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Why Do Cats Fight? 4 Main Reasons & How to Prevent It

Hallie Roddy

By Hallie Roddy

cats fighting

Even when it seems like all is well in the house, aggression and fighting between two cats can come on suddenly and leave you feeling stressed about how to handle the situation. Whether the problem behavior was gradual or out of nowhere, sudden changes in your cat’s behavior are usually a cause for concern. More often than not, this could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Other times, it could simply mean that something is bothering them that they aren’t okay with.

Always stop by your vet and have them rule out medical issues. If you are sure that there isn’t anything wrong, then it will be easier to track down the real reason why your cats are fighting in the first place.

The 4 Main Reasons Cats Fight

If you and your vet have ruled out medical issues, then one or more of the following concerns could be in play:

1. Fear

Cats usually act out because they’re scared and not just because they feel like being mean. If one of the cats in the house is feeling trapped or threatened by another, they will usually give off a warning sign like hissing and howling. When they become so afraid that their fight or flight response kicks in, some cats choose aggression and fighting to protect themselves.

2. Territorial Aggression

cat fighting
Image Credit: Pixabay

Cats are territorial creatures. In the wild, they tend to live alone and mark their territory by face rubbing and spraying. If another cat is encroaching on their territory, then they sometimes feel there is no other way to handle the intruder than to fight for what they believe is theirs.

3. Protecting Their Litter

It doesn’t matter what species you belong to; moms are not one to mess with when it comes to their young. Mother cats may act aggressively when another animal comes close to her kittens because she is concerned for their safety. Even if she has a good relationship with the animals in the house, she won’t hesitate to do what she needs to do in order to keep her babies safe. Mother cats are known to hiss, growl, swat, bite, and chase away any animal that dares to get too close. This kind of maternal aggression tends to go away once the kittens are weaned, but if it is causing problems, you might consider having her spayed to prevent future litters.


4. Rough Play

cats playing
Image Credit: Piqsels

All felines enjoy playing at one point or another. A lot of times, this rough play looks very similar to aggressive behavior. Two cats living in the same household often get bored and tend to stalk, pounce, kick, or ambush each other. If play goes on for too long, it sometimes lets them get overstimulated, and what was once fun escalates into a violent situation. This type of play is more common among cats with a significant age gap.

Body Language of Aggressive Cats

Pay attention to your cat’s eyes, tail, body, and ears. These are the main anatomical parts that tell you whether they are being genuinely aggressive or not. Signs of a hostile cat include ears being pulled back or lying flat, pupils being dilated, the tail being lowered or tucked between their legs, and their back arched with their fur standing up. Some cats also get vocal when they are frustrated. Growing, yowling, and hissing are common communication signals to either warn an enemy or show that they are in some sort of distress.

Top 6 Wasy to Prevent Cat Fights

There are a few ways to manage aggression in household cats. These treatments vary depending on the type of behavior. Sometimes you have to desensitize them, and other times it requires drug therapy.

1. Spaying and Neutering

Fighting is most common among cats that are not spayed or neutered. This not only leads to maternal aggression, but it could cause males to spray around the house to protect their territory. Always spay and neuter your cats and leave the breeding up to certified breeders in your state.

orange cat with veterinary cone
Image Credit: Sophie McAulay, Shutterstock

2. Provide Hiding Spots

Cats would rather run and hide somewhere that they feel safe than have a confrontation that leads to a fight. Make sure your house has lots of high perches and hiding places that they can escape to whenever they feel scared or threatened.

3. Give Cats Individual Things

Keeping territorial aggression at a minimum is a lot easier to do if each of your cats has things that they can call their own. This means keeping separate food and water bowls, litter boxes, toys, perches, and any other sort of resource. If you give one cat something, make sure there is another of the same item in the house for the other cat as well.

feeding cat
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

4. Reinforce Good Behavior

While punishing your pets for bad behavior doesn’t work, you can certainly reward them whenever they are kind to one another. Give them treats every time there is a calm interaction so that they associate the behavior with something else that is good.

5. Keep Cats Separated

Sometimes two cats simply don’t get along. The best way to handle these strong personalities is to keep them separated for a few days until the aggression stops. If it is persistent, separation could take weeks until you can gradually reintroduce them again. Separation is even more important during mealtime.

scottish fold cat resting in a cardborad box
Image Credit: Tanya Dol, Shutterstock

6. Use Pheromone Spray

There are lots of products that mimic natural cat odors that help decrease aggression in some cats. These sprays are fairly affordable and could be a great tool in minimizing fights in the house.

What Not To Do When Two Cats Fight

Trying to encourage your cats to get along is normal, but you also don’t want to make a mistake that could escalate the situation. Do not allow your cats to fight it out. Real catfights are never solved through aggression, and they could end up seriously hurting one another if you let it play out.

After a fight, do not punish your cats for the way they acted. Punishment only makes the cats more fearful and could make it worse. At the same time, don’t calm or soothe them either. Give them their space and let them calm down.

two cats fighting outside
Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

What if the Cats Keep Fighting?

If the fighting won’t stop and you’ve tried everything you can think of, you might have to contact an animal behaviorist to come out and assess the situation. These professionals are trained to have deeper insight and give some guidance on proper behavior modification techniques.

Final Thoughts

Cats have different personalities, and sometimes two cats just don’t fit well together and won’t ever live peacefully. If you’ve exhausted your resources, it may be time to find a way to keep the cats separated permanently so that they don’t continue to hurt one another. This isn’t ideal for you, but sometimes it is the only way to keep them both safe and minimize the stress they feel.

Featured Image Credit: Vshivkova, Shutterstock

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