What To Do If You Witness a Cat Fight

High-pitched yowling, hissing, tufts of hair in the air — the unmistakable scene of a cat fight in action. If you happen to stumble upon such an episode inside or outside of your home, you may find yourself wondering what you should do. Should you step in? Throw water at the situation and hope for the best? Just ignore it? The solution will depend on the situation at hand, but it's always recommended to break the fight up in some way, as catfights rarely work themselves out without at least one feline getting hurt.

Catfight
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Spotting a catfight

Because cats are naturally small, quick, and generally shifty little creatures, it can sometimes be hard to tell whether what your looking at is two cats playing or two cats trying to kill each other. While the instinctive rough play that cats engage in can closely resemble a fight in many cases, there are a few things to look out for that may help you determine whether you're going to have a cat fight on your hands. Usually, when cats are playing, any chasing, batting, or even light biting is reciprocal, and one cat doesn't seem to be bullied or overpowered by the other. Casual stalking or chasing is all part of normal play activity for cats, and friendly felines will usually display body language like ears pointed forward, and an overall relaxed posture.

You can even spot a fight before it's started if you're aware of a few telltale signs. Cats express themselves through the use of body language, and according to the ASPCA, some common signs of cat aggression can predict whether or not a fight is going to happen. Typical signs of aggression are easy to spot and hard to mistake — hissing, swatting, arching their backs and bowing up to appear larger are all very clear indicators that at least one cat is sending the message to back off, or else. Lesser known signs of an aggressive cat include laid back ears, a stiff body, a hanging, lowered tail, and a crouching stance, depending on if the cat is being offensive or defensive in his position.

Two British short-haired cats playing, indoors shooting
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Breaking up a fight indoors

If you witness a fight break out between two of your own cats indoors, the first, and probably hardest rule to abide by, is to not panic. The second thing to keep in mind, and this goes with any fight regardless of where it happens or who's cats are involved, is that you should never, ever reach your hands into a catfight in an effort to break it up. Not only will you (most likely) not break up the fight, but you'll find yourself walking away with a mess of scratches and possible bites and will likely release a stream of swear words so loud your neighbors will probably not make eye contact with you for a while. There is a better way.

Instead, try to break up the fight by first "snapping" the cats out of their rage. This can be done by making a loud noise, like clapping or stomping on the floor. This should do one of two things: it will either send at least one of the cats running or will at least offer a break in the tension for the cats to drop their guard. The goal is to break the cats of their defensive or offensive postures just enough so that you can separate them, at which point, they should be kept away from each other at least until things have calmed down.

Cat ready to Fight
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Outdoor catfights

A cat fight between outdoor cats is not unlike that of one found inside of the home, but because you'll likely be dealing with at least one unfamiliar cat, you'll want to take care to keep your distance. Outdoor cats often find themselves at odds over territorial disputes, and if no one is willing to back down, a fight can take place, says The Humane Society. If you see a fight outdoors, you can break it up by either tossing something lightweight in between the cats to scare them of, or spray or squirt them with a little water.