening. My concern is that I now have a 7-month-old baby daughter and even though I never let her be unsupervised near the cats, I worry. The cats have free run of the house except for the baby's room. My son and I were wondering about having younger kitty declawed. When my hubby adopted our older cat he had her declawed and she's always been pretty docile. But our current vet says she won't declaw our younger kitty. Are there vets in town who will declaw a cat, and what are the pros and cons of declawing? Does declawing make a cat less aggressive? The younger kitty lets me play with her at length (prolonged petting and cuddling) only when I catch her curled up on the bed, but if my son walks in it's "HISS" and she runs away. Any advice you can give me on this will be helpful, many thanks! *Peace*

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So What Happened?

Thanks so much everyone for your thoughtful responses! I've decided *not* to have my 2-year-old cat declawed... I didn't know that it caused long-lasting pain! My 13-year-old cat has no pain, she even lets me massage her paws, so I thought that could be the desired result for my 2-year-old kitty. Judging from many of your responses, I was mistaken about that. I don't want her in constant pain :(
My son is still sad that kitty hisses at him, and wants me to buy him some snow gloves so he can pet her without her shredding his hand! We'll figure this out somehow... without declawing our "Little Shredder" (heh).... *Peace* ~M.
p.s. I assumed when I said she was adopted from the Humane Society everyone would know she was already spayed :) I believe spayed kitties make the best pets!

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answers from Milwaukee on

I worked for a vet for 8 years and I rescued many cats. One was a cat used for breading and lived its first 12 years in a cage. When I rescued her from being put to sleep I found out that she did not know how to walk on carpeting. Her poor claws were always out and she would get stuck. I had to make a decision and had her declawed at the age of ten! All went well and she lived a happy normal life without her claws. I saw no ill effects. I now have a day care home and all of my "rescues" no matter what age have been declawed and are happy. I would just like to say one thing....There is no reason to keep a cat that is mean or dangerous. (not that hissing is dangerous...just means back off!) There are so many wonderful cats that are euthanized every day.
Hope this helps, M. in Wisconsin

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answers from Des Moines on

what is the question? get rid of the cat! your child is more important and why take the risk?



answers from Waterloo on

Does your son's dad have animals that the cat can smell on your son? That might be why he's being a pain all of sudden. If he doesn't ease up though I would think about getting rid of him.



answers from Milwaukee on

Look for another vet. There is no reason your cat cannot be declawed.



answers from Minneapolis on

I have to agree with several of the other answers.
1. If the cat is not doing any damage then DO NOT declaw it know. I think your Vet is declining to do the procedure because of the cat's age.
2. I have not had any experience with declawing changing the personality of the cat except if it is done after a year or so. The experience I had was that the cat didn't know how to react to the lose and actually got depressed and angry.
3. I agree that your cat is angry with your son for leaving so often and for so long.
4. I am assuming, since you got the kitten from the Humane Society, that she has been spayed. If not do it NOW! That will affect her hormones and personality. It is very common that it calms them down.
5. I would be careful having your son do too much with treats and feeding because it will make it hard on her when he leaves again. He can do some light rewarding but I would not suggest too much.
6. I don't think the cats attitude towards your son will transfer to the baby. It is still a good idea to not leave them or any animal with a baby unsupervised.
Good Luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

Sorry, I haven't read your responses, so I don't know if this is repetitive. I don't know about the aggressiveness, but as for declawing: It is best to declaw when they are still kittens. When we got our cat (she was 2), our vet stated that it's harder when they're older because the healing time is much longer & there is a higher chance of infection or complications. BUT she did say that if it was between keeping the cat or not, she would go ahead & declaw her. I hope that helps explain why your vet may refuse.



