How to Stop Kittens from Attacking During Play
We're conditioned to view kittens as soft, harmless balls of fluff which fall asleep on our laps and generally procrastinate their youth away. In reality, kitty got claws, and they have them for a number of very useful reasons. Stepping in every-time you see your kittens take their mitts off may not only prove fruitless, it may also prove detrimental to their personal growth.
The purpose of this article is not only to offer a few accessible and easy tips on how to placate the volatile tempers of kittens, but also on how to distinguish healthy playing from senseless violence. It can be difficult to tell when fur hits the fan, but there a few signs we can use to our advantage. The first step will be to understand feline psychology and the role of aggression in how it helps transform kittens into cats.
A Note On Breed
Certain breeds of kittens are innately more prone to aggressiveness than others. If you haven't already, it may be worth your while to learn what to expect of your breed of cat based on its personality.
Cute But Still A Predator
Kittens need their temper, claws and array of snarls, hisses and yelps in order to grow into functional predators. Here is a concise list of reasons why:
- Rough play is commonly used by kittens in order to dictate their long-term relationship. Human children often echo this trait which results in one sibling that is naturally more dominant and one that is consequently more submissive.
- Cats rely on play-fighting to learn how to hunt and defend themselves. A kitten which was unable to battle it out in the school yard will likely be less capable of capturing it's prey in the wild. All the ambushes (kittens absolutely love pouncing you when you least expect it), surprise attacks and posturing are simply ways for kittens to practice for later. Another kitten provides a fantastic reactive target.
When To Intervene
We might be blind to it, but kittens do communicate and establish that they are indeed playing. Despite the frightening-looking bites on the neck or belly, if they are in a state of play, which they almost always are, there's no risk of hurt. If a kitten feels pain, they have their ways to inform the offender that it's gone too far and that they should stop. So, what are the differences between play and actual fighting? In the main -- there a few ways we "humans" can tell the difference.
- Hissing and growling repeatedly usually constitute signs the playing has gotten out of hand.
- If your kittens, after some play, tend to avoid each other and not act as if nothing ever happened, then perhaps they weren't actually playing.
- Real fights between cats are short and brutal, whereas play tends to last quite a lengthy period of time. If you kittens have been at it since the dawn of time, it's fairly safe to say they are enjoying it.
- Body language such as ears flat on the head, an arched back, baring teeth, using their claws and puffed up fur can indicate something is amiss.
- Overly dramatic screeching, yowling or screaming are also signs you should intervene.
Spaying And Neutering
Spaying and neutering cats (usually before their first heat) can reduce fighting catalyzed by hormonal reasons. Learn more about the process and what it entails by following the link above!
How To Stop Them Fighting
If their practice session has gotten out of hand, and the house is ringing with the sounds of battle, consider taking both short term and long-term action.
Short term: Forcibly separate your kittens (preferably with an emphatic "no!") and have them do some jail-time by putting them in different rooms. Please note, it is advisable not to separate them by hand, physically. It is better to use a spray (water will suffice) or by shocking them with a loud sound. Praise good behavior, but don't chase them around of punish them -- or it may cause their trust in you to evaporate.
Long term: Invest in more distractions such as toys, which can allow a kitten to play without resorting to bugging his/her partner in crime (who may not currently wish to play). Also, bear in mind that cats are territorial, and if you limit them, or are limited to, small living quarters, fights over territory are more likely to occur. The more space you have, and the fewer cats, the fewer quarrels will arise.
Don't lump two cats of difference ages together immediately. Slowly introduce them, and try to make the process as gradual as you can by forcibly keeping them in separate rooms for awhile. This also goes for introducing new cats into the household, particularly if they are of the same sex.
Other: Another method to reduce the likelihood of aggression that may help stop kittens from attacking (I have not tried this myself) is via the use of pheromone products such as Feliway which help reduce stress.