Frolicking or Fighting?

What looks like fighting may actually be social play. These six guidelines can help you distinguish between the two.

Posted: Wed Nov 20 00:00:00 PST 2002

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It is not always possible to distinguish playing from fighting between cats. You may need to observe the cats' behaviors before and after such a bout to determine if it was play. Use the following guidelines.

1. Play is relatively quiet compared to fighting. Although cats may hiss briefly or make other sounds during play, the loud wailing and howling heard in serious fights are generally absent.

2. Play does not usually result in injury. If it does, it is usually minor and does not occur consistently. Fights often result in injury to one or both cats.

3. After a play bout, neither cat seems to be much afraid of the other. If the play gets relatively rough, fearful behavior may occur, but isn't long lasting. Avoidance behavior more commonly occurs after a fight.

4. Play appears more mutual and flexible. In a fight, there's usually an offensive and a defensive cat. These roles shift during play.

5. Cats that frequently play together also show friendly behaviors, such as resting near one another. Cats that fight frequently show fewer, if any, friendly behaviors.

6. Play is usually initiated by either cat. When cats fight, one usually initiates it, and the other just reacts.

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Reader Comments

Deirdre    North Port, FL

10/24/2014 8:39:10 AM

I'm with Sadie. My two cats "fight" constantly, but really its just one (kitten) that wants to play and rough house, while the other shrieks and howls like she's being murdered, which is definitely not the case!

sadie    chicago, IL

10/24/2014 8:06:17 AM

with our two...one is always the instigator and the other is a drama queen who shrieks and howls every time he bothers her. but they still snuggle. he just wants someone to play with and she's a bia!

Janet    Bethlehem, PA

2/26/2013 5:55:22 AM

good article, thanks

Michalle    Portland, OR

1/26/2012 1:36:40 PM

It was a helpful article.

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