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When to break them up?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I’ve been reading as many threads as I can about determining play fighting vs. real fighting. I want to make sure I understand this correctly, so please let me know if I’ve got this right.

It’s okay to let them go until: major growling or hissing occurs during the tussle; someone is crying out; if blood is drawn; someone gets hurt; fur starts flying; they continue to posture.

Here are some of the threads I found helpful:
Link 1;Link 2;Link 3;Link 4;

We have two kittens. They are both 6 months old; both are spayed and are about the same size. Iris, the newer kitten, has always been around other cats, while Chloe, our resident kitten, has been an only cat for the last 4 months. Iris was given a clean bill of health by our vet and Chloe has been healthy. Thanks to the advice on TCS the introduction went pretty well. We have 2 Feliway infusers going in our apartment. Chloe pretty much stopped hissing 3 or 4 days after their face-to-face introduction. Over the last week or so they have been chasing each other around the apartment, both apparently enjoying it. They can walk by each other with no problem; sometimes a light swat or just a sniff. Often times they are in the same room with the other and lay within relatively close proximity. Chloe’s still a little defensive at times, but overall they’ve been doing well.

Based on the progress they’ve made my DH and I planned to let them be together unsupervised while we are at work, starting next week. Then yesterday we saw Iris and Chloe wrestle. (A little stalking; arms around each other; biting; rolling around; rabbit kicking; not a lot of noise.) I was concerned at first, but we determined that it appeared to be harmless. We guessed they reached the stage where they are trying to establish who the alpha is. (We’re thinking it’s going to be Iris.) We ended up breaking them up once last night when the usually-cool Iris started to flatten her ears back before they tussled again. Within 5-10 minutes of separating them they were pushing their paws through the door at each other, so we let them back out together. They wrestled a few more times last night, but mostly they went back to chasing each other or snoozing. (They do not sleep together. Prior to yesterday they didn’t touch much except to touch noses or sniff each other.)

This morning they started tussling again and I let it go until Iris started to meow (not quite yowling) before they went at it. (It happened a couple of times before I separated them.) It looks pretty aggressive, but neither has injured the other. I separated them for about 45 minutes. They’ve been fine so far. In fact, I just snapped this picture:

I don’t want to interrupt the natural process of them establishing a hierarchy; however, if they are truly fighting I don’t want to let them just ‘battle it out’. Does it seem like I have an understanding on when their behavior has crossed the line into fighting? Any suggestions or input? Thanks.
post #2 of 10
My cats (both males, unfortunately, though both were neutered) had always fought, and sometimes it got a little rough. You know your kitties better then anyone else, so I think you'll be able to tell when it goes past just play-fighting. All the reasons you listed for breaking up fights are good ones, just make sure to be sensitive to the subtle messages your cats are giving to each other; I don't think you're cats will really intentionally hurt the other. They are just both vying for top status. Hope that helps!
post #3 of 10
This is just what I do, and because I have so many cats and they are strays there are wars from time to time, but I have learned how to read the cats over the years and I don't interfere with them often. If you keep breaking them apart, how are they going to learn to be together? Clearly there are warning signs, and so far from what I read you don't have any that would alarm me. The biggest sign that two cats are going to go at it, is when both are crouched, tails low, ears flat, eyes narrowed, they are focused on each other and circling each other growling really low. THAT is an intervention sign, and a dark blanket tossed over them will startle them apart. Also a kid's whistle is handy in this home and blasted when a fight begins and the cats break apart.

I would suggest two books both by the same author- Pam Johnson Bennett- cat-vs-cat and Hiss and Tell-
post #4 of 10
Most of mine tussle like you describe and they are just playing. Let them go and watch them when they separate. Most of the time one will run off and the other will chase. If they turn the chase around (the chaser becomes the chasey), they are clearly playing. Or if one just stops casually and sits/lays down, there is no threat. If they were really at it, their body posture will tell you a lot (as Hissy said above).
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thank you! I just needed reaffirmation on what is over the line and what is normal. I will let them go and watch for the signs you all have mentioned.
post #6 of 10
Like Laurelism said, you know your cats better than anyone else. Miko and Kionu wrestle all the time. When I hear Miko yelp in a certain tone, I know he's had enough and I break them up.
post #7 of 10
Festus and Garfield still wrestle a lot, although it has slowed down as they grew up (now 13 months old). Sometimes it seems too rough to me, but I try not to intervene. Often Garfield is the aggressor, and I think Festie gets sick of him sometimes, so I will try to engage him in some other active play to give her a break... I have even shut her in a separate room occasionally to give her a break. But mostly she loves him, and they will sleep together, and she cleans him often.

I'm glad your kitties are learning to be friends. Nothing is as fun to a kitten as another kitten!
post #8 of 10
And they don't always outgrown the play. Last night Scarlett (age 4) and Stumpy (age 10) started in on a good wrestling match. At 6 pounds, Scarlett was the one to run Stumpy (14 pounds) off. They are a joy to watch!
post #9 of 10
I think the key is: it is going to far when one cat is afraid of the other. Runs away from the other cat and hides. Avoids the other cat all the time. So long as one cat isn't afraid of the other cat, what they're doing, even though it may look scary, is normal interaction. Of course, if it bothers you, don't hesitate to separate them until they cool off.

Two cats don't always become pals. It's possible they may alway dislike each other and spat from time to time. You should be aware of that possibility. But hopefully, they'll work out their differences.
post #10 of 10
i worry about that a lot too. I will say something to them if i start to hear extended yells like one of them is in pain, but otherwise I let them go. They seem to just be playing roughly.
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