How can you tell if kittens are playing too rough?

by Flo
(Ohio, USA)

I have (2) 10 month old male kittens. They are brothers from the same litter.

I realize it's normal for them to stalk and attack each other, but how can I tell if they are going beyond playing and into hurting each other and should I break them up?

My thoughts: It can sometimes be hard to tell if kittens are just playing rough or actually fighting.

If you think things have gotten out of hand, I would not break it up by getting in the middle of it. Breaking up a cat fight can be dangerous business.

Instead, try some distraction. There are some things you can do, such as:

Use a wand/fishing pole type toy (like Bird Catcher Pro) and dangle it for them to chase.

Use treats, or perhaps the sound of a can opener (indicating it's snack time).

Offer them a heavy catnip toy that they can sink their teeth and claws into.

Clap your hands to see if you can startle the kittens a bit. I'm not as a bit a fan of this one because I wouldn't want one of them to have a fear reaction to the sound.

Here's an article that explains playing vs. real fighting and what to look for...

"When this happens, hissing may be heard. An occasional hiss in the middle of a play session is not of concern as this may be indicative of a misread play cue. However, if the hissing is more than just occasional, if the playtime repeatedly turns into aggression, if there is growling, if it’s the same cat doing the hissing all the time, or the same cat being the 'aggressor' instigating play that consistently escalates beyond play each time, then this may be a sign that the 'play' has escalated beyond 'play' and entered into the realm of aggression."

I hope that helps,


Comments for How can you tell if kittens are playing too rough?

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Playing rough
by: Anonymous

Can you spray them lightly with water to ‘break it up’?

Hand clapping
by: Cbiskt

Thanks for the great information/link Kurt. I do agree with not using the hand-clap technique. I will be utilizing the techniques that you've suggested. Keep up the great work.

Bad behavior? Just feed them!
by: Anonymous

Let’s see..let’s stop their aggression by giving them treats??? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! That will reinforce the behavior, not extinguish it.

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