answers from Minneapolis on

In my experience, I would say that kitty is punishing your son for being away from her. As others have written, she is holding a grudge against him for abandoning her. I have had cats do this to me before. I would agree with the suggestion that your son should give kitty a new toy or treat or maybe some special deluxe canned cat food that she only gets when he is around. That may help.
SPAY YOUR CAT IF IT IS NOT ALREADY SPAYED. Spayed/neutered cats are much happier and healthier. And I think some female cats have PMS or something that makes them really crabby sometimes. Most of the time spay/neutering will give your cat a better temperment.
I would avoid declawing at this age, if at all possible. Declawing an adult cat is like amputating the ends of your fingers to remove your nails. (I have not heard about the cauterization that someone mentioned, but it may be better than the regular declawing. Something you could look into.) I don't think that declawing would have a positive result for the cat. As others have mentioned, it will bring her a lot of pain and that may make her more agressive. She may have trouble using the litterbox, because it hurts her paws to have to dig a hole and bury. Some cats will never forgive you for doing that to them.
Mama P



answers from Sioux Falls on

OK, I have a lot of thoughts here... And I am a Vet Tech and my hubby's a vet, if that makes any difference for you.
1) If the kitty is 2 years old, that's why your Vet is hesitant to declaw. It is very hard on cats that age. It can be done, but their recovery time is much longer and painful and their feet may not heal quite right (might look misshapen). That being said, declawing house cats on the front paws only is very common. This leaves their back claws, should they ever get outside and need to climb a tree (yes, they can do it without front claws!) or need to defend themselves.

At this point, I'd recommend just trimming your kitty's claws on a regular basis to keep them short and blunted. Your local vet tech can teach you how to do this at home! :-) Declawing won't affect your cat's behavior or personality.

2) Is your kitty spayed/neutered? If you're looking to alter behavior, changing the hormone situation might do it.

3) My strongest inkling is that the kitty's behavior is due to a change. Has your son always split time at home? If not, she might actually be MAD at him. Cats are well known for their behavioral problems and "acting out" if they feel they've been wronged or are upset about something, especially a change to their little world. Giving her a little extra love and attention might help.

4) Finally, if you can't put a finger on any of these issues, and there doesn't seem to be any changes between the two cats, get her checked out by your vet. Underlying medical problems, especially pain, will cause animals to get grouchy and behave stangely.

We have 2 cats and one scared me when we brought our baby home. He's always been "my" cat, and he would hiss and growl at the baby. But, after just a few days he settled down. He was just really uptight and unsure about this "thing" we brought home that makes funny noises and smells weird, not to mention steals all of his "mommy's" time! LOL Now both of them pretty much just ignore and avoid my 20 mon. old daughter... until she gets close enough to give them a "hug" (this is much closer to tackling than a hug! Poor cats!!)

Good luck!



answers from Grand Rapids on

melissa, yes ive had this, our family cat got really aggressive, towards my son, who was also its baby, any way, we remembered, she was not neutered, and they said that can have something to do with it, we had her fixed and it worked great, if the little cat is not fixed might want to do that, i dont agree with declawing, if the cat gets out it will not be able to defend itself,yeah and i agree with not letting it near the baby , any way hope it helps, get it fixed , if its not fixed, it might just need an attitude adjustment, and i would not know how to do that, any way, be happy and enjoy life, D. s



answers from Des Moines on

We have a very large, sweet but independent house cat who we had for 5 years before the birth of our son. We were a little concerned about how he would react to the new addition as he is quite playful and we got him as a kitten from a family who was giving him up because of family dynamics between him, their dog and baby. Anyway, he has turned out to be amazingly tolerant of our DS, who likes to "pet", kiss, squeeze and sit on the cat. I have never heard him hiss at him, although he will give him warning swats and bites. We aren't concerned about this because we feel it teaches our son to be respectful of the cat's wishes. When the cat has had enough he gets up and leaves the room. That being said, he does not like my brother or my nephew and will hiss at them and often hides under our bed. He will occasionally hiss at my mom if she checks on him when we're away. I don't really know what that means, other than that cats are notoriously particular and it could be something to do with your son being away for periods of time. Maybe your son could bring her some peace offerings of a new toy or special food treat when he arrives to get her to warm up to him. Sorry I can't be of more help on that one.
As for the declawing. Our cat is front-declawed which does alleviate some worry about him doing too much damage to DS. However, to my knowledge, declawing does not make a cat less aggressive, it is only a physical limitation to scratching. Many people liken it to removing fingers at the first joint. I wouldn't put your cat through that unless she was truly injuring your family members. Best of luck!



