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I have some 12 week old kittens that just met. We kept them separate for a couple days so that they could play with each other under the door, then we propped the door open just a bit. They liked playing with each other through the door and did it a lot. We recently put them together, and their behavior is hard for me to categorize. I had cats when I was younger, but not recently, and I haven't seen cats meet (at least not much and not recently). Anyway, here are some behaviors:

Behaviors that make me think they're playing

  • No growling nor hissing
  • Ears generally up and forward
  • No tense standoffs
  • No hair raised nor arched backs
  • No injuries: no favouring of limbs, body parts, etc., no blood, no fur being removed, etc.
  • They were able to stop playing at eat within a foot of each other without attacking again. One of them did growl quietly sometimes while eating, but they generally seemed amicable.
  • Both cats engage in play; neither tries to run off and end the play session.

Behaviors that make me think they might be fighting

  • They never stop. It's obvious they're both really tired; they won't go for a toy at all, but any time they see each other, they go at it again.
  • They don't allow each other breaks. There is a slightly bigger male, and he generally pins the other (the female has a defensive style and assumes a position on her back preemptively). But, any time the male walks away, the female comes and gets him from behind again.
  • They do make a little noises. The female doesn't like when he bites her back legs, so she calls out (not loud, but in frustration it sounds like), and the male doesn't like being attacked from behind.
  • They're pretty intense. It's not a slow, relaxed play session like I see on youtube: we let it go for two or 2.5 hours last night, and they nearly never let up.

The signals seem really confusing to me. It seems like whether they're being aggressive or playful, they need to take a break. The female was sick a couple weeks ago, so I would think she needs her rest. They slept very well last night! And we can't detect any injuries anywhere. In case it helps, they're ragdolls.

Any recommendations? Should we split them up seeking for an easier, calmer relationship after a while?

  • I will say, today went very different. I think the cats were utterly spent yesterday, slept well last night, and were tired and sore today. They actually slept together a bit tonight! The male is favoring his right side where he got a vaccine Thursday, so we'll probably split them up. Anyway, I think there is good hope that they will get along famously. – Limited Atonement May 20 '18 at 1:12
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Welcome to the wonderful world of kittens, this sounds like completely normal kitten behaviour and will probably keep going - only interrupted by naps - for the next year or so.

As long as the play is two sided, neither of them get injured, or really hurt (you will hear when that happens!) there is absolutely nothing to worry about. This is basically how kittens form bonds, and these early bonds will often be stronger and less problematic than bonds formed as adults.

If you want to add some variation and help them bond even more strongly you could try adding some cooperative play sessions with some human-controlled toys, letting them chase the toy together and teaming up on it.

"Kitten, noun: A small homicidal muffin on legs; affects human sensibilities to the point of endowing the most wanton and ruthless acts of destruction with near mythical overtones of cuteness. Not recommended for beginners. Get at least two."

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