Cats love to play fighting. But sometimes cats fight for real! It is not always easy to tell if cats are just playing roughly or if they are actually fighting.
Here are things to look for when you are watching your cats interacting:
1) Do they exchange roles when playing?
It is possible that one of your cat most often play the “mice” (!) while the other gets to chase him around. In general, however, cats exchange roles when they play so that not one of them is stuck in the prey role.
2) Do both cats look like they are actually having a great time?
When cats are having fun, they might look intense but should not look scared. Are their ears pointing forward with excitement and focus or are they pinned back flat on their head? Do they move clumsily or do they seem very tense? Your cats should also look like they are communicating and respecting each other’s request for a break.
3) Can you hear a lot of sounds?
Cats sometimes hiss when they play, but a lot of hissing in addition to a lot of growling might indicate that what has started as play has deteriorated to an actual fight. If you hear a high-pitch scream, then one of your cats is in pain, which should never be included in normal play.
4) If you interrupt their play, what happens?
Interrupting play by a loud noise or – if you have taught them so – by calling your cats to come to you is a simple way to evaluate whether they were playing or fighting. If they resume playing when you release them from your attention, they were most probably only having a great time. If one of them instead goes hiding someplace, then this cat was probably uncomfortable with the interaction and was happy to have found a way out of the “game”.
5) How do they interact daily?
Relationships are based on more than rough play..! When not “playing”, if your cats cuddle and enjoy each other presence, then it is unlikely that they would randomly start fighting seriously. On the other hand, if your cats never spend time with each other and always seem to get out of each other’s way, then it would be surprising that they become best playing buddies.
Here is a video showing two cats play fighting:
And here is a video of two cats fighting: