Cat Versus Cat: Causes of Catfights and How to Stop It
Wed, April 21, 2021

Cat Versus Cat: Causes of Catfights and How to Stop It



Do you live in a multi-cat household? Perhaps you are familiar with catfights or inter-cat aggression, said Amy Shojai, CABC, of The Spruce Pets, a pet website. Inter-cat aggression can be frustrating and distressing to both owners and cats. Fights can even draw blood if the tension escalates. It’s not a good idea to just eat popcorn and watch your cats fight it out. In fact, it does not help deescalate the fight, and more often than not, it makes the situation worse.  


Survey On Conflict and Affiliative Behavior Frequency Between Cats In Multi-Cat Households (2019)

Only 3,920 out of the 5,978 responses met the inclusion criteria, with 36.4% of participants owning one cat, 36.3% owning two cats, 17.6% having three cats, and 9.7% owning four cats, said Ashley L. Eizerman and colleagues of journal portal Research Gate. On a daily basis, the most frequently displayed cat-cat conflict behaviors were staring (31.7% versus 13.2% “several times a day”), chasing (31.7% versus 12.3%), stalking (25.6% versus 9.4%), fleeing (22.5% versus 7.6%), twitching the tail (19.1% versus 6.1%), hissing (13.6% versus 4.4%), and wailing/screaming (3.6% versus 1.6%).

Of 2492 households with multiple cats, 12.3% said that these signs of conflict never occurred between their pet felines. Of the 2,185 households that reported some of the signs of conflict, 73.3% of owners said they have noted them from the very beginning when introducing cats, 23.6% reported that their cats’ relationships changed gradually while 31.% said their cats’ behavior changed abruptly.

Households reporting conflict said the evolution of conflict sings over time was noted to have the same frequency for 50.6% of the cases, becoming less frequent in 46.2%, and 3.2% being more frequent over time. According to the authors, the tendencies were similar regardless of the number of cats at home, with conflicts maintaining the same frequency for 53%, 51%< 44% for two-cat, three-cat, and four-cat households, respectively. Further, the conflicts also became less frequent (44%, 46% and 52%, respectively) and was more frequent over time (3%, 3% and 4%, respectively).

On a daily basis, the cat-cat affiliative behaviors noted in multi-cat households were sleeping in the same room as another cat (30.1% versus 57.7% “several times a day”), grooming another cat by licking around the head or ears (23.1% versus 28.1%), sleep-touching with housemate cat (18.3% versus  26.4%), and nose-touching with housemate cat (31.8% versus 23%). Several trends were present in the study, which entailed interesting areas for future research such as the evolution of conflict and affiliative behaviors over time, said the authors. Other areas could also include the effects of personality and age on these behaviors, and the impact of conflict or affiliative relationships on cats’ health and welfare.




Why Do My Cats Fight?

As territorial animals, cats will often fight with other felines to defend what they think is their territory, explained Purina, an American producer and marketer of pet food. This is common with fights that happen outside your house. For example, when another cat has “trespassed” your pet’s territory, it will fight the intruder to defend its “kingdom.”

Catfights are also common among felines that live together. By marking their territory with their scent, they will consider your house as part of its domain. Hence, catfights may happen often if you live in a multi-cat household. Aggression can also trigger fights. Some cats can be aggressive, with male cats being more aggressive and likely to engage in fights. Males can also dominate female cats. Hence, your cat may exhibit aggression by fighting with its siblings or a strange cat. Cats love to play, and sometimes it gets rough.

When your cat engages in rough play, it may look like aggressive behavior and fighting. But frankly, it is not. However, rough play can lead to fights or cause harm to your cats. If this happens, it is recommended to separate your pet felines as safely as possible.



How Do I Know That My Cats’ Fights Are Serious?

Play fighting is often silent, with each of your cats pausing to reposition themselves, noted Battersea, an animal shelter for dogs and cats. Biting is gentle and does not inflict any injury or pain. The claws are also usually retracted during play fights. When play fights become too serious, you may get to witness full-contact fighting, where your cats are locked together when they see each other. Full-contact fighting may cause injuries, or sometimes, your cats might be fine together when you supervise them.

Partial-contact fighting happens where your cats flail their paws rapidly towards the other cat. Their paws may or may not touch the other cat. Additionally, you also need to observe your cats’ body language. Do you see your cat stalking your other feline? Is the body tense and low to the ground? These are signs of aggression. Ears rotated backwards, puffed out tail, and an arched back show aggression. Aggressive sounds such as hissing, screeching, yowling, and growling can also be heard when your cats are fighting.  



How Do I Stop My Cats From Fighting?

Don’t break up the fight physically. You will only be scratched or lose the trust of one or two of your cats. You can distract them using loud noises like clapping your hands or banging on a pot, but be sure to be out of sight since your cats may see you as an aggressor. You can throw a large, soft object near them, prompting to run and hide if it is distracting enough.  

Consider adding more territorial space so that your cats don’t have to share the same hiding, climbing, and perching areas where fights can ensue. Have more toys, cat trees, feeding stations, and litter boxes to reduce competition. Don’t reward poor behavior. Giving food or attention to your aggressive cat may calm it at first, but in the end, you are only rewarding it for its aggressive behavior. In this case, it is advisable to redirect its aggression to play using an interactive toy like a flashlight beam.

If it is not effective, opt to interrupt your cat’s bad behavior with an aerosol hiss. Reinforce its good behavior with a toy, treat, or attention once it walks away and calms down. You may consult with a veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist to see what kind of therapy may be helpful to curb your cat’s aggression. Maybe its aggression is a symptom of an underlying medical condition.  


Cats are territorial, which may prompt them to engage in fights with other felines. Catfights can occur between felines living under the same roof. Owners can distract them with loud noises to break up a fight. However, if aggressive behavior and fighting ensue, owners may need to consult a veterinarian or behaviorist for advice.