answers from Omaha on

I have never heard of a vet who won't declaw, so find a new one. I don't know if declawying makes them more docile or not- but spaying or neutering seems to make a huge difference. We recently brought a kitten into our home with our 13 year old cat- she wasn't happy either- but after a month they seem to be doing fine now.



answers from Des Moines on

The longer you wait on declawing a cat can make a big difference. If your cat is showing signs of aggressive behavior I would not declaw him/her now my prediction is that it will make the cat mad and you worse things to worry about. We have always had cats and they are very tempermental creatures. If you cross them they do not easily forget. My dad scared our cat (by accident) one time and he never forgot it. He never hissed in his life until after that. And everytime my dad would come around casper would disappear or hiss at him and run away. This went on until casper just passed away this year. And another friend did not declaw her cat when it was little but waited a couple of years ans it made the cat mad and the cat started going under her bed and urinating on her suitcases or clothes laying on the floor. (Cat urine is the absolute worst smelling and almost impossible to get out). As for the hissing and your teenager I do not have advise for you there because we never solved it in our house. My dad tried and tried to be as nice and talk as nice as possible but never again could he touch the cat. BUT I would not declaw the cat just because it could make things alot worse. You might try googling hissing issues with cats and see what you get.

Good luck.




answers from Minneapolis on

My cat is 4 years old and my husband demanded that we got her declawed when our 8 month old was born. I felt very sorry for the kitty. She is very gentle and has never skratched anyone. She does hiss at visitors a lot. Our little girl crawls now and chases the kitty. Usually kitty just walks away but occasionally she will raise her paw prepared to biff her. I take the baby away before she actually hits her.

I think your son isn't around enough for the cat to keep a close relation with him. Cats like consistancy and tend to show they aren't happy with you when you leave and come back. Since your baby is there all the time it may not be a problem.

Banfield clinic at Petsmart in Maplewood is where we took the cat for the declawing. The vet said she perfers not to declaw older cats but she rather do that than have the kitty lose a happy home. If the cat is aggresive, declawing it won't make her less aggresive just less hazardous. It took a few weeks for her to fully recover. She walked very gently/limpy for a week or so. If the cat is overweight it could take longer to heel. Her toes will look like they got caught in the table saw for a while. I didn't expect that and it made me cry, I felt so bad.



answers from Rapid City on

I too have a cranky cat. She was pretty good until we got her declawed as a kitten and then she got cranky to a point but still loved family members and wanted a lot of attention. I even taught her to play dead, sit pretty, catch and other "dog" tricks. I had her coming to "here puppy puppy". Then I got a puppy. She didn't like the change and she really didn't like the intruder. Once she seen the puppy doing the tricks she refused to do them anymore. When my granddaughter was born, I was shocked to see that each time my granddaughter would cry, Cocoa (the cat) would come up to her to check on her and make sure she was ok. She chooses when she wants anyones attention and the rest of the time she wants left alone. She is now 14 years old and a cranky cat still. My granddaughter just turned 2 and if you ask her what a kitty says she says "Pssst" because that is what grandma's kitty says. She is gentle with the kitty, after getting bit once, she makes sure she only pets the kitty's ears and doesn't touch her feet. Your kitten may see your son as the intruder since he isn't there all the time. He might be coming on strong and cats are indepenent and don't appriciate the attention forced on them. Have him ignore the kitten when he comes home until she comes up to him. Also boys around 13 start having a change of smell about them. I call this the start of the cloning process for when the aliens come take the good kid you have been raising and turning them into teenagers! Maybe she doesn't recongize the new smell of your son and so she doesn't know him. All in all, just have him let her do the asking for attention. As far as your baby goes, chances are she won't bother her. She is there all the time and she is use to her being around now.



answers from Green Bay on

Our two 4 year old cats currently dislike each other after a tiff. They hiss at each other when they cross paths, but leave us and the baby alone. Both have their claws, but we trim them regularly, so they aren't as sharp. They can still scratch, but it's less likely and not as bad when they do. That's what we chose to do instead of declawing.

As far as the hissing. If it stops at just a hiss, I wouldn't be overly concerned. My sister in law has our cats' sister and we once got them back together after their initial separation and hated each other. Ever since then, my sister in law's cat hisses at me whenever she sees me. She seems to remember me connected to that experience.

