Are my cats fighting or playing?
Have you ever seen your cats rolling around on the floor and thought, “Are my cats fighting or playing?” I had this experience just this morning in fact. One cat attacked the other at their food bowls. This is a big no-no because even if they’re playing it’s not cool to attack another cat while it’s eating; it can seem like bullying. The cat being attacked was making her, “leave me alone” noise and we stepped in to distract them.
However, right after this they started play fighting. Here are some ways to tell whether your cats or fighting or playing.
Is a tail bushy?
If your cat’s tail is bushy or the hair on their back is standing up, they are NOT happy and this is NOT a drill. You need to distract the cats with a loud noise or toy. Don’t stick your hands between two unhappy cats because you might end up getting bitten.
Is your cat growling or hissing?
Monica often growls, even when she is clearly play fighting…but she has a different growl when she’s really scared. We hear that one when someone knocks on the door! Her play growl is a little more high pitched; the fear growl is guttural. For me a bigger sign that something is clearly wrong is when one of them hisses. This is a definite sign to the other to LEAVE ME ALONE.
Is one cat always in control?
When cats are play fighting, they take turns. One will clearly dominate while the other defends, and then they’ll swap places. They’ll run for a minute and then one will attack. Then again, they swap places and the other one chases. If one cat is clearly dominating the other, they may be fighting.
Are there claws?
If you see claws come out, playtime is over! Cats who are play fighting don’t use their claws.
So what can you do?
You’ve already started! If you’ve even asked yourself are my cats fighting or playing, then you’re paying attention and you’re concerned. That’s a great start. First, try to distract them with a loud noise or a toy that makes noise. A laser works well too. Often redirecting their attention is all it takes for everything to be fine again.
If your cats seem to be fighting often, make sure they each have some safe places to go. Provide hidey-holes or soft blankets in odd locations like under the bed or on a high shelf in the closet. Trust me, if they need these places, they’ll find them. Cat towers and especially towers with little caves or hidey holes in them are great options too.
Finally, you may have to re-introduce the cats to each other. This can require a physical separation for a few days in different parts of the house. Perhaps one cat is relegated to the living room while another stays in the bedroom or kitchen. Then, slowly begin to reintroduce them to each other. If that still doesn’t work, we recommend consulting a veterinarian or pet trainer.
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