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Kitty Q&A: Are my cats playing or fighting?

It's Kitty Q&A time! How do you know when your cats are playing or fighting?

That's the question I received from Rebecca this week when I posted a video of my 4-year-old cat Johnny Storm "roughhousing" for the first time with our 8-month-old kitten, Giles.

It's such a great question. Even as an experienced cat enthusiast and your Kitty Correspondent, I have to watch my cats' behavior closely to be sure!

Let's dig into how to tell the difference!

Signs of Cats Playing:

  • Body Language: When cats are playing, their body language is usually relaxed and playful. They may have a loose posture, with their tails held high or twitching in excitement.

  • Vocalizations: Playful cats often make chirping or trilling sounds, which are friendly and non-threatening vocalizations.

  • Paw Movements: During play, cats may engage in gentle swatting or batting at each other without causing harm. Their claws are usually retracted during play.

  • Pouncing: Cats may take turns pouncing on each other or engaging in chase games, showing a back-and-forth dynamic.

Signs of Cats Fighting:

  • Body Language: When cats are fighting, their body language becomes tense and aggressive. They may puff up their fur, arch their backs, and hiss or growl at each other.

  • Vocalizations: Fighting cats often make loud, intense yowling or hissing sounds, indicating distress or aggression.

  • Paw Movements: During a fight, cats may use their claws and teeth aggressively, causing harm to each other. Their movements are swift and purposeful.

  • Chasing: In a fight, one cat may chase another with the intent to harm, rather than engaging in playful chasing behavior.

Tips for Differentiating Between Play and Fight:

  1. Observe Body Language: Pay attention to the overall body language of the cats. Relaxed and playful postures indicate play, while tense and aggressive postures suggest a fight.

  2. Listen to Vocalizations: Friendly chirping or trilling sounds are associated with play, while loud yowling or hissing signals a fight.

  3. Monitor Paw Movements: Gentle swatting and batting without claws extended are typical during play, while aggressive clawing and biting are signs of a fight.

  4. Watch for Pouncing: Playful pouncing involves back-and-forth interactions, while aggressive chasing with intent to harm indicates a fight.

By understanding these cues and behaviors, you can better interpret your cats' interactions and intervene if necessary to ensure their safety and well-being. Remember, cats, like humans, have their ways of communicating, and being attuned to their signals can help foster a harmonious environment for your feline companions.

So, the next time you see your cats engaging in playful activities, take a moment to observe their behavior and appreciate the joy they bring. And if you notice signs of potential conflict, step in to redirect their energy or provide separate spaces for them to cool off. Happy cat watching!

Want to know more about cats AND hang out with some cool cats?

Join me for a LIVE Kitty Q&A as I take my new podcast, The Cat Conversation on the road! This live podcast event will include an hour with the adorable, adoptable cats waiting for homes at the Smitten Kitten Cafe on May 11th.

Get your tickets at and immerse yourself in a world of feline fun and knowledge. Let's celebrate our love for cats together!

Want to talk more about cat behavior? Follow me on your favorite social media by clicking here and join my Facebook group, KJ's Cat Club and submit your question. It could be featured on an upcoming Pet Pals TV!


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