October 2008 Issue

Cat Fights: What to Do?

Experts discuss why they happen ó and when you should stop them.

While fighting among cats is not typical behavior, it does happen. Read on to learn some reasons why cats pick fights with each other ó and what you can do about it. All kittens play, practicing to defend themselves by arching their backs, jumping on each other, chasing each other and maybe exchanging a few nips on the ears. "The difference between playing and fighting," says Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, the James Law Professor of Animal Behavior, Cornell Universityís College of Veterinary Medicine, "is that when playing, cats take turns chasing each other. There isnít one dominant aggressor or one main victim. Nobody hides." In general, cats donít play much after 16 months of age, and males are more likely to engage in play of this kind. As for fighting, cats will fight at any age. "True fighting is usually more of a one-way process," says Dr. Houpt. "One cat will be the aggressor and the other will be the victim. Hissing, clawing and batting with the paws are more fear-directed than playful. The noisier the interaction, the more likely itís a fight and not play."

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