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. The following guidelines can serve as a general guide.

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

Janet    Bethlehem, PA

4/14/2013 6:05:07 AM

good information, thanks

Janet    Bethlehem, PA

3/24/2012 10:19:31 AM

good article, thanks

Carmen    Fullerton, CA

7/11/2011 1:50:21 PM

Im glad to have read this article because my two cats Methius and Nala play all the time. In the past I thought they were fighting! Thanks for the info Cat Channel :)

Lynn    Arvada, CO

7/30/2009 9:57:38 AM

2 months ago I got a male kitten and introduced it to my 4 yr. old female cat. My cat never seemed to accept my kitten and she hisses, bats, growls and lays her ears back anytime the kitten comes near. They have also gotten into fights when the kitten was trying to play. I am worried about my cat because now she sleeps most of the time and hides. She will not sleep on my lap anymore nor play anymore. She seems stressed all the time and very jumpy. Any suggestions on how to relieve the situation? I want to keep both cats but am afraid if this continues I will not be able to.

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