If you have more than one cat, you’ve probably seen your fair share of cat fights. When looking at cat behavior, it’s hard to know what is playing or fighting.

Because it’s hard to know, we’re going to take a closer look at cat behavior. Is your cat playing or fighting? Let’s learn the subtle signs that indicate what’s really going on.

Cat Behavior – Is Your Cat Playing or Fighting?

When it comes to cats, we all know that they are docile but can really get worked up. Most people have an image of a cat lying in a warm, sunny spot for a nap. And that may be the case for many cats, but they still need to get their energy out.

Cats are fun-loving and social creatures. That means that when you get more than one together, they’re going to have a good time. But their “fun times” may look aggressive. If you find yourself questioning whether your cats are having fun or being dangerous There are certain things you can keep a lookout for to let you know if they are fighting or having fun.

The three things to look for are:

  • Body language
  • Sounds your cats make
  • Are they taking turns?

Body Language

One of the fastest ways to check if a “fight” is the real deal is to check your cats’ body language. Take a close look at your cats’ ears. When cats are playing, they will usually have their ears positioned forward or only a little back. If your cat’s ears are fully back, that means they are trying to protect them. This is a sign that they are really fighting.

A cat’s stance will also tell you a lot about how they are feeling. A cat who is about to fight will have its weight shifted toward its back legs to leave its front paws open for attacking. If they are arching their back and have their fur on end, that’s also not a great sign. Raised fur is your cat trying to look bigger than they are to seem more intimidating.

Vocal Cues

When cats are playing, they are not likely going to be making too much noise. And the sounds they make should be more inviting than aggressive. If you find your cats are meowing as they poke at each other, it’s probably safe to assume they are having fun.

On the other hand, if your cats are hissing or growling you might want to take note. Growling, hissing, howling or yapping are signs that your cat is agitated and not having fun. If your cats begin to fight, there is the potential that they will hurt each other.


Another way to tell a fight from fun is to see if it is reciprocal. That is, are your cats “taking turns?” When cats play fight, they will shift between being the instigator and instigated. This is because the cats are trying to have fun. It’s not very fun to be on the losing side all the time but dipping their toe in submission can be fun. If you are seeing one cat obviously dominating the other through, it’s likely that they are not playing.

You can also check their behavior after the scuffle. If one cat is trying to avoid the other, or they are both avoiding each other, they likely had a real fight. If they were just playing, they would still be friendly toward each other.

Should I Break Up a Fight?

If you determine that your cats are really fighting, it would be best to break them up. Fighting can be an important step in setting the household hierarchy, but if cats fight unchecked, they can cause serious harm to one another.

You can take these steps to help break up a cat fight:

  • Make a loud noise – Banging pots or clapping your hands may help distract your cats.
  • Place a barrier – Put a sheet of cardboard, a couch cushion, or a cutting board between your cats to physically separate them.
  • Separate your cats into different rooms – While you should never use your hands to separate your cats, once you’ve gotten something between them, you should be able to pick up one and send them to another room to cool down.
  • Slowly reintroduce your cats – This is an obvious step, but you shouldn’t force your cats to interact again right after a fight.

Following these steps, you should be able to mediate most scuffles in your home. This can also help save you the cost of vet visits in the future.