Two aggressive cats staring each other down.
Two aggressive cats staring each other down. Photography ©kimberrywood | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Cat Fight Sounds: What a Real Cat Fight Sounds and Looks Like

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Two kittens or cats may be romping around, wrestling and engaging in rough play and enjoying themselves. But then, you hear that ear-splitting screeching: “Rrrreeeeer!” Oh, no. Does that mean the play fight has turned into a serious cat fight? Let’s learn what cat fight sounds (and other factors, like body language) signify a true cat fight versus a play cat fight.

First, What Are Cat Fight Sounds?

A cat with his mouth open.
What sounds signal a true cat fight? Photography ©SensorSpot | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Typically, when roughhousing for fun, cats won’t really vocalize — so if you hear them make any loud noises, your kitties may have crossed the line into a full-blown fight. Screeching meows and growling are cat fight sounds that say, “I don’t like what you’re doing,” says Dr. Sally J. Foote, DVM, executive director of CattleDog Publishing, which publishes books about animals.

If you hear guttural meowing sounds, screeching, hissing, yowling and growling, those are cat fight sounds and mean a fight is brewing — and soon, the cats might be biting each other’s necks, which is a predatory move, Dr. Foote says.

Yet sounds alone may not distinguish a serious cat fight from a play fight, so you need to observe the interaction visually, explains Cathy Bosley, Certified Feline Training and Behavior Specialist at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah.

Do Cat Fight Sounds Always Mean a Cat Fight Is In Progress?

Don’t know if you’re hearing cat fight sounds? This video includes some typical cat fight sounds.

“Actually, unfortunately, many times they sound pretty much the same, which can cause the cat caregiver to run to the cat’s aid, even when they do not need to,” Bosley says. “If you’re looking to see if the cats are having a real fight instead of simply playing rough, the best course of action is to look at their body language. The cat’s body language is the best indicator and it will also indicate if the fight is escalating to a real fight.”

When kittens and adult cats are playing and having fun, they will play with their bellies up or run sideways, Bosley tell us. However, when kitties are on the offensive, they will lower their tails, which will be rigid and twitching. If you see the cat’s hair erect and standing up, this indicates that the cat is either afraid or aggressive. Ears flattened against the head indicate fear; however, ears swiveled down and not against the head indicate a confident aggressor who will attack, she says.

You Might Even Hear Cat Fight Sounds From Cats Who Are Siblings and Friends

It’s not just outdoor stranger cats who engage in cat fights; feline siblings and roommates, just like humans, can get into intense fights even if they otherwise love each other, advises Dr. Foote. Even bonded cats can be sleeping together one minute — then, later, they may get into a vocal spat and bite each other.

“Buddies still fight,” explains Dr. Foote, who is the president of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. “Compared to dogs, it does not happen as intently. You don’t have cats ripping each other’s ears off.”

Still, pet parents shouldn’t underestimate cat fights, Dr. Foote advises, even though they don’t hurt each other as much as dogs do. “It’s so hard for people to appreciate that this is really fighting in the cats because they don’t actually go into injuring each other,” says Dr. Foote, who owns the Okaw Veterinary Clinic in Tuscola, Illinois.

Just like with human siblings, resident cat buddies can fight over territorial issues and become agitated when other felines intrude on their turf. The more cats a household has, the more likely it is that cat fights will break out.

“The cat is a creature that likes his own world,” Dr. Foote explains. “Even in colonies, each cat needs his own space.” In some territorial situations, a cat may think: “Even though you’re my brother, you’re just another cat to me,” she says.

How to Prevent a Cat Fight in the First Place

You can minimize territorial issues in a multi-cat household by giving each cat his own place to eat, so they don’t feel like they have to compete with each other, Dr. Foote says. Don’t make cats share toys either; let each have her own.

