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My kittens won't stop fighting!

Reader's question: My nine-week-old sibling kittens have started fighting. I have a male and a female and their fights are frequent and appear to be quite brutal, although there aren't any visible scratches yet. They are yet to be neutered. Are they playing or is this serious fighting? And will it get better as they get older?

Feline behaviourist Jon Bowen answers: Play between kittens can be quite boisterous, but between males and females it can sometimes take on an ugly dimension. Young female kittens mostly rehearse predatory behaviour during play with other kittens. This involves a lot of prancing about, fake pounces and batting with paws. The play is well controlled and the kittens alternate in taking on the role of 'prey' during the game. It is great to watch and there is rarely any sign of aggression unless a game gets out of hand.

As they get older, male kittens tend to engage in more play-fighting, chasing, and sexual mounting. Other male kittens will put up with this more combative style of play, but it can be intimidating for female kittens. Misunderstandings can lead to actual fights. Fortunately this play settles down as kittens mature and their attention shifts to exploring their environment, especially outside.

It is very unusual to see real fighting between kittens at only nine weeks of age. My suggestion is that you contact your vet, check the actual age of the kittens and have them health checked. Make a video of the behaviour and get your vet's opinion on whether it is play or an actual fight. Good luck!

You may also like to read:

Introducing a kitten to an existing cat

Choosing the right kitten for you

Why is my kitten such a fussy eater?

What do I need to buy for my kitten?

When should I neuter my kitten?

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