A cat fight in progress.

How to Stop a Cat Fight and Why They Happen

What causes a cat fight and how do you stop your cats in the act or prevent your cats fighting in the first place? Here's what to do.

catedit  |  Sep 19th 2019

A cat fight is actually a natural behavior, and the key to get a cat fight to stop is to understand why the cats are fighting in the first place. Cat behavior is complex, so be patient. You may need to try several solutions to stop a cat fight before finding one that works.

Why Do Cats Fight?

Two ginger kittens fighting.

Why do cats fight? Photography by 101cats/istock.

Have you just introduced a new cat into the home? Do you have a young cat who is reaching sexual maturity? Have you moved, leaving your cats to establish new territories? The root cause will determine how you resolve your cats’ conflicts. The most common causes for a cat fight are listed below:

1. Cats Fight Because of Hormones

Male cats are often involved in inter-cat aggression, which most often occurs when a cat reaches social maturity between two and four years of age. Although this type of aggression is usually seen in males competing for mates, it can occur between cats of any sex when territorial conflicts occur.

The first step toward eliminating this form of a cat fight is to spay and neuter your cats. If you’ve already done so, pheromone products like Feliway can help reduce aggression. Keep in mind, you need coverage in every room of your house for it to be effective. Feliway now makes pheromone collars as well.

2. That “New Cat Smell” Might Cause a Cat Fight

When you bring a new cat into the home, he will have a new cat smell that screams “alien invader” to your resident cats. Some cats are more troubled by this than others. Integrating their smells can expedite a resolution of their conflict.

Rub a towel over one, then rub the same towel over the second cat to mingle their scents. Do this several times a day for several weeks.

3. Jealousy Makes Cats Fight

A new cat will almost always get more attention from you than your existing brood does. Set aside extra one-on-one time with your other cats to alleviate their fears that the new cat is stealing all your love — and a common reason for a cat fight. Jealousy is more likely to be an issue with breeds like the Siamese that bond closely with their people, and they will need lots of reassurance that their place in your heart is secure.

4. A Cat Fight Might Be Territorial

Cats are by nature territorial, even if the territory extends no further than the end of your couch. When you introduce a new cat into your household, the new cat will need to establish territory, and your existing cats will need to defend theirs. This often results in a cat fight.

Each of your cats probably has a “spot” they call their own. Discourage the new cat from adopting one of these spots by providing her with her own special spot. Sprinkle it with catnip and put a towel with her scent on it.

Consider providing the new cat with her own cat tree. She won’t be poaching the territory of your existing cats, and she can mark it as her own with her scent.

Or, establish new separate “cat spaces” in your home. Set up a decorative panel screen in the corner of a room, or reposition your furniture to break up a large space, carving out more smaller “territories” for your cats.

How to Stop a Cat Fight Before It Happens

If a cat fight won’t stop even after trying everything above, it’s time for incarceration. It’s not as bad as it sounds. You want to force proximity upon the two cats without endangering either of them.

Get a large dog crate — do not use a cat carrier. Place it in a spare room, and put one cat (with a litter box and bed) in the crate, and the other cat outside the crate. Leave them alone in the room together. Do this every day for at least a week, alternating which cat gets crated.

When things appear to be less volatile between them, let them out together in the room (but don’t leave them alone together). Play with them, give them treats, and praise good behavior. If one initiates a cat fight, put him in the crate. Continue until they can be together in the room without fighting.

At that point, you can reintroduce them to the rest of the house. When one starts a cat fight, he goes back in the crate. Again, praise good behavior and reward with treats. Within a month, the two cats should be able to coexist fairly peacefully.

How to Break Up a Cat Fight

Through all of this, you’ll (unfortunately) probably need to break up a cat fight or several. Never reach in and try to separate fighting cats yourself. Instead, squirt the cats with a squirt gun or toss water on them from a distance (so that they’re not aware that you’re the source of the water). It’s good to keep loaded squirt guns throughout the house for this purpose. Alternatively, loud noises (an air gun, a can full of pennies or banging a pan) can be effective.

NEVER hit them or chase a cat. It will only make them more aggressive, and it can permanently destroy their trust in you.

With patience and a clear understanding of cat behavior, you should be able to achieve household harmony and any sort of a cat fight within a month or two.

Thumbnail: Photography by Tom Wang / Shutterstock.

Tell us: Do your cats fight? How do you prevent a cat fight?

This article was originally published in 2009. 

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