When my dad visits, one of our cats does often seem to take to him, but will randomly decide to hiss at him and walk away.

I love cats, but they can certainly do their own thing for no apparent reason! Not sure if I really helped at all, but best of luck. It's easy to get attached to the little critters and a struggle when you can't figure out why they are doing what they are doing.



answers from Minneapolis on

I have two cats and whom I chose not to have declawed. My previous cats had all been de-clawed, but I had heard that de-clawing could lead to lack of muscle tone in their back as well as balance issues. So I choose not to de-claw this time.

Having said that, if I had to do it again, I would have them de-clawed for sure! They are too old now, but your 7 month old is not. My cats have all sorts of toys and a six foot tall kitty tower with 3 perches. They STILL prefer to scratch my carpet, furniture, walls, etc.

I have a baby as well and I really have to watch the cats. My advice is to have the front claws removed and don't look back. Some vets do abstain from this procedure. Give another one a call, it's expensive, but it can be done. Although de-clawing does not curb aggression. Maybe you could ask KTK9 at She's an animal behaviorist and might have some suggestions about curbing her aggression.



answers from Davenport on

Declawing is more likely to increase aggression because of the pain, increased fearfulness, and trauma of the whole experience. Declawed cats are more likely to bite and they are more likely to make uses of those back claws. Pets, as with people, can take a while to adjust to new situations and changes in their environment. Make sure your kitty has places to hide where it feels safe and lots of interesting toys -they don't have to be expensive - most cats love empty box and paper bags so your son could try making several cat mazes by cutting openings in cartons and taping them together. You can sometimes entice a cat to play by dangling a bit of string as you walk past the cat. As difficult as it may seem, try to let the cat approach you.

Also - it wouldn't hurt to have the vet check out the cat and make sure it's not having any health issues that may be contributing to the aloofness.

Remember that each cat has it's own personality. Some are just naturally more people/play oriented than others.



answers from Appleton on

I have two cats, and a 14 month old. I had the cats for several years before my daughter was born. I had them 4-paw declawed when they were still kittens. I don't believe it made them any more or less aggressive, but I could see where an older cat might become more aggressive during the recovery from a declaw.
Declawing them doesn't stop them from wrestling with each other, and they will use their teeth if they are feeling extremely cornered.
My cats have very different personalities from each other. Everyone, my husband included, was worried about my female cat's possible attitude and aggression towards the baby before my daughter was born. The female cat is "moody" and will hiss and snip at my husband. Noone thought we'd have any problems with my male cat who will rub up against anyone and loves attention and petting. However, once the baby was here, my male cat was the one who actually snipped at her. (I was supervising, so I was able to pull her away so he never actually touched her.) Since then, he avoids her at all costs.
My female cat actually tolerates the baby and even lets her pet her. I always supervise their time together, and when it looks like the cat has had enough, I will direct my daughter to another activity. Sometimes when the cat's had enough, she just takes off on her own. She's never acted aggressively towards my daughter.
So I guess, the answer is that you never can tell. I don't know if I would put a cat that's past the kitten stage through a declawing unless I felt it was absolutely neccessary. I guess I would just wait and see how the cat reacts as the baby gets older and more curious. If your daughter gets too aggressive with the cat and it hisses at her, she may get the hint and back off anyway. Or maybe the cat will behave as my "moody" cat does and will just take off if it feels threatened.



answers from Minneapolis on

The reason your vet won't declaw is because they say it is cruelty to animal's. I personally have 6 cat's and when they hiss it is simply their way of saying back off. Is you son around other animal's at his dad's?? My MIL run's a cat shelter (currently 40-50 cat's)and I had one paticular cat that would hiss and grawl the second she walked in the door. Possiably the smell from the other cat's. As far as the declawing there are plenty of cat's that need home's and if it mean's declawing then so be it. There are still lot's of vet's out there that will help you out and I really don't think that it will make you cat more aggresive. TC, J.



answers from Grand Forks on

I have asked a cat expert about this dilemna--She says the cat is obviously 'mad' that your son leaves so often.This makes sense to me as cats are very sensitive to their owners. Also, declawing will not make the cat more docile,it just won't be able to do damage. Something to think about-declawing is not recommended if your cats will be outside at all-and it is beleived that it is very painful to the cat for the rest of it's life-some cats may just deal with it better then others.The worry for your baby would be the cat getting in her crib and sleeping to close to her face, blocking off breathing.



answers from Minneapolis on

You have recounted almost exactly the story of my mother, my former two cats and myself. The saga in shortened form goes like this...

I adopted a cat that was abused in a kitty mill. She became my baby and lived happily with me alone in our apartment until my ex-fiance decided to give me another cat as a "present". This cat was a barn cat(unusually big, tempermental, and very unpredictible) that had been weened too soon from it's mother. Needless to say, my ex knew what he was doing...this was not a gift of endearment. We were seeing the writing on the wall that there wasn't going to be a wedding and he thought it would be payback to give me this very cute but troubled cat.

My first cat was declawed and had no defenses. Needless to say she was livid that she was being forced to live with this crazy barn kitten that still had her claws. Barn cat never liked me. She tore up my furniture, clothes, and carpet. She used to poop in my purse all the time (real interesting responses and reactions when I pulled out the billfold in public or left purse next to desk at work!!)Back to the cats...kitty mill kitty always was very devoted and loving. Unfortunately, things got much so I thought I had to get rid of them both. My mother wouldn't let me, and she agreed to keep them both. Daily, they'd get on their haunches and box like kidding. They'd hit each other so hard it sounded like someone pounding a wooden box really hard with a club. The declawed one would use her hind feet to tear up the barn cat (B.C. was twice as big and round as the Kitty-Mill cat) They too would avoid each other and "mark" their territory (KM never pooed in the house until the turf wars started) and if either crossed the smelly line, watch out! Lucky for them, mom didn't mind the chaos.

A year later, I wound up moving back home with my parents until my wedding (got rid of evil ex and was going to now marry mr. dreamy). Mom had just about had enough of the kickboxing and was ready to send them back to me and my soon to be new DH. But he's allergic to cats...AND he already had a big hunting dog.

The minute I came home after not seeing either of cat for months, they both HISSED at me. They both hated my guts. They wouldn't let me pet them. They'd hide under tables etc. As for my fiance, now husband, they had it in for him. Somehow they knew he was allergic to cats and weren't coming home with us. They hiss at him, hop on his head, roll in his coats, etc.

They didn't get better when we had kids. I too worried about the cats scratching the babies' eyes out (mom watched them when I worked). They didn't like the kids either...but for different reasons. They were frightened by the kids when they were toddlers and were more curious aboutn the kids than anything. They will let the kids pet them, but only real quick and they take off and leave them alone. As for me and hubby, they hiss and will bite and scratch.

My conclusion...cats bond and obviously can feel betrayed and carry a grudge. I'm not saying they'll always resent your son, but they probably feel abandoned. Like any animal, they probably smell different smells on him, and pick up maybe even a change in demeanor as he's now probably focused on different things and not so attentive as before.

I'm certain my cats don't like smelling Labradore Retriever smells...and I know my kitty mill went through ALOT before I got her and probably has alot of trust/abandonment issues.

As for the questions about the baby, I don't trust any animals with young children. I say use caution. If the cat hasn't actually hurt anyone, the cat probably won't hurt the baby if you keep them a good distance from each other and never leave them alone together...which it sounds like you're doing already. However, if the cat has attacked, bit, or scratched before you have a good reason to be worried, and I wouldn't hesitate to consider finding it another home. With that kind of uncertainty, it isn't worth putting the baby at risk for serious harm.

As for declawing, you will be hard pressed to find any vets who will do that. It's pretty much concensus that declawing causes serious damage to the cat's paws and can in many cases cause crippling and undue permanent pain (as I've been told). The other argument against it is if the cat were a house cat that got loose, they'd have no way to defend themselves.

There are still some vets who will do it, but they're probably not really declawing as much as they are using a newer method where the nails are somehow cauterized (sp?) so they don't retract (as I've also been told so don't quote me).

There are some non-surgical solutions, including having your cat's nails encapsulated in rubber tips. You can have a vet do this, or by the caps and put them on yourself. Check out

Hope I didn't ramble too much...probably more than you wanted to know. Tell your son to hang in there. This is tough stuff.

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