orange and grey main coon cats both in the air slapping each other in battle

Why Do Cats Slap Each Other?

Why do cats slap each other? What on earth is going on there? Why don’t they grapple and bite instead or take flying kicks at one another? What’s with the powder puff batting slap thing? Here we look at the most likely reasons why cats slap each other. We look at why some slaps are more serious than others and how you can identify when a slap is just a lazy, cheeky way of saying hello and when it is a fierce and uncompromising way of saying – you got death coming! Read on to learn when a slap is really a slap! 

Reasons Cats Slap Each Other


Most cat slapping simply comes down to play. Usually, you can spot this type of playful activity in bonded cats because it will come from nowhere, claws will not be engaged, there will not be any hissing involved and ears will be in the normal position. 

Basically, a cat will walk up to another and without warning, bat the other cat on the top of the head, not on the legs or body, on the top of the head. And it could be a lightweight bat or a good solid slap where you can hear the impact of the paw. But it’s all for fun. 

The cat who instigated the play with a slap of the paw won’t then rain in slaps but will usually dance around waiting for the return slap, or will skitter off looking to be chased and for a full play session to ensue.

If the slapped cat chases down their playmate they may slap at the rear legs of their pal mid chase to try to bring down or slow up their escape. It is all fun and practice for the hunt. Neither cat takes offense or raises the bar with aggression. 


Domestic cats will sometimes slap each other as a way of asserting dominance in a household hierarchy. 

Instead of being playful, a dominant slap may be accompanied by slanting eyes and verbalizations, but claws will still be sheathed. It may even be a large or older cat simply slapping a younger cat more forcibly than could be construed as play.

The attitude is far less playful. This is definitely not a game of tag. This is a warning and a threat. The iron fist in the velvet glove approach to diplomacy.  

Usually, at this stage the cat on the receiving end will get the message and back off, vacate the area or behave in a subservient manner – kind of like laying in a spot so they are in a position of non-threatening weakness. 

Of course, if a challenge is accepted, if the wannabe dominant cat is overstating their position in the hierarchy, this slapping challenge may crank up the tension and be met with a flurry of slaps back!


a pair of grey street tabby cats in a stand off about to fight ear flat big postures
One Step Closer And You Are Going To Get It!

Cats will often slap each other when fighting. These are pretty easy to identify as truly aggressive slaps as they will be accompanied by lots of the standard cat body language warning signs. Ears will be back, eyes will be open but looking like slits to reduce potential damage from an attack, vocalizations including hissing and growling will be rumbling out, the cats will probably try to gain height on one another – no one will be lying on their belly and chest – and then the slapping action starts! 

Fighting slaps are generally quicker paced and come in high number combinations rather than singular, lone slaps. A fighting cat will be raining slