Why Do Cats Fight?

It’s easy to fall in love with cats. When we bring a feline friend into our home they quickly burrow their way into our hearts, and we find ourselves wondering how we ever lived without them. Naturally this often leads to us thinking about bringing a second, third and fourth feline into the family.

This is a decision that needs to be weighed up carefully, however, as cats are prone to fighting each other. There are a plethora of possible reasons for this, and it’s important that they are acknowledged and understood. If you can comprehend why cats turn into pugilists at every opportunity, you’ll be able to keep your own pets safe.

Are They Just Playing?

The first thing that will need to be learned is whether two cats are fighting, or actually just playing. A cat play fight can look pretty vicious to an untrained eye, but it’s perfectly natural feline behaviour.

There are a few telltale signs that will assure you that your cats are simply playing.

  • They will take it in turns to be on top or below.
  • Claws will be retracted, and bites should never be anything more than a playful nip.
  • They will pause occasionally, and neither cat will run away.
  • There should be very little noise. Any yelp of pain will lead to the game immediately coming to a temporary stop before resuming once the cats have confirmed their limits.

If you hear growling, hissing and snarling, and the cats appear to be using teeth and claws to wound, then the felines are fighting for real! What inspires them to act in such a way, though?

Cats are Territorial

Cats do not like to share. These animals are apex predators by their very nature, and that means that they like to hunt anything that comes into ‘their’ territory. They will also fight for dominant status – the feline equivalent of a pack alpha.

You will probably find that your cat gravitates to particular areas of your home to sleep or watch the world go by. Whether it’s a sofa cushion, the top of the wardrobe, a pile of laundry of whatever – your cat has declared this to be their territory. If another cat (or in some instances, a human!) tries to lay claim to this territory themselves, the cat will defend it for all it’s worth. The same goes with food, toys and anything that your cat may treasure.

Some cats are more territorial than others. While one cat may only care about a small corner of a single room, others will jealously guard the entire house, garden and even the street outside. This is why you may hear your cat scrapping with others that make their way onto your property while exploring at night. They will be letting this infiltrator know, in no uncertain terms, that this land has been claimed and they are not welcome!

Hormones are Going Crazy

Cats could also experience spikes of aggression due to their hormones. If two male cats detect a nearby female in heat, they may fight over the opportunity to mate with her – or just to impress her!

A female in heat will also fiercely protect her right to procreate, seeing off any rivals for the affections of a male cat, and a new mother will do whatever it takes to protect her kittens at all costs. If you have a pet cat and not interested in breeding them, spaying and neutering will significantly reduce their spikes of aggression.

Attack is the Best Form of Defence

As with all animals, cats actually put forward a great deal of deal of ballast and bravado to mask their fear. A cat that is afraid of another feline that has wandered into their territory will arch their back, hiss – and, yes, they may even lunge with their claws.

This is all designed to get the first move in, and sometimes to buy time for an escape. Of course, they haven’t really thought this through. A cat that is attacked will respond, so a full-on fight is likely to follow. Not least because they are potentially just as frightened as the initial aggressor!

Cats Get Jealous Too!

Just a like a human child may not be too impressed if a new baby is hogging all of their parents’ attention, cats can get jealous. If you bring a new feline pet into the home, especially if it’s a kitten, it’s natural to focus your attention on the newbie to ensure they have settled in appropriately.

If your existing cat feels that they are not getting their fair share of the cuddles and attention, however, they may take it out on the new arrival! Make sure that you share your time equally among all the cats in your home. If you have a clear and visible favourite, any other felines will grow resentful and aggressive towards it.

How to Break Up a Catfight

Distraction is key when it comes to breaking up a catfight. Try shooting a stream of water through a squirt gun, or making a loud noise such as ringing a bell of shaking a bag of pennies. This will break the trance of fighting that the cats have found themselves in.

If fur is flying, never try to physically separate the two cats. That will just aggravate them further, and you’ll likely end up with some very nasty scratches for your trouble. Also, never use physical chastisement – you’ll increase their aggression, and potentially damage your bond.

If you have two cats that insist on fighting constantly, you may need to keep them separate. Cats are not like children; they won’t be reasoned with and told to shake hands and make friends. If two felines are turning your home into a warzone, set them up separate areas of the house that can be considered ‘their’ territory and ensure the other cat does not venture there!


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