You can sense when a cat fight is about to break out by observing body language; ears pointed backward in one or both cats are a sign of trouble brewing. If one cat is staring at another one, it is a sign of aggression, and the cat is likely to pounce on his victim. You can break the stare with distraction: Try tossing the aggressive kitty’s favorite toy at him, Dr. Foote recommends. This can help prevent the aggression from becoming physical, and it shifts kitty’s focus.

“You not only redirect it but give him an outlet toward the predatory prey,” she says.

How to Break Up a Cat Fight

If a fight has already broken out and fur is flying, the No. 1 rule is not to get into the middle of it: You and/or either cat could get injured, Bosley says. For milder play fights that are getting a bit too rough, use a spray bottle to break their concentration, or make a loud noise like clapping your hands or dropping a book onto a table.

For more aggressive fights, try dropping a towel or blanket on top of the warring cats, or pour a glass of water on them, she says. Once the cats separate, try to direct them into separate rooms so they can calm down. Don’t touch a cat that is aroused from fighting; the kitty might redirect the aggression at you, she explains.

“In fact, cats can take hours to calm down and can sometimes redirect many hours after the fight,” Bosley says. “The best thing to remember is to remain calm — yes, this is much easier said than done — and try to never use punishment to resolve any fights.”

Tell us: Do your cats fight? What does it sound like?

Photography ©kimberrywood | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Read more about cat behavior on Catster.com:

13 thoughts on “Cat Fight Sounds: What a Real Cat Fight Sounds and Looks Like”

  1. Pingback: Is Your Cat Staring at You? What It Means in Cat Language –

  2. Hi I have two male cats, Panda who is 6 years old and the other Atlantis is 3 years old. I rescued the younger one when he was like maybe 2/3 weeks old and ever since then the older one is like his protector and guardian. They had been best of buddies and played and groomed each other.

    Panda is more of a laid back cat who loves doing things in his own pace. Atlantis on the other hand is very energetic and hyper, he wants to play all the time.

    The problem started when I had to take panda to the vet to get one of his teeth removed. Ever since he came back they have become enemies. This was around 9 months back. They become friends and they start fighting hardcore in a spam of minutes. Atlantis keeps attacking panda playfully and panda just gets aggressive and then they start fighting. They usually fight at night and in the morning they are ok. But there are a lot of times that when I get back, I see panda hurt.

    Panda gets mostly hurt and I think he just starts getting defensive and starts hissing. The problem is i live in a small studio and there is no way for me to separate them. The only way I can is my putting one of them in the washroom and that also is a nightmare as Atlantis gets very vocal and starts banging the door. It is only time until one of the residents complain the loud noise.

    I tried putting panda also in the washroom but it doesn’t seem fair as he gets punished for no reason. I have tried everything from calming products to pheromones. Even after playing with Atlantis for so long he is still so energetic.

    It has come to a point that now I start shouting at Atlantis but later realize that he is also scared. They cannot also live without each other as both of them look for the other constantly. Panda gets concerned if Atlantis is not there and also the other way round. Atlantis keeps on following and bothering panda and maybe that annoys him a lot. Now panda has also become aggressive and started becoming very vocal. And then suddenly they will start grooming one another. It is really so fast how their mood change from enemies to buddies and the other way round.

    I do not know what to do as it is very tiring for them and for me. I don’t want to give one of them or adoption or use any drastic measures as both of them are my boys and I can’t imagine being away from them.

    Any help or suggestions would be highly appreciated. Thanks

    1. Hi there,
      Thanks for reaching out! Sorry to hear you’re dealing with this. These links might help provide some insight but we suggest working with a behaviorist:
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-fight-cats-fighting-tips-how-to-stop-prevent-violence
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/how-to-stop-a-cat-fight
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-health-behavior-training-tips-reintroducing-cats-vet

  3. I got a 10week tabby girl kitten (Artemis) two 1/2 weeks ago and quickly realised I wanted a sibling to keep her company while I work.
    She’s very mischievous and brave and sometimes naughty.

