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Home > Cats > How to Tell if Cats Are Playing or Fighting: 3 Ways

How to Tell if Cats Are Playing or Fighting: 3 Ways

white and red cats fighting

If you’re the proud owner of more than one cat, it’s always best if your cats can live in harmony with one another. However, it’s not always easy to know if cats are playing or fighting because cats meow, hiss, and pounce around a lot!

It’s common for people to think their cats are fighting when in fact their felines are engaged in some rousing play sessions. It’s also quite normal for a play session between cats to escalate into something more serious. When this occurs, you’ll often hear hissing which can be a sign that one of the cats has had enough.

Since it can be tough to know the difference between cats playing and a cat fight, we’ve put together the following information to help you out. Here are three ways to tell if cats are playing or fighting.


The 3 Ways to Tell if Cats Are Playing or Fighting

1. Pay Attention to Their Behavior

cats staring at each other while leaning on a small chair
Image By: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

When two cats are playing, they’ll often jump on each other, chase each other around, and even do some “play biting”. The cats’ body language will look relaxed and not tense. Cat playing will often take turns being the one on the bottom of the wrestling match. It’s also common for playing cats to take a break to catch a breath now and then.

Two cats that are fighting will display a lot of tension in their body language. If one cat chases another cat to the point that the other runs and hides, that’s a clear indicator the two felines are not playing.

Two cats that continually act aggressively toward one another may end up with one or both becoming injured. If you see your cats behaving in such a manner, it’s best to step in and separate them before any injuries can occur.

2. Watch the Eyes, Ears, Fur, and Tail

two cats fighting
Image By; Vshivkova, Shutterstock

Cats flatten their ears and dilate their eyes when they’re fighting. They will also fluff up their fur to make themselves look bigger and hold their tails erect and upright.

There’s a lot of tension in the air when two cats are about to fight. They’ll hump their backs, stare at one another, and look very uneasy. Cats display very clear signs of confrontation using their ears, eyes, fur, and tail and look anything but relaxed.

3. Listen to the Vocalizations

cats fighting at the field
Image By: rihaij, Pixabay

When two cats are being friendly and playing, it’s common to hear a meow now and then. It’s also normal to hear a brief hiss on occasion as the two cats are having fun running, jumping, and chasing each other. Things sound much differently when two cats are fighting. They’ll both make loud continuous noises that may include meowing, growling, hissing, and screaming.

Maybe you’ve had your sleep disrupted at night by the sound of a cat fight outside your window. You probably knew right away that those piercing cat calls were not coming from animals engaged in play and you were probably right.

A cat fight is seldom quiet or very pleasant to listen to. If two cats are making loud vocalizations that don’t sound very friendly, there’s surely trouble brewing!


What to Do If Your Cats Are Fighting

It’s never fun to have unhappy cats that don’t get along. If you notice that your cats are fighting, you should separate the animals as soon as possible. But how in the world do you break up a cat fight?

You should never intervene physically because you or your cats may get hurt. The best way to break up a catfight is to make a loud noise that startles the cats. Simply clapping your hands may do the trick or banging a spoon on a kitchen pot.

If your cats simply won’t give peace a chance, speak with your vet or a cat behaviorist for some helpful tips. It may be necessary to keep the cats permanently separated in your home or find another home for one of them. Some cat owners have good luck with cat pheromones that provide their pets with a sense of calm. Be sure to explore all your options so you do what’s right for you and your furry friends!

Featured Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

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