Often, it can be hard to decipher the reason behind your cat’s actions. The main reason behind that is that a single action can mean different things. For example, if your pet slaps another cat, the meaning of the action can be interpreted differently depending on the context.
Reasons why cats slap each other
Cats slap each other when Initiating playtime, reinforcing social rank, fighting or due to an illness.
When your cats slap each other, it does not necessarily mean that they are fighting one another. Sometimes, slapping is just a means of communication between the feline members of your household.
To distinguish between the different reasons behind this behavior, you need to look at the context and your pets’ body language.
Cats can initiate playtime by slapping each other. Think of slapping as an invitation to play. If you watch the body language of the cats involved, you will see that there are no signs of aggression. The claws are retracted and nobody is making hissing or screeching noises.
You might not notice it, but your cat also does the same thing when he wants to get your attention, whether to ask for something or to play.
In such a scenario, there is no pressing need to intervene. Allow your cats to slap each other, run around, and have a good time.
Reinforcing social rank
Many people think of cats as solitary creatures, much like some big cats. However, cats are social creatures that form bonds with their parents, siblings, or even non-relatives if they are introduced correctly.
If two cats have not yet bonded, they will not groom or play with one another.
In an ideal scenario, all of your cats share an equal rank within their group. But just like in a pack of dogs, some cats emerge as the dominant ones.
A cat can assert his dominance over another cat by slapping him. While this is nothing close to a real fight, it should be a cause for concern for you. Tolerating signs of dominance can lead to full-blown aggression which can be stressful to your cats and you.
One time you see your cats getting along just fine with one another and then you suddenly hear a commotion between the two, with both cats testing each other by attempting to slap the other one.
Real fighting is vastly different from play fighting. You will see that when two cats are locked in actual combat, the claws are unsheathed, ready and waiting for the opportunity to attack the other one.The ears are pulled flat to the back of the head while the two aggressively meow at one another.
Generally, cats try to avoid fights. But when backed into a corner, even a timid cat will not shy away from defending itself by getting into a fight with another feline.
A cat may slap your other pet and show uncharacteristically aggressive behavior if he is suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition.
When a feline is in pain, he may not be as receptive to invitations to play. He may also be irritable in the presence of other members of your household.
Distinguishing between the different behaviors
If you have limited experience living with cats, it can be difficult to understand the reason behind your pets’ slapping behavior.
One great way to overcome that challenge is to observe how your cats play with one another. Cats play with one another differently and observing them clues you in on their idiosyncrasies.
More importantly, you will gain insight into how they interact with one another without displaying aggression.
Later on, this will allow you to distinguish between play fighting and actual fighting. Knowing the difference will help you know when to step in and de-escalate a potentially sticky situation between your pets.
How to curb aggression between your cats
Aggression can arise due to a variety of reasons. What is critical is to recognize the signs that lead to this behavior and eliminate these whenever possible.
As much as possible, provide your pets with an environment that is conducive to peaceful co-existence within your home. That can mean installing more perches around your home, buying additional litter boxes, or setting up different feeding stations.
It is also helpful to spend adequate time with each of your cats for playtime. Aggression can sometimes arise when your cat has no outlet for his predatory instincts.
If your pets still show signs of aggression against one another even after following the previous steps, you may need to separate and reintroduce them to one another.
Breaking up a fight between your cats
You cannot let your pets duke it out. Whatever the outcome of the fight may be, you will only have two cats that are hurt.
Do not attempt to come between two fighting cats. Instead, distract them by clapping or making loud noises. Some cat owners recommend squirting water on the face of two cats that are fighting.
Do not attempt to chase or hit either of the two cats. This will only reinforce the aggressive behavior between the two. Worse, your pets can lose their trust in you.
Why cats hit people
Apart from slapping the other four-legged members of your household, your cats can also slap you and other people that come into your home.
Typically, when a cat feels comfortable in the presence of a person, he will initiate play by slapping that person. However, there are also instances where a cat may feel unsettled in the presence of a new person or situation. Here, slapping is a sign that your pet is on the defensive.
Your cat may also hit you to initiate play or to ask for your attention or his next meal.
Why cats slap inanimate objects
Your pet can also slap or push objects off tables for a variety of reasons. This is why you should be mindful of putting fragile objects inside a room that your pets can access.
If you place something new inside a room, your cat may be initially afraid of it. Or he can be curious and investigate it. Either way, slapping is a way of probing the new object.
Slapping an object can also be a way for a cat to play with objects, especially his toys. His action simply means that he is enjoying playing with you and his toys. However, take note that cats can get bored with their toys. This is why it is important to rotate your pet’s toys from time to time.
Should you worry if your cats slap each other?
Should you be concerned if your two cats slap each other? There is no definitive answer to this question. You will need to consider how each cat behaves, watching for signs of aggression and ill intent.
Allow your pets to play with each other but be ready to intervene if things begin to get out of hand.
Image: istockphoto.com / chendongshan