growling, I'd tend to think of something in the dog type family. Not cat!!! Either way though, you're still faced with some animal, at night, that's a threat to you. I'm guessing that your light wasn't close enough to the animal to show up what type animal it was??? Were you able to look for any animal tracks the next morning? And I'm also guessing that you left your hammock and then retrived it the next morning? Since you didn't mention it, your hammock was untouched by the animal? Do you think if you had not disturbed this animal, it may have just passed you by?? Still, hard to know anyways, animals will do what they do. And if it was a dog, it could have attacked you if you scared it. Do you keep your treking poles near-by when you're asleep in your hammock? Sounds like you did the best thing, stayed calm, backing up and going inside. You didn't fall down and you didn't run (things you should not do when faced with unknown growling animal)
Animals in the wild have a very strong since of smell. you must have been up wind from it and when you got out of your hammock you surprised it. one option is buy a small air-horn. They are in the boating section in most stores. A loud burst of noise most likely will scare it away.
On a recent trip my buddy Wandern'Fool had a small airhorn. At around 3AM we had a coyote or two come in camp so he sounded the horn and off it went.
I think his wife got it at a sports store.
Be very vigilant and sound the horn........
Scary place down there to be sure!
Sarahgirl, don't be scared; be aware. Know your enemy and all that. Animals are animals and they will for the most part (barring illness) behave in a set pattern. There are very, very few scary things on the AT; the bears are only scary to you right now. Once you walk past a few of them that fear will pass to respect and admiration. Not too many animals are 'out to get you' and most will run away very fast after the blast of an air horn as people here have already pointed out. One thing to remember when you're in your hammock on a nervous night on the AT; the very loudest sounds come from the smallest creatures. I swear to the higher power of your choice that a squirrel sounds like Godzilla coming through the trees. A bear, you'll not hear it until it's going through somebody's food bag. It's true, I bet others back me up on that one.
I would put a lot of money against it being a cat in this case. Cats are stealth hunters (in addition to being the one animal out here that genuinely concerns me when I'm hiking) who will always attack from behind. A cornered cat, or one caught off-guard, is a dangerous beast but given an escape route (like a wide open field behind them) they will take it 9 times out of 10. The canines are much more likely to stand their ground and fight, which is funny since the cats would generally be more dangerous and lethal.
If you want some revenge on the coyotes you can come out here. We've found evidence of them bedding down on the back of our property. My plan is to take my AirSoft Sniper rifle and spend a few evenings on top of the horse stable. I figure I can make their little spot wickedly unfriendly, plus it gives me an excuse to buy that night scope I've had my eye on.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I know doesn't apply everywhere. Cool story. It would make me a little jumpy, but also want to look around more and try to see it.
Is that too much to ask? Girls with frikkin' lasers on their heads?
The hanger formly known as "hammock engineer".
Aren't they herbivores?
Anyway...i live in an area with a relatively high population of both Bobcats and yotes and can tell you they are two of the most elusive animals you'll ever encounter.
I seriously doubt you'll ever hear where a healthy specimen attacks a human in the back country.
In an Iowa backyard, I'd be more worried about my neighbors (and not overly concerned about them.)
It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming.