How To Tell If My Cats Are Playing Or Fighting?

Are you having trouble figuring out if your cats are playing or fighting when they wrestle? A cat’s behavior can be difficult to interpret, especially when there are different ages, breeds, temperaments, and unrelated cats living in the same household.

In this article, you will learn how to tell the difference between a play date and a cat fight, and how to live harmoniously with multiple cats.

How Can You Tell If Your Cats Are Playing Or Fighting?

Most cats in social groups will engage in play-fighting. It can be difficult to know the difference between social play and an aggressive altercation.

Whether young or old, play is important for every cat. It has a positive impact on cats’ emotional states, provides stimulation from boredom, and helps develop and maintain social bonds. The motivations for play in kittens, and as an adult cat, are linked to predatory behavior, as opposed to social interaction in dogs.

When siblings play together, they often engage in activities that seem like fights, such as stalking, chasing, and pouncing. During some play sessions, an individual cat may become overstimulated as well as boisterous, which can be stressful for a less excitable cat, so keep a close eye on them to avoid escalation of aggression when one displays signs.

In the right type of environment, cats are prone to play socially. They enjoy obstacles, hiding holes, cat trees, activity centers, and boxes with entry/exit holes.

Cats communicate primarily through body language and to a lesser extent through vocalization. Since behavior can also be individualized, the overall social relationship should be considered when determining play vs fight.

Cats Have A Social Life

Despite the fact that domestic cats are solitary animals capable of living alone, there is a substantial body of evidence that they form social bonds. In high-density colonies or groups of related individuals, cats maintain cohesion by creating a group odor through

Additionally, as long as there is enough environmental resources, affiliated cats are less likely to exhibit overt aggression, including fighting.

The same is likely to be true for cats socialized together during a sensitive period, which are likely to develop an attachment to each other which will be maintained into adulthood. Multi-feline households, therefore, are more harmonious with such cats living there.

The Signs Your Cat Is Playing

The Signs Your Cat Is Playing

Cats start playing at an early age. While it also helps to form social bonds, most kittenhood play is intended to hone a young carnivore into a keener, stronger predator.

Kittens are social and have a high level of play drive from an early age. Among their skills are grooming, feeding, and hunting, and they are taught social skills such as agonistic and affiliative behavior through collaboration with their littermates.

Cats engage in social play between each other around the age of 8-10 weeks, followed by object play. Using toys as part of play allows natural predatory sequences, which prevents playbiting.

Although cats can be playful into old age, inter-cat interactions and social play may decline with age.

Here are Some Signs That Your Cats are Playing:

  • Often, cats that mock fight are calm as well as happy
  • Normal or forward position of the ears (not pinned back)
  • The bodies face one another in a forward stance
  • The hair will be flat (no piloerection)
  • Play bites may be present
  • They wrestle and chase each other
  • Jovial cats do not hiss, swat, or growl at each other
  • The mischievous cats will take turns being on top of one another and rolling onto their sides and backs at the same time.
  • While both cats engage in chases and roughhousing, there will be a sense of balance.

In certain social groups, male cats can sometimes engage in more play fighting than female cats, who may become less interested in rowdiness after their social maturity (around 3 years of age).

How to Tell If Your Cats Are Fighting

How to Tell If Your Cats Are Fighting

In contrast to cats engaging in play, cats who are fighting exhibit tense body language, growl, hiss, and may claw their opponent.

Cats are resourceful animals, so they generally avoid physical conflict. Fighting can result in injury, inability to hunt, and even death.

Cats may engage in active aggression (fighting) if they feel threatened, avoidance prospects are limited, or if they cannot escape.

Various reasons lead cats to fight.

Most cats defend their territory (within the home or beyond) against intruders. Depending on genetics, sex, and early experiences, some cats become aggressive faster than others.

Here Are Some Signs That Your Cats Are Fighting: 

  • Wide-open eyes, dilated pupils, and confrontational stares
  • Ears up and flattened back against the cat’s head
  • Whiskers forward and spreading out
  • One cat may bite another if its mouth is open with teeth bared
  • It is common to vocalize by growling or hissing
  • Piloerection of the tail and body (looking twice as big as before)
  • Sideways body posture rather than facing each other
  • During fights, claws are often retracted out, paws are swatted, or paws are used for striking
  • Vertical tail, with the tip down or raised, may be lashing or twitching

Since cats have limited social communication skills, owners need to take proactive measures to resolve an aggressive situation. Once aggression intensifies, it can take a cat several hours to calm down. Until fully relaxed, it is best to leave cats alone in a quiet room once separated.

What Are The Reasons Cats Fight

What Are The Reasons Cats Fight

Why do some cats fight more than others? A long list of factors contribute to aggressiveness, including stress, poor socialization, and territorial conflict.

Food Aggression Is Common When Food Is Scarce or Resources are Threatened.

In certain situations, such as when food is scarce and cats from different social groups are fed in proximity, food aggression may occur. There can also be friction between cats when they compete for resources or attention.

Aggressive Behavior May Result from a Lack of Early Socialization.

The kittens’ socialization period (2 – 9 weeks) is crucial. Hand-raised kittens who have not been socialized with other cats during the critical period are anecdotally at risk of developing problem behaviors such as nervousness, aggression, and a reduced ability to cope with environmental changes.

Illness can Cause Cats to Become Aggressive.

A cat conflict caused by illness often occurs without previous disagreement between the cats involved, so if this occurs in your home, please have your cat checked by a veterinarian.

Genetic Factors May Also Influence How Aggressive Your Cat is.

The problematic cat behavior is also influenced by several genes, such as the oxytocin receptor, which is associated with irritability, suggesting that genetic testing may become a valuable tool in the field of veterinary behavior.

There is Often Fighting Between Cats in New Households.

In a 2017 study of 2492 owners of multiple cats, 73.3% reported squabbling from the moment another cat was introduced. There was a correlation between the addition of a new cat and the frequency of disputes. In addition, the more cats in one household, the greater the tension.

A Cat Will Defend Its Kittens by Fighting.

Breeding females may also experience aggression, especially when they are protecting their kittens.

Outdoor Cats are Prone to Territorial Disputes.

Particularly at night, we often hear free-roaming cats fighting over territorial disputes. Cats are more reliant on securing their territory than they are on connections with people. Often, problematic cat behavior is caused by perceived threats to this security, often caused by disputes with other cats.

What Should You Do If Your Cats Fight?

What Should You Do If Your Cats Fight?

Breaking up a cat fight can be difficult. Instead of using your hands to intervene, try to break up the fight in gentle, safe ways that distract your cats while not putting you in harm’s way.

A clash between cats or a fight between them can severely stress the resident cat(s) and owner. It is important not to intervene physically.

It is imperative that you never place your hand or any part of your body between fighting cats since it can cause serious injury requiring immediate medical attention (cat bite wounds tend to be deep and harbour bacteria and other pathogens in their mouths).

In addition to water guns, noise deterrents are also common. However, they can be startling, scary, and have an adverse effect on an anxious cat. During these times, do not punish a cat or touch it as this may cause the cat to fear people, which may unintentionally reward their aggressive behavior.

Use a towel or a small blanket to break up the fight between the cats. Distract and redirect the cats’ attention, and let them both cool off.

Separators such as baby gates, cardboard, wood, or plastic boards can also be used to block a cat’s view of another. Positive reinforcement for contact, territorial aggression, separation, confinement, and gradual reintroductions.

Is It OK For My Cats To Play Fight?

As part of their normal and healthy behavior, cats play fight with each other, chase each other, and even touch paws against paws. Play fighting is silent, the biting is gentle, causes no pain, and claws are usually retracted. When play fighting becomes hostile, it should be stopped.

What Are The Best Ways To Reduce Stress And Minimize Fights?

Having litter boxes, beds, scratching posts, bowls, hides, and perch boxes scattered around your house will reduce stress and help your cats cope with disruptions better.

All cats need enrichment such as toys, puzzle feeders, foraging opportunities, and supervised outdoor time, even if they have access to the outdoors, although indoor cats need extra enrichment. Interactions with cats should be tailored to the individual cat. Play mimics predatory behavior and reduces play aggression.

When combined with other anxiolytic products, Feliway may help reduce inter-cat tension and habituation to a new home. Spaying or neutering your cat will help reduce certain aggressive behaviors, particularly in intact male cats.

How To Tell If My Cats Are Playing Or Fighting? Final Thoughts

An important factor in promoting playful interactions between cats and reducing aggressive behavior is the correct integration of a new cat, as well as awareness of cat groups’ social dynamics.

Have you ever had your two cats play a little too hard and wondered if you should step in and break it up? If so, tell us your story in the comment section below! As always feel free to checkout our other cat articles below!

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