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Difference between fighting and playing?

TheZu

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How can you tell what's playing and what's fighting? We got our second sphynx, Dude, a few days ago and he's the half-brother to our resident female Sphynx, Missy, who is almost exactly a year older than him.

Dude is set up in the bathroom and has taken very quick! We're taking intros slowly, cross scenting, trying to avoid contact. Missy hisses at the sight of him, and in the beginning even the smell of him.

Problem is, Dude wants to play with Missy. He's already super comfortable, wanting out to explore and is like, obsessed with trying to get to Missy. Over the last two days Missy has gotten more accustomed to his smell, but still hissing.

Well, today, when opening the bathroom to check on him Dude got out, went STRAIGHT to Missy and Missy didn't actually hiss. They started doing that kitty shadow boxing thing, but Missy did get Dude on his back a few times (and my heart stopped). No claws though, no blood...and Dude keeps coming back??? He wants to see Missy. But at one point Dude did have his ears back in what looked to me like a scared position, but he wasn't shaking. Then Missy started hissing again.

We are keeping them separated. I don't want any accidents, I didnt even want this encounter yet it. I don't like taking chances. I'm just trying to understand the behavior.

I should mention that Dude also didn't have any litter mates. Would that effect his behaviour at all? Or his kitty social skills?
 

Monica

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Playing or Fighting?

I linked an article you may find helpful. Body language is the key telltale sign to look for. Ears flatten backwards are a sign that the cat is becoming agitated & the playtime is turning sour. Hissing is also an indicator.

In the beginning they will use play both as bonding & to establish dominance/roles. They need to feel each other out, & learn each other’s boundaries. You have to walk the line btwn allowing them to do “their cat things,” but also preventing anything from escalating into a negative experience. Super unhelpful,
I know, lol.

As for the kitty being a singleton, he should have still learned social behaviors from his mother & other cats at the cattery, assuming he wasn’t separated too soon. I don’t know the whole background, but to me it sounds like he’s just being a rambunctious male kitten who’s excited to play with his big sis! ;)
 

TheZu

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Playing or Fighting?

I linked an article you may find helpful. Body language is the key telltale sign to look for. Ears flatten backwards are a sign that the cat is becoming agitated & the playtime is turning sour. Hissing is also an indicator.

In the beginning they will use play both as bonding & to establish dominance/roles. They need to feel each other out, & learn each other’s boundaries. You have to walk the line btwn allowing them to do “their cat things,” but also preventing anything from escalating into a negative experience. Super unhelpful,
I know, lol.

As for the kitty being a singleton, he should have still learned social behaviors from his mother & other cats at the cattery, assuming he wasn’t separated too soon. I don’t know the whole background, but to me it sounds like he’s just being a rambunctious male kitten who’s excited to play with his big sis! ;)
That sounds about what it feels like, the whole boundaries thing... because Dude kept coming back, even after I thought he was scared. No blood, no claws, no scratches or marks. This article is super helpful, thanks so much!

Dude was with his mother, but I think he didn't have as much interaction with the other cats at the cattery, as the breeder is wanting to retire and has re-homed many of the cats. His dad is still around though! But good to know he didn't need litter-mates to learn social cues and that his mom still teaches him! I was worried it might make him socially awkward.
 

Toa and Ross

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Missy and Dude have to figure out who's the boss. Missy throwing him on his back is normal. Since Dude keeps coming back he is not too impressed by Missy;-). Best is to let them sort it out together and keep an close eye. When you think it gets to rough you can warn Missy. And when you see Missy is tired and had enough you can seperste them for a while.
I know from experience it can be difficult to watch. But most of the time all goes well and both know when to stop since Dude is just a little kitten.
 

TheZu

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Missy and Dude have to figure out who's the boss. Missy throwing him on his back is normal. Since Dude keeps coming back he is not too impressed by Missy;-). Best is to let them sort it out together and keep an close eye. When you think it gets to rough you can warn Missy. And when you see Missy is tired and had enough you can seperste them for a while.
I know from experience it can be difficult to watch. But most of the time all goes well and both know when to stop since Dude is just a little kitten.
It's been going surprisingly well since then!!! Each interaction is better and better. Misay hardly growls now, only when Dude doesn't stop when she's done.
 

CathyO

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I was in your position just a few months ago and this whole “how much boundaries to give them” will continue to linger unfortunately until you, as their cat mom, are able to distinguish the subtle differences if the play is getting rough or just active play hunting. Don’t worry, it gets better over time it’s all part of the fun.

For me, my main clue has always been hissing and none ever hissed passed the intro stage.

I usually let them sort things out unless I could tell the other cat is definitely bullied (I wait 3-4 “play attacks” where one cat continues to be on top of the other as an example to get confirmation or if one cat is sleeping and being obviously disturbed by the other and the interaction doesn’t seem fun play. I realize now Sphynx cats can be vocal and a bit dramatic because I can see none of them use their claws while playing lol but my Sphynx just likes to meow like she is being harassed. Her skin is touched and sounds come out. C’mon!

So short answer is good play is when they alternate between playing the hunter and the hunted.

This book, Cat Vs. Cat, is a life saver. I highly recommend as the whole vertical territory is a thing. U understand it and it will open a whole new world for ya.
 

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Condo commando

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This doesn't hardly ever happen with mine anymore but I used to see one of them try to bite the other one in the back of the neck. This is a dominant behavior. Whenever I see that I separate them and give a stern no to the one doing the bullying. You can't punish them too much because it's natural cat behavior; however, they do have to learn to share the same space.
 

TheZu

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This doesn't hardly ever happen with mine anymore but I used to see one of them try to bite the other one in the back of the neck. This is a dominant behavior. Whenever I see that I separate them and give a stern no to the one doing the bullying. You can't punish them too much because it's natural cat behavior; however, they do have to learn to share the same space.
Oh, this is what Missy does sometimes!!! Otherwise they've been really good. No more hissing, they never used claws to begin with, we can let Dude roam free when we are home now. (I wouldn't let him if we aren't yet just to be safe). I can't believe how fast this has worked out, at first my husband and I thought it would take weeks. It's been six days!
 

Condo commando

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Oh, this is what Missy does sometimes!!! Otherwise they've been really good. No more hissing, they never used claws to begin with, we can let Dude roam free when we are home now. (I wouldn't let him if we aren't yet just to be safe). I can't believe how fast this has worked out, at first my husband and I thought it would take weeks. It's been six days!
Does it happen when Dude is in a specific spot and she wants it? That's what I've noticed. Over time it gets to be less and less.

Interestingly litter mates don't go through this. They share from the get go. In fact they'd rather share 1 spot than be in different spots.
 

TheZu

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Does it happen when Dude is in a specific spot and she wants it? That's what I've noticed. Over time it gets to be less and less.

Interestingly litter mates don't go through this. They share from the get go. In fact they'd rather share 1 spot than be in different spots.
More so when he doesn't listen...like after playing and Missy just wants to chill. But he's also getting much better every day.
 
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