I’ve polled my fellow felines and the consensus is that there are telltale signs that suggest one or the other.
If we’re playing, there won’t be any ongoing growling, yowling, or screaming. We may hiss once, possible twice, but that will be it. We won’t continue hissing.
If we’re playing, no one will purposely be hurt. That is, unless there is an accident, there will be no scratching or biting and fur flying everywhere.
If we’re playing, we will take turns being on the offensive and defensive. If we’re fighting, one of us will staying on the offensive and the other, alas, will be on the defensive. Playing is a matter of turn-taking, like human speakers in a conversation.
If we’re playing, we’ll resume our normal behavior after the tussle. If we’re fighting, you can see that we’re avoiding one another and appearing afraid and standoffish.
When you’re not sure what is going on, especially between two cats who don’t normally interact with one another, you might try to distract them in a positive way.
Since they might be playing and getting to know each other, you don’t want to do anything negative, like splashing them with water or using an air horn. If they are creating a budding friendship, you don’t want to interfere with it.
So you can create a positive sound, something they associate with having a yummy or play with you. If a jingle bell suggests catnip, you could make a loud jingling sound. If opening a can of cat food or tuna it to grab their attention.
Whatever you do, do not try to physically separate them. If they are fighting, you and/or they could be harmed as well as add to their aggression level if they are fighting.
In a fighting situation, your splashing them with water or making a loud noise can be helpful.
Just look for the signs to be more sure they are really fighting and not playing.
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Dr. Dayhoff is a Social Psychologist, cognitive-behaviorist, and cat behavior translator specializing in increasing cat-human communication and understanding, respectful, accepting, trusting, and loving relationships. http://www.loveyourcatsinnertiger.com
Reprinted with permission
Copyright (c) 2011 Signe A. Dayhoff, Ph.D.All rights reserved.
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