Is It Okay for Kittens to Fight?

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"We're not fighting, we're being educational."
"We're not fighting, we're being educational." (Image: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Observing the interactions kittens share with their littermates or peers is one of the sweetest experiences you might be able to imagine, whether they're napping or playing together. Although it might occasionally seem like the little fur balls are involved in conflict, the "rough play" they're displaying is actually usually a totally natural and positive aspect of feline development.

Kittens and Rough Play

When cats are playful, it often involves a lot of pursuit, nipping, slapping, clawing and lunging -- all things that don't usually come across as too friendly to people. However, this type of interaction isn't usually centered around fierce intentions, but rather spirited play, and importantly, the honing of social patterns among cats. Not only is rough play beneficial for encouraging kittens to work on their agility skills, it also is helpful for allowing them to figure out how to approach common dilemmas in the feline life.

Crucial Learning Experiences

One of the most significant effects of rough play between young kittens is the concept of biting restraint. When a kitten bites another in play, she observes the reaction she gets from the "bitee." If the bitee feels pain from the bite, playtime usually stops on a dime -- no more fun. This usually results in a key experience for the kitten, who now knows to keep biting restrained, rather than painful. The end of playtime is a bore, after all. By picking up on cues they get from "fighting" with their siblings, kittens can develop a strong understanding of how to safely deal with both fellow felines and people.

Early Exit from Littermate Life

Since play fighting is so imperative for assisting kittens in growing up into healthy adult cats with appropriate social skills, removing a little guy from his familial feline environment too early can sometimes bring upon major detrimental effects. It can often lead to the emergence of a cat who behaves aggressively with animals and people alike. It's extremely important for wee kittens to stay with their littermates and mothers until they're about 8 weeks old. If you encounter a cat who behaves a little too aggressively, it could mean that he just didn't get enough time with his littermates.

Socialization guidance from a certified animal behavioral professional is necessary for cats who exhibit hints of aggression. Also note that aggressive kittens or mature cats should never be permitted to get close to children of any ages, period.

Toys

If you have a new kitten who hasn't shown any signs of aggression, keep her on the path to a happy and well-rounded cat who doesn't ever use her claws or teeth on others. Toys can work like a charm for these purposes. Small stuffed mice toys, for instance, can be effective. Don't ever let your kitten use any part of your body as a toy, whether your limbs or anything else. If you let this kind of thing happen, your kitty will start to believe that being "aggressive" is A-OK behavior.

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