What is cat play-fighting?

When you sit in your living room and watch your cats wresting and playing, it’s usually fun, but if you’re not conversant with your cat’s behavior, you may miss the signs that the play-fighting has gone beyond something friendly. And it is important for you to know these signs so as to know when to intervene.

Even if you have more than two feline companions and they grow up together in the same household, it is important for you to learn body language differences among the cats.


Signs to determine whether cats are playing or fighting

It is normal to see cats chasing each other up a cat tree and on the furniture. This is healthy for kittens and adult cats as they play, wrestle and chase each other. Their natural instinct is to jump and attack, so don’t be surprised when they express these behaviors for sheer enjoyment.

However, if one or both cats become overly stimulated, a peaceful play can turnaround into fighting, especially when they are aggressive with each other from the beginning.

Therefore, some common signs you should watch out for include:


Studies on animal behavior have shown that sound is a good way to determine if cats are playing or fighting. If they are quiet as they get along with each other, then it’s most likely play, but when they start to growl, then it means the environment is no longer a friendly one.

However, if what you observe is only some occasional chirp or meow, it means your cats are having fun. But if you hear some harsh aggressive sounds like hissing, yowls, or screaming, then you need to quickly intervene.

Taking turns

Cats tend to take turns in chasing or wrestling games when they are playing and getting along well. They may also go apart for a few seconds and then begin again.

But if you observe that one cat is always the wrestler and chaser, then it’s a sign of concern. However, if the other cat is willing to engage the other, then you just need to keep an eye on them and ensure that both cats are having fun and not otherwise.

One good sign to know when cats are fighting is that one cat will either continue fighting just to defend itself or they would attempt to hide or run away from the more aggressive cat.

Body language

If your cat puts on stiff body language and keeps ears back, it is a clear sign that they are stressed and not playing. You’ll see their fur standing straight instead of lying flat against their back. Also, their tail stays up, which is termed “piloerection.”

The tail of the cars will either be moving in a fast and stiff motion or pressed against them. Their back will also assume the shape of an arc. The cat’s ear will also appear flat and rest on their head and you may see their claws out and teeth flared. More so, the cat’s pupil will be dilated and they will assume a position that indicates a contest.

But if you notice that their body language is rather calm and relaxed, they are likely playing.

Cat and Human playing or fighting

Just like cats exhibit some behavior cues with other cats or kittens, they also use those cues when it’s a human in the equation.

Whenever you are with your cat and you notice that their body language is loose and relaxed, and their fur is resting normally against their body, they are most likely having a wonderful playtime with you.

But when they are stiff and they’re showing their claws and teeth while growling, it may be a sign that your cat is not happy with you and may become aggressive if you don’t make some adjustments in that particular situation.

Cats biting during playtime

Cats tend to bite when playing with their owner, or during a cuddling or grooming session. But unfortunately, this behavior is often misinterpreted.

There are a few reasons why cats behave in these manner, and this include:

  • Lack of early socialization with their littermates. This makes cats bite without moderation during play and they often hurt their owner or another cat, without any intention.
  • Early roughhousing with humans. When cats are not taught how to play appropriately by their owners, they tend to bite during play. However, they do not intend to hurt you but have learned how to use bad play skills.
  • Overstimulation. When cats are overstimulated during a play or cuddling session, they tend to bite, or scratch as a way of saying, “enough.”

How to handle cats that bite during play

If you notice that your cat bites during play, you don’t have to punish them, as this will make them become fearful of you and possibly more aggressive. What you should do is to distract the cat with a toy or a treat. Some wand toys can help to moves your cat away from your hands.

When the cat obeys and move away, you can reward them with whatsoever they enjoy most such as brushing or a treat.

Note that pulling your hands away from a cat that plays bite may overstimulate them to either bite or scratch more. You have a role to play here since your cat hasn’t learned how to play properly.

Gently teach your cat what will not give them any reward and behaviors that will earn them a nice reward.

How to deal with fighting cats

If your cat is actually fighting or is directly expressing aggressive behavior towards you, there are a few things you can do. However, you need to note that safety is paramount when dealing with angry cats.

One step you can take to take care of fighting cats is to always supervise their interactions. This way, you can quickly intervene and keep your cat and you from being injured.

Another way you can deal with these cats is to take your hands off. Do not try to put your hands around or in between two cats that are fighting. Their speed of movement can get your hands bitten or scratched.

You can also make a loud noise to break them up. They become startled when they hear a loud noise produced when you clap or knock two pots together. You can also say “HEY!” in a loud tone to stop them.

If you’re going to be out and you suspect a fight happening, you can keep something that makes noise in your home, like a party noisemaker or an air horn. The point is to make a sharp noise that is strong enough to startle both cats to stop fighting.


You may become scared easily if you’ve never experienced play-fighting with cats before. Sometimes, they may be playing, but you would think they are actually fighting. However, what you should look out for is their body language and the kind of noise they make. If they seem relaxed and calm, then they may be getting along well, but when they show signs of aggression like those listed above, ensure you intervene quickly to avoid any form of casualties.



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