cats on the snow

Play-fighting among cats is common and even natural behavior, but sometimes tussling cats aren’t so playful. If you catch your cats being way too physically vicious with each other, you can stop the fighting using any of several ways that protect both your safety and theirs. Click through to learn how.

Distinguish Fighting From Playing

Two kittens playing on ground
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Cat play often takes the form of roughhousing, especially for kittens. Sometimes, this play can be very rough indeed and therefore difficult to distinguish from actual fighting.

Common indicators of a cat that is being playful and not aggressive include the “play face” (i.e., when a cat holds its mouth partway open) and hopping sideways. An aggressive cat on the attack tends to growl and hiss, so watch out for those feline vocal cues. 

Make Some Noise

cat listening

As a rule of thumb, yelling at a cat when it misbehaves is not recommended. Cats don’t have the cognitive capacity to connect its behavior with being shouted at, and thus won’t learn from its mistake.

When breaking up a cat fight, however, your goal isn’t training or punishment, but simply stopping the fight as quickly and decisively as possible. In that case, shouting, clapping or stomping your feet to distract the fighting cats with noise may be enough to bring a brawl to a sudden halt.

Get Them Wet

wet white cat
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Everyone knows that cats hate water, and you can use that to your advantage if you need to stop cats from fighting each other. You may already have a spray bottle of water handy if you use it to discourage your cats from misbehaving.

You can also use it to stop a fight. Otherwise, a cup of water can do the trick. If the fight happens outside, use a garden hose. The cats won’t be happy about getting wet, but water won’t actually hurt them. Fighting will.

Turn The Fight Into Play

young cats playing
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Your main strategy to stop a cat fight should be to distract the cats rather than engage them directly to break them up. If you have a toy handy, especially a favorite toy of the combatants, try redirecting their aggression to the toy. If it works, the cat or cats can continue working out some physical aggression without harming or traumatizing each other.

Throw In The Towel

cat wrapped in towel
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Another effective way to separate a pair of fighting cats is to throw a towel or blanket on top of one of both of them. The sudden distraction should stop the fight without frightening the cats or making them especially uncomfortable.

This tactic has the added advantage of giving you some protection when you pick up one of the cats to separate it from the other. You can bundle the cat up in the towel or blanket for protection.

Protect Yourself

woman belly rubbing a cat
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It may happen that your attempts to distract the cats from fighting prove futile. If the cats stubbornly insist on ignoring you in favor of biting and scratching each other, you may have to intervene physically as a last resort. Avoid going in bare-handed if at all possible.

Try to pick up one of the cats with a towel or blanket. If you have time, put on a pair of gloves. Thick, tough gloves like those made for gardening are best for protecting your mitts from your cat’s furious teeth and claws.

Separate The Combatants

cat hiding
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Once you’ve stopping the fighting itself, break visual contact between the cats and separate them physically as soon as possible. The simplest way to do this is to put the cats in separate rooms and close the doors until the cats calm down. If you let them free too soon, lingering aggression and tension may cause them to reengage the fight. It can take several hours for the cats to truly settle down.

Watch Out For Displaced Aggression

aggressive orange cat
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Like humans, cats are known to take out their anger and aggression not on their source, but on whoever is nearby instead. This often happens if an indoor cat sees a squirrel, a dog or especially another cat outside a window. The intruder raises the cat’s hackles, but since the can’t attack what it can’t reach, it may attack another cat in the home instead.

If you notice your cat growing agitated in this way, separate it from your other cats before it has a chance to start a fight. If you have a cat that has frequent incidents of displaced aggression, consider drawing the shades or enticing the cat to choose a less “active” window in which to perch.

Calm Them With Pheromones

cute sleeping cat
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You can buy synthetic feline pheromones that have a calming effect on cats. They’re useful in variety of ways, one of which is speeding the process of settling cats down following a fight.

Cats use their natural pheromones to mark territory, so spraying synthetic pheromones around after a fight will not only relax your cats, but also give them a sense of being on safe ground.

Don’t Punish

man angry at cat

When we say you shouldn’t punish your cat, we don’t mean that it’s wrong and cruel, but that it’s an ineffective way to train cats. As previously mentioned, cats are unable to connect their behavior with subsequent punishment.

Punishment will only serve to frighten or confuse your cats, and may even make them afraid of you. Punishing your cat will stress it out and damage your relationship, and it won’t do anything to prevent future cat fights.

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