    She’s had the run of the house so far but yesterday I got an 11 week old Calico (Freyja) who is very chilled and well behaved.

    I’ve never had cats before so I didn’t know to keep them apart and I introduced them to each other straight away.
    At first curious Artemis keeps chasing and pouncing on Freyja who just wants to be left alone atm.

    Artemis is persistent and the two have been having mini fights and Freyja has started to become pissed off resulting in her making low growling noises.

    Whilst the fights are not extreme I worry they May become so.

    Is this normal for kittens to do this? I
    really don’t want either to get hurt. Any advice or help will be much appreciated x

  4. I have 2 cats, Sophie (at least 7-8 yrs old) and Molly (6, her offspring).

    They’ve lived together for Molly’s entire life without incident but over the past month Molly had started to sporadically chase Sophie (a very gentle and non-aggressive cat) and start a fight. It had been quick work to disperse them and have everything go back to normal and it happened so infrequently that I did not think much of it.

    However over the past 2 1/2 weeks things blew up. I went away to my mother’s for a week and by the time I returned Molly was at the point where she would seek out Sophie, stare her down and the moment Sophie would attempt to exit the room or move past her, Molly would pounce her/chase her down and try to fight (Sophie’s instinct is always to run, the fights usually don’t even last long enough for me to break up). It’s as though Sophie is allowed to be in the room with her but is not allowed to move.

    Molly has never been so aggressive or territorial (and I don’t know if it’s about space in the house or the space that I specifically am in because Molly acts like my shadow and I don’t know if it escalated because I was away for a week) and the only thing that was adding up was that it was due to her not being spayed yet (as opposed to her being sick).

    Well…Molly was spayed on Friday and is now wanting to be out and about and not just stuck in a carrier to heal…and it still feels like she wants to monitor Sophie (who is still hissing at her because of the trauma Molly has been putting her through recently). Now I’m at a loss; spaying felt like it was supposed to be the answer.

    1. Hi there — These articles might provide some insight. Also, Molly and Sophie may be experiencing non-recognition aggression:
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-health-behavior-training-tips-reintroducing-cats-vet

      Some pieces on aggression:
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-problems-tips-cats-aggressive-aggression
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/do-you-have-an-aggressive-cat

      And some articles on cat fights:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/stop-cats-fighting
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-fight-cats-fighting-tips-how-to-stop-prevent-violence
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/well-adjusted-cats-cat-fights-aggression

  5. I personally have five cats and they all seem to find their own way to de-stress in the house. while one or two will show obvious signs that they are at wits end the others you’d never know! I try to provide a few walkways and cat perches to help them relax as much as possible, a good old scratch help wonderfully!

  6. I have 2 female cat siblings that normally get along, but we have a stray Tom that comes around, and then they start hissing and making guttural sounds and then attack each other. How can I get them to stop the aggression toward each other?

    1. Hi there —

      Sorry to hear your cats are fighting. These pieces might help:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/stop-cats-fighting
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-fight-cats-fighting-tips-how-to-stop-prevent-violence
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-problems-tips-cats-aggressive-aggression
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/cat-aggression

  7. I would have to say yes the cat is stressed to much stress can cause many different health issues. You should try using comfort zone or all natural stress reliever there are several out there to try Jackson Galaxy safe space , Natural pet anxiety and stress, calming chews. You just have to try a few see what works the best. Just read the ingredients and go all natural. Good luck

  8. I have a 11 year old cat who is very territorial. My daughter moved and left her cat with me and it has not been easy. My cat hates her. Always growling at her and ready to pounce. They fought a few times. I keep them separated to avoid fights. My daughter’s cat now has bald spots. I wonder if is from stress or something else.

    1. I would say yes the cat is stressed to much stress can cause many different health issues. You should try using comfort zone or an all natural stress reliever there are several out there to try, Jackson Galaxy safe space, Natural pet anxiety and stress, calming chews. You just have to try a few to see what will work the best. Just go all natural . Good luck

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