Should I Let my Kittens Fight it Out? (When to step in)
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We recently adopted two sibling kittens, Charlie and Arthur, and it was the first time I witnessed kittens fight.
I grew up with cats and often had two or more cats at the same time. But prior to Charlie and Arthur, I never had sibling cats, and never had two kittens at the same time.
I wasn’t sure if or when I should break up a kitten fight, so I did my research and observed their behaviour closely.
This article will explain why your kittens are fighting and if you should let them fight, or break them up.
Is it OK to let my kittens fight?
In most cases, you should let your kittens fight with each other. Play fighting is normal behaviour and it’s their idea of fun.
If you find one cat is more aggressive than the other and one is trying to get away, seems scared, or hurt, you should bring out a toy, such as a wand, and try to distract the aggressor.
When should I break up a kitten fight?
You should break up a kitten fight when you notice signs of aggression. The first and most obvious clue will be vocalization. If one or both kittens are meowing, growling, or hissing, it’s a good indication that play fighting has turned aggressive.
If one kitten keeps trying to get away or hide from the other kitten, or you notice either cat is bleeding you should try breaking up the fight by using a toy to distract the aggressor.
Our kittens often show typical signs of aggressive behaviour when fighting, but most of the time it is still playful. Their ears go back, one will cower, they’ll chase each other, one will hide under a couch, etc.
These could be signs of a fight being less playful.
But when they both keep engaging in the “fight” and there’s no vocalization, I know they both feel safe and are just playing.
With time, you’ll be able to read your kitten’s body language.
We’ve never had to break up our two kittens fighting. We have however heard them squeal when they’re bitten too hard, but they continue playing without issue. We’ve also witnessed one walking away from the other when they’ve had enough. The message doesn’t always get across right away, but lines are never fully crossed and neither ends up stressed or hurt.
I think allowing kittens to play fight lets them teach each other what is and isn’t okay and helps them understand when enough is enough.
How rough do kittens play?
Kitten play can get quite rough. It can be alarming when you first see two kittens play, as it appears aggressive. However, unless one kitten is meowing, growling, hissing, trying to escape, or bleeding, it’s okay to let them play.
We’ve witnessed one kitten biting the other’s cheek and pulling on it, gnawing on ears, stepping on each other, sitting on each other, tackling each other to the ground, kicking the face, etc. It’s all fair game in kitten fighting.
There are times we hear body parts thumping on the ground as they wrestle, and it makes us cringe. But we know that if one cat was getting hurt, they would walk away.
To give you an idea of how rough kittens can play, here are two videos of our kittens playing at 2 months old and about 7 months old.
You’ll notice in this video, one of the kittens lets out a little sound to let the other kitten know they’re playing too rough. But they both continue to engage in the play fighting, which signifies it is just play.
The kittens are about 7 months old in this video, and you can see, they play pretty rough. But this is all completely normal play.
Why are my kittens fighting each other?
Kittens fight each other as a form of play and it’s completely normal. They’re sharpening their hunting skills and doing what comes natural to them. When kittens get bigger and no longer rely on their mom for food, in the wild, they must hunt and kill their own food.
They would roam around looking for small prey and stalk, chase, bite, and play with it before killing and eating it.
Even though your kitten may never need to hunt for food, their natural instincts create an urge to stalk, chase, bite, fight, and play.
Sibling kittens fighting or playing?
Most sibling kittens are play fighting with each other when they’re biting, chasing, and rolling around together.
Kitten play can appear quite rough, but in most cases, both your kittens are fine.
Signs of sibling kittens playing are:
jumping at each other
stepping on each other
Signs that sibling kittens are fighting are:
hissing or growling
fur on the back or tail is raised
claws are out
one cat keeps trying to walk away but keeps getting attacked
one cat is hiding (and not to try and pounce on the other, but because they’re scared)
blood is drawn
You may also notice odd behaviour outside of playtime, such as peeing, spraying, or pooping outside the litter box, scratching furniture, or other forms of acting out. These can be related to aggressive fighting and one cat feeling bullied or territorial and stressed.
Some behaviour may seem like signs of aggression (on paper), but actually just be a part of your kittens’ play.
For example, when the ears go back or flatten or a cat tries to make themselves look big by turning to the side, this can be a form of aggression.But my two kittens often have their ears back and will try to make themselves look big when they’re play fighting.
Chasing can also be a sign that one cat is trying to escape the other because they feel fearful. However, our kittens love to chase each other after a wrestling session. But the chasee never seems scared of the chaser. And typically after a big chase, they just take some deep breaths and flop down or look out the window together.
You’ll get to know your cats quickly and be able to tell the difference between play fighting and aggressive fighting.
Is it normal for kittens to fight each other?
It is normal for kittens to fight each other and is necessary behaviour to teach them hunting, self-defense, and the difference between play fighting and fighting to cause harm.
When kittens are small they can’t cause major harm to each other, but they can cause discomfort. If a kitten bites another cat or kitten too hard, the other cat will yelp and walk away, or bite back just as hard. This is how cats learn to be more gentle with each other, and with humans.
Kittens can become territorial as they get older, at which point, fighting will be less playful and more aggressive. This type of playing is not healthy and you should do your best to lower the stress, anxiety, and aggression in your cats.
Use the tips in the following section to reduce aggressive and territorial fighting between kittens.
How do I stop my kittens from fighting each other?
To stop kittens from fighting, you must redirect their attention to a toy they can take their aggression out on.
Never try to get between two aggressive cats fighting as you may get hurt. Try your best to distract one cat with a toy to give the other cat a chance to walk away. Once they’re in separate rooms, try creating a barrier between the two cats to give them a chance to calm down.
Then you can take steps to reduce the aggressive fighting so they don’t require you to break up future fights.
If you help your kittens get out their urge to hunt, chase, bite, and play through the use of toys, they won’t feel as much need to fight with each other.
Spend time every morning and evening (but more often if possible), playing with your kittens. If there’s a lot of tension between your two kittens, give each their separate play time. Bring one into a room and wave a cat wand around, throw toys, and encourage play until they’re tuckered out.
Then switch and bring the other kitten into the room for one-on-one playtime.
If the fighting is more aggressive and you’re noticing territorial behaviour, consider the following tips:
1 – Don’t make your cats share
Make sure you have one item for each cat in your household. Each kitten should have:
a water bowl
a food bowl
Even give each cat their own one-on-one time with you. Cats do experience jealousy and you may notice that one cat acts out while the other is getting attention from you.
2 – Create space
Territorial issues can arise when cats have to share. Even though each cat may have their own water and food dish, try placing them in different rooms.
If a cat felt territorial in the wild, they would not be happy about another cat coming within feet of them when they’re eating their prey. So if your cat is feeling territorial, they won’t appreciate another cat sitting inches from them when they eat.
The same idea applies to litter boxes. If you’re dealing with territorial issues, place each litter box in a different room or different area of the house.
You should have one litter box per cat, plus one extra. This has several benefits but in this situation, it ensures there is always a litter box open and that one cat isn’t able to guard the one and only litter box.
3 – Spend time with each cat
The more time you can spend playing with your kittens using toys, the less aggression they’ll have to take out on each other. Playing will also help lower their stress levels and make them feel more comfortable, which can help them feel less territorial.
Spend time each morning and evening (but more if you can) playing with your kittens until they signal to you they’ve had enough.
If your kittens aren’t getting along, you may need to separate them and give each a dedicated playtime.
4 – Create a routine
If you only pick up a toy and play with your cats when you feel like it, your cat won’t know when their next play session is coming.
But if you stick to a routine and play with your kittens every morning after you have breakfast, your cats will learn to expect playtime after you get up from the breakfast table. The same idea applies at lunchtime, after dinner, or before bed when the TV turns off.
Knowing that playtime is coming each day will make them less likely to act out.
Can kittens hurt each other fighting?
Kittens can hurt each other when fighting, especially once they’re six months and older. When a kitten is younger than six months, they’re typically not strong enough to cause any real harm.
They can however have sharp nails and teeth, so minor injuries can happen. This is why it’s important to keep your kitten’s nails trimmed.
Letting your kittens fight from a young age allows them to learn how to properly play fight; without claws and without biting too hard.
Through each other’s reactions and the feeling of being bitten, they learn what type of biting and physical contact is acceptable during play and what’s taking it too far.
Learning this at a young age helps ensure they don’t hurt each other when they’re older and stronger.