Why is my Cat Growling?

Cats are great communicators. They meow, chirp, hiss, purr, and sometimes growl. But do you ever wonder why your cat growls? It could be for any number of reasons.

May 29, 2023By Jennifer Hinders
why is my cat growling

There should have been a BEWARE OF CAT sign on my friend's front door. When I entered her house, I saw her sweet kitty reclining on the sofa and hurried over, eager to pet him. He looked so cute and cuddly. I assumed he wanted to be petted. Wrong!

Before my friend could stop me, I reached for her cat, only to be met with a loud growl and hiss. He was making it clear I needed to back off. So much for being able to understand cat language. How do you know what your cat is telling you? Here are normal reasons why your cat is growling.

Warning signals

warning signals

Your cat growls to warn you. They may feel threatened by another pet or a small child. Besides making a low growling sound, your cat will use specific body language that warns you to steer clear. The body language your cat uses to give a warning signal may include the following:

  • Flattened ears
  • Showing their teeth
  • Arching their back
  • Tail moving slowly or twitching

Pain signals

pain signals

Another reason your cat is growling is that they're in pain. Sometimes this is the only way you know your cat has a physical problem. If your normally docile cat growls when you pet or hold them, contact your vet to schedule a check-up. Potential health problems common to cats include:

  • Dental problems
  • Bone diseases
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis

Getting older

getting older

Old cats growl more than younger cats. As cats age, they lose their vision, hearing, and sometimes their brain function. Your older cat may get easily confused or frightened. Elderly cats also have temperament changes. They get grumpy or fussy about things that never bothered them before. If your cat seems unusually grumpy, it could be a sign they're having thyroid problems. Cats are prone to Hyperthyroidism as they age. Other signs your cat may have this condition include:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Hair loss
  • Agitation
  • Weight loss
  • Muscles weakness
  • Problems breathing

Talk to your veterinarian if you notice these symptoms or if your cat seems unusually grumpy. If your cat has this condition, your vet can give them daily medication to help them feel better.


stressed cat

Cats growl when they feel stressed about something that's happening around them. Maybe they see you packing your bags to go on a trip, or your neighbor's child is visiting and running around the house. If your cat is growling under these circumstances, it may feel upset and worried. Be sure to comfort your cat by holding them in your lap. Talk in a soothing voice to help your cat relax. Other things that stress out cats include:

  • Moving
  • Visiting the vet
  • Loud noises
  • Changes to their routines
  • New pets or humans living in the house

Studies also show that cats pick up on the emotions of the humans around them. If you're displaying stress and anxiety, your cat will feel stressed. When dealing with stress, be patient with your pet, which may sympathize with you.


possessive cat

If your cat growls when your other cat wants to sit near them, it could mean your cat is feeling possessive of his spot. This is normal behavior for cats who are territorial by nature. Cats will defend their space, food bowl, and toys. Your cat may even get possessive of you. Try these ideas to eliminate your cat's possessiveness towards another cat:

  • Have two water and food bowls, one for each cat. Feed your cats in different areas of the kitchen.
  • Have enough areas for your cats to scratch, such as two scratching areas and two perches to sit on.
  • Break up fights over toys immediately, so your cats know you won't tolerate them fighting. Be patient and calmly talk to them as you correct them.
  • Put two litter boxes in different parts of the house, so there's no fighting.

Routine changes

routine cat

Even a small routine change can set off growling behavior in your cat. Cats are sticklers for predictable routines like feeding, grooming, and playing. Cats will accept change, but when things change too quickly, it throws them off and causes anxiety. Of course, things change sometimes, so here are ways to help your feline friend adjust to a routine change in your household:

  • Start with small changes. Avoid sudden, big changes if possible. If you're moving, put some empty boxes in a room and let your cat smell them for a day. Invite your cat to hang out with you as you put things in a box and give them lots of positive praise and affection. Keep your cat's favorite things out so they can play with them.
  • Watch for signs of stress. If you notice your cat is showing stress, such as growling a lot more, not eating, having litter box accidents, or over-grooming, spend extra time with them.
  • Plan - It might be helpful to send your cat off to a friend's or cat sitter's house to ease their stress. This way, you do what you can finish without worrying about your poor kitty.

Trying to dominate

dominate cat

Multiple cats in one household usually get along together, but there may be one more dominant cat. A dominant cat growls at another cat to let them know they're in charge. They growl at your other cat to make them wait to eat a second or growl if your other cat is sitting in a favorite spot on the sofa. Here are some ways to discourage dominance in your cats:

  • Don't tolerate aggressiveness in play or other activities. Try to redirect if both cats want a toy.
  • Don't pay attention to one cat more than the other. Cats can get jealous when pet parents are more affectionate to one cat.
  • Feed your cats at the same time in different locations in your kitchen.
  • Have enough litter boxes for both cats.
  • Have scratching trees and perches for both cats.
Jennifer Hinders
By Jennifer Hinders

Jennifer writes extensively about dogs for pet blogs and magazines. Jennifer is a dog parent to Sam, an energetic cattle dog/ lab mix she rescued 11 years ago. Sam's hardy breed makes him act like a pup which makes him lots of fun.