Why Do Cats Get in Fights?

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Cat owners can attest that watching their beloved pets get into a fight can be a stressful situation. Whether the fight is between a fellow playmate or with cats outside the home, you may feel helpless when the situation arises. However, being aware of potential warning signs and triggers that could potentially set off a fight amongst both domesticated and feral cats will help you not only curb a potential rumble but prevent a fight from beginning altogether.

Domesticated cats vs. feral cats

Understanding the difference between domesticated cats and feral cats will help you be able to read and understand body language and behaviors better. A domestic cat, or a house cat, is a mixed breed or a purebred feline that derived from long lines of selective breeding. This breeding led to the offspring having little to no wild instincts, thus becoming more suitable for indoor cohabitation with humans. Domesticated cats are more social with humans, yet not all domesticated cats live strictly within a home- some do live partially or fully outdoors.

A feral cat is a cat born in the wild. Feral cats lack human socialization, therefore they do not respond to people as well as their domestic counterparts.

Domestic cat triggers and warnings

Your cat's body language and instinctual triggers are key in being able to identify potential cat fights. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are various levels of aggression to recognize and attend to when it comes to your feline companion.

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Territorial aggression is a form of aggression that occurs when a cat feels his territory has been invaded. Whether you decide to bring home a playmate for your feline friend or if another cat wanders onto your cat's home turf, territorial aggression can provoke your cat to instinctively defend what it believes is his own ground. Behavior to look for, according to the Humane Society, is stalking, chasing, hissing, loud meowing and blocking access to social areas such as a bedroom or even the litter box. To aid with in-home territorial issues amongst your feline companions, help your new cat adjust to the home by providing a spot that they can claim as their own and providing items they can claim for themselves, including a cat tree. Scent plays a vital role in how a cat claims its territory, so by leaving areas for your cats to rub their own scent onto objects, you will help your cats be able to claim areas of your home without engaging each other in a fight.

Other forms of aggression include food aggression, redirected aggression, defensive aggression, and inter-male aggression.

Though both female and male cats are capable of showing aggression, males, especially unneutered male cats, can exhibit aggressive tendencies towards other male cats in the home-also known as inter-male aggression. Territory and fighting over females play a huge part in these squabbles, which occur around the time of social maturity-approximately two to four years of age. Yowling, hissing, puffing of fur, and stalking are examples of body language to look for when your cats are squaring off. Spaying and neutering your domesticated cats is a good preventative to help curb any potential fight.

Other warning signs of a potential attack include flattening of your cat's ears, crouching, stalking, and the tucking of legs and tails under the cat's body.

Cat fights have the potential for occurring due to circumstances beyond just aggression. Under socialization in younger cats and kittens and behaviors taught by their peers can lead to future household issues. The attention your cat may receive from you also plays a large part in their response to you and to other cats living within the home. Making sure to properly introduce and socialize your new kitten with your current cat and setting aside time to interact with each cat will help prevent your cats from feeling a kitten is encroaching on its territory, therefore needing to act out on his fears.

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Feral cat triggers and warnings

Similar to their domestic counterparts, feral cats also do exhibit instinctive aggression related to territory and survival. Under socialization, dominance, and hormonal aggression play key roles in how feral cats within colonies interact with one another. Acknowledging these behaviors might help you prevent your own cat from encroaching on a feral cat's territory and to also recognize when a fight may occur when a stray cat comes into your own cat's territory.

Feral cats are extremely territorial over resources such as food, water, and even shelter.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) has become an effective procedure to help control feral cat populations. According to the Humane Society of the United States, when proper TNR procedures are put into effect in a community, the results can be tremendous. With the spaying and neutering of feral cats, behaviors such as fighting, spraying, and roaming can be decreased.

Remedying and controlling cat fights

Watching a fight can be distressing for cat owners, but curbing a fight is possible to keep the peace within your home.

Using hand's off strategies such as distracting your cats with play or toys may help in avoiding what could be a fight. Be careful when attempting to break up your cat's scuffle- redirected aggression can leave you with unwanted cuts and scratches that could have been otherwise avoidable. Discourage your new cat from encroaching on your current cat's territory with its scent by providing space for each cat to claim as its own. Cats don't generally enjoy sharing space with other cats, so providing multiple feeding stations, water areas, and lots of one-on-one time, you will help prevent potential bad behavior.

If aggression persists, your cat may be suffering from excess aggression. According to the Humane Society, there are other avenues you can pursue in order to help aid your feline. A visit to your veterinarian may be in order to help determine if your cat has any underlying illness. Animal behaviorists can help determine if lack of socialization is playing a part in your cat's behavior and can provide techniques to aid in managing aggression. Books and online tutorials are fantastic resources to turn to when handling your pets get along with one another.

Avoid correcting your cats via chasing your cats away from one another or using any physical force. Not only can this not work to diffuse a fight, but your cat may lose trust with you. Also, avoid getting involved in a direct fight by placing your hands on either cat during the fight. This can result in injury, so consider spritzing water onto the cats instead-a non-violent and injury-free way to help squelch a brawl.

Feral cats, even after being neutered and spayed, may encounter or instigate a fight with other cats within the colony. Instinct and hormones still left within a cat's system after a neutering could result in the continuation of aggression. Fights within the colony can be curbed with providing a feral colony with more resources-more water and food bowls and adequate outdoor shelters.

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Conclusion

Understanding your cat's body posturing and behaviors will help prevent an aggressive situation.

Provide your cat their own territory within your home, and encourage any new cats you bring home to create their own territory in other areas of the house via the use of objects such as cat towers.

Proper socialization is key in order to help your cats interact in a healthy manner.

Feral colonies thrive with the TNR technique and can benefit from additional resources, such as adequate food, water, and shelter.