Why is my cat growling?

While cats aren’t exactly as quiet as mice, they’re hardly the noisiest of animals either. 

That being said, you’ll certainly become accustomed to hearing your feline make a variety of noises during your time together.

Meowing, purring, hissing, chirping, crying; this is how our felines communicate with us.

You can also add growling to that list; one of the most distinctive sounds a feline can make. 

The time you’re most likely to hear a cat growl is when they are angry or agitated.

But as this article will explain, there are a few reasons why you may end up seeing more of your feline’s teeth than you’d perhaps like. 

Is it normal for a cat to growl?

Growling is very much considered a natural form of communicating for cats.

What starts out as a low, long, murmuring can quickly turn into a fierce, guttural sound accompanied by the curl of a lip and the exposing of teeth. 

This type of sudden aggression in cats can be quite shocking to see, especially if you’re used to a more mellow housemate. 

Intimidating as the sight might be, it is also completely normal.

When a cat does begin growling though it is up to us to determine the reason behind it, and begin taking steps to address the issue, if there is one. 

Sometimes the simplest solution is to give them a bit of space. Just because a cat is growling or hissing, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is something significantly wrong. It may be they’re just feeling a little crowded, overwhelmed, or wound up. 

Giving them a little space may diffuse the situation without you actually having to intervene.

However, if there is an issue, especially if it’s a persistent one, it’s vital we identify it.

The main reasons for your cat to growl

  • Growling is a common display of dominance. Cats can be highly territorial, and they’re not exactly backwards in coming forwards when asserting their dominance. In some cases, growling is simply their way of showing who’s boss. This can be a common issue in multiple cat or pet households, and it isn’t just other animals who run the risk of ending up on the end of a snappy snarl. Even us pet parents can sometimes find ourselves in the feline firing line.
  • Your cat may be hurt or otherwise in pain. Uncharacteristic aggression, such as growling, can be a sign your cat is struggling physically. Pain or discomfort can be brought on by a number of things including dental disease, urinary tract infection, arthritis or a wound. If you think a medical condition may be the reason, carry out a thorough examination. A growl will typically occur when someone is trying to touch the affected area, so take your time and be gentle.
  • They may be feeling stressed. Cats don’t cope well with stress or anxiety. Moving home, a change in routine, trips to the vet; these are all potential triggers we need to be aware of. Signs of feline stress include restlessness, loss of appetite and aggressive behavior, such as growling. Pay close attention to your cat if they have started acting differently. The sooner we eliminate the stressor, the sooner our feline will be back to normal.
  • Are you playing a little too rough with them? It can be easy to get a little carried away when we’re having fun with our felines. Some cats enjoy playful aggression, but the line between play and prey can become easily blurred as overexcited cats begin biting and clawing. The second they start growling, or show the slightest hint of agitation, we need to stop what we’re doing. If they’re growling while playing with another cat, separate them until they settle down.
  • Don’t take something that belongs to them. Cats are fiercely possessive creatures. None more so than adult mothers who will protect their kittens by any means necessary if they believe they’re under threat. Come any closer and a growl may be the least of your worries. Cats can also become attached to food, toys or certain objects, so be careful when trying to remove an item from their possession.
  • Your cat’s feeling angry or annoyed. Angry cats are not pleasant company. They can be unpredictable, nasty, and even violent. When they’re in this mood, growling is often a sign they could be about to launch an attack against another pet, object, or pet parent. Treat this kind of growl as a warning sign. Back down and give them time to cool off, or leave the room and wait until they’re in a better mood.
  • They’re scared or feeling threatened. Don’t always assume that growling is a sign of aggression. Felines can bear their teeth out of fear sometimes. It could be that they’re unsure of a new environment, pet or person, or they’re feeling trapped. If this is the case, try and calm your cat down and make them feel as safe and comfortable as possible.

Should I speak to a vet about my cat growling?

There’s no need to pick up the phone to the vet just because you hear your cat growling. 

With so many possible reasons behind a sudden show of aggression, you’re best trying to identify whether there’s actually a problem first.

The minute you believe their snappy behavior is linked to injury or illness, that’s the time to book an appointment.  

Likewise, if you’re struggling to work out why they are acting this way, and the growling has started to become a permanent feature, take them to a vet for a check over.


No pet parent wants to come face-to-face with a growling feline. They may be small in size but an irate cat in a teeth-baring rage can be a very intimidating sight.

However, it can also be a sign that all is not right in their world. First and foremost, give them space. Trying to comfort them will most likely only make the situation worse.

Under no circumstances should you scold or punish a growling cat. Instead, focus your attention on establishing what the issue is so you can set about rectifying it. 

Share this article