Following a nasty bite resulting in a hospital visit, I asked my local vet “what do you do when you see a cat fight”. My vet looked a little puzzled at the question, before saying “I have been asked this 3 times this week”. Well, obviously felines being in heat means many tomcats have been having catfights, with many well-meaning owners being confused how you should act.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T STEP IN:
Firstly, their fights are often not as bad as they seem. Cats do frequently fight for a range of reasons and you are at more harm of being injured than the cats are. Often stray cats can have a variety of diseases, especially on their teeth and through their saliva. A cat bite can cause a severe infection if not properly managed. Stepping into a catfight will always be perceived as an attack from the foreign cat, you are significantly bigger than they are and due to being already threatened they will be several times more likely to attack you.
If you do become injured or bitten by a stray cat is it important you have the wound seen to immediately. Frequently, anti-biotic treatment will be required and you’ll have a nasty infection.
WHY CATS FIGHT:
Additionally, catfights are a very common occurrence and they rarely result in much more than a few scratches. Cats fight for a range of reasons;
Food: if a cat has been hunting or taking food from your cat then it can likely result in a fight. This is why it’s especially important in a multi-cat household that you have more than one feeding area.
Mates: even cats that have been desexed can fight over mates during heat. This is very common with a stray cat and a female domestic cat. Frequently even if a female has been desexed the male cat can still (at times aggressively) attempt to mate with her. Often this will result in a fight.
Dominance: this can happen for a range of reasons, is there is a new cat in the home or if a cat has recently passed or left. Sometimes an oppressed cat can snap and want to assert dominance. This can even occur after a cat has been unwell or desexed.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU DO SEE A CAT FIGHT:
If you do try to break up a fight, you will be far more likely to become injured than the cats themselves.
The smartest and easiest method of breaking up a catfight is always food. Although it may seem as though you are rewarding bad behavior, catfights are actually a normal part of being a feline. By bringing food into the mix, you will distract both cats and hopefully encourage them towards something that will be of benefit for both cats.
If you become bitten, you NEED to seek medical attention. Additionally, if you’re cat has been fighting with a stray cat then you also need to seek vet advice. Often most catfights won’t result in much more than a torn ear or a nose scratch but sometimes they can develop into a cyst. A cyst occurs when a tiny infection develops under the skin surface and often they need to be drained and treated with anti-biotic.
Obviously we struggle to see our cat-babies get injured. But remember that humans and cats are very different and your cat might actually be the bully in this instance. Try to keep logical and not emotional and seek medical or vet advice if you’re ever concerned.