How to Break Up A Cat Fight
Cat fights are loud, vicious, fast-moving and savage. There are not many things that sound more brutal than a cat fight. A cat fight is easy to identify through yowling, thumping, and hissing. Fortunately, most sound worse they really are; but while they are almost always nonfatal, it can sound like the end of the world when it’s happening.
If you share your home with more than one cat, it’s likely you’ve heard the sounds of fighting before. In some cases, two (or more) cats are momentarily annoyed and striking out in frustration; but in other homes, it’s a recurring issue.
Cat fights (despite being non-fatal) can still result in serious injuries. It’s important to understand the signals cats are sending before they actually start fighting. Study the cats who are getting into it and see if you can get to the root of the problem.
Understand Body Language
In most cases, it’s one cat that’s the instigator. This is not always true, but it’s a good rule of thumb.
Try to recognize the clues that indicate a cat fight is starting. Make sure to identify which cat appears to be the instigator and which is repeatedly a victim of that cat or others.
- A threatening sideways glance
- Fur standing up
- Stiff sideways movement
- Stalking behavior
- A refusal to maintain eye contact with the other cat
- Growling or yowling (screaming)
- Ears pinned back
- Tails tucked
- Dilated pupils
All of these things are indicators that a fight may be about to start.
See the end of this article for a helpful guide on understanding cat body language.
Step in Before the Fight
Before the fight starts is the best chance you have of intervening without anyone getting hurt. The goal of intervention is to distract and separate the cats, but make sure you have their full attention before attempting to move them.
The last thing you want to do is reach in and try to grab or separate a stressed out cat. This will result in you getting hurt 99% of the time.
However, there are some ways to stop the action before it reaches that level and even ways to stop it mid-fight.
- Gently place a cardboard box over one of them.
- Place a large piece of cardboard between them.
- Toss a blanket or towel over one of them (preferably the aggressor).
- Clap your hands loudly (generally only works if fight has not started).
- You may need to use a broom to gently move them away from one another. This will help distract them momentarily.
No matter what goes down, it’s important to inspect both (or all) cats each day for any bite wounds or abscesses. These can turn into serious infections for pets. You should also check their mouth, ears, tail and neck for signs of injury. If you do discover injuries, take your pet into the veterinarian to clean the wound and get them started on antibiotics.
Identify Causes of Fight
Once you have identified the aggressor, it’s time to look into the causes of the fight. Cats can become aggressive for a lot of reasons (learn more about those reasons here), but we can usually recognize it as a territorial dispute or play aggression that got out of hand.
For the record:
- Two intact males are going to be more prone to fighting than cats who have been neutered. It’s important to get your cats spayed and neutered.
- If you have multiple cats, it’s important to provide plenty of space for each them. Consider catifying your home!
- Cats tend to lash out when they are in pain or otherwise ill. Get your pets in for a veterinarian check to see if one of them is in pain.
- Access to fresh air and sunshine is important for most cats. Learn how to build an outdoor cat enclosure.
- It can be difficult to bring outdoor cats in full time, but it can absolutely be done. Learn how to keep your outdoor cat indoors without damaging their psyche.
Create Safety Areas & Escape Routes
The next goal is to find ways that you can help cats live peacefully together.
This will require the addition of “safety routes” (such as cat bridges or tunnels) throughout the home. You should also make sure you have plenty of climbing areas, cat enclosures, or any other way you can give cats some extra room.
Add Extra Litter Boxes
Don’t forget to add plenty of litter boxes. The rule of thumb is: 1 + 1 per cat (e.g., one cat, two boxes. 5 cats, 6 boxes).
Many cats are bullied by other cats while they are in a box doing their business.
This can wind up creating a host of problems from spraying and other inappropriate elimination problems. It’s much easier and more cost-effective to just make sure you have plenty of boxes that are kept clean.
Feeding and Water Stations
If a cat is being bullied, it could be while he’s eating or drinking. Eventually, they will be afraid to do either. Make sure you have at least two feeding stations and drinking fountains in a home with multiple cats.
Your cat relies on you to feel safe in their home. Don’t let them down!