Why do cats play fight

The line between game and fight

Wheezing scramble on the living room carpet, tufts of hair flying through the air: Are the two cats playing or is it a serious fight? This question is a long-running question on the various cat lover portals on the Internet. Even experienced cat owners are obviously unsure whether the bellows of their animals is harmless fun or whether there is a risk of injury. In the cat forum "Netz-Katzen.de" the members are at least so largely in agreement: As long as there is no blood flowing, everything is fine.

Really? "I don't agree with that," says behavioral medicine specialist Ruth Herrmann with a practice in Olten: "It takes a lot for it to bleed and animals can be seriously stressed even without bloody injuries."

The game is mostly silent and the roles are always swapped in a game. Once one of the cats runs away and the other runs back and then the other way around, says Herrmann. «Whenever the same one is hunted, you have to worry. Flying tufts of hair are a sign that a very aggressive altercation is going on. If that happens every now and then, you don't have to worry. But it shouldn't be the rule. "

Distract with a toy
If one observes that a cat wants to be left alone, but is being chased by its "Gspänli" or that it is constantly ambushing it, one should distract the troublemaker with a toy, advises Herrmann. Even if a situation escalates and a violent fight breaks out, it makes sense to distract: "Use an object to calmly and prudently interrupt the cats' eye contact." Throwing a pillow or even screaming, however, is counterproductive: "The cat is frightened and may associate this bad feeling with the other cat, which makes the relationship even worse."

According to Herrmann, the cat that hisses is usually the one that is scared. Whereby the one who hisses and attacks is not necessarily the one who "started" the argument. It is not uncommon for an obvious attack to be preceded by subtle provocations, such as “staring”, which is extremely impolite for cats.

According to Herrmann, if you want to find out whether you have to take a scuffle seriously or not, you should definitely consider the overall situation or the basic relationship of the cats in question. If the animals lie together in physical contact, rub against each other or lick each other's fur, the owner can consider himself lucky. His cats are friends or at least well on their way to becoming friends - even if they quarrel every now and then.

It is still good when the cats “somehow get past each other” in everyday life. This can mean that the animals can sit on the same sofa or eat next to each other without getting angry or looking forward to each other. "For example, the cats can walk past each other in a narrow corridor without any problems and relax in the presence of the others," explains Herrmann: "That indicates indifferent but peaceful roommates." Nevertheless, one should also make sure that both cats have enough resting places, alternative options, access to food and not to forget sufficient litter boxes.

It looks bad when a cat looks constantly stressed. For example, if one cat no longer dares to feed or enter a room when the other cat is there. Fighting may not occur at all because the frightened cat withdraws completely.

Do not force contact
If you come to the conclusion that your cats generally don't like each other, you don't have to despair prematurely. According to Herrmann, there are definitely ways to improve the situation. In all probability, irreconcilable fighting cats would not become cuddly tigers, but indifferent roommates could possibly be enough. It is important, for example, that important resources such as food, drink, litter boxes and resting places are available in sufficient quantities and can be reached and used by all cats, even if one cannot walk past the other, for example.

For a homeowner, this can mean that he has to build an elevated “safe” path so that one cat may cross the narrow corridor to the eating or bedroom on a shelf and the other on the floor. Retreats where either of the two cannot go are also important. "In this context, a full apartment is cheaper for the animals than a sparsely furnished one." It is also important to keep the animals busy enough: "Cats are hunters, they need stimulation and have to be busy." Maintaining relationships also requires patience: “It can take a long time for indifferent cats to become friends. If the two of you don't understand each other at all, you have to react early. " Forcing contact makes no sense in most cases.

What do I want my animals to do?
As a keeper, you have to be aware of what you are doing and pay attention to what you expect from your animals, emphasizes Herrmann. Indoor cats are more prone to disturbance: “Outdoor users are more used to it and are accordingly flexible. Once one comes home in a strange mood or with an unfamiliar smell, then the other. " Purely indoor cats, on the other hand, have a much more monotonous life and can be overwhelmed by changes more quickly: "A customer's Büsi got the shock of his life when his colleague came home with a ruff from the vet." Sometimes it is enough if one cat smells different that the two suddenly no longer understand each other.

Before giving away a cat with a heavy heart because of "intolerance" in the group, it is worth getting help from a behavioral medicine specialist, says Herrmann. A consultation, ideally combined with a home visit, is usually sufficient, although this costs between 150 and 300 francs depending on the provider.

Good to know: With cats, encounters are often ended aggressively without this being an alarm signal, says Herrmann: "With a blow of the paw, the cat shows: it is enough." This is typical for cats, while dogs have many more rituals that indicate when someone wants to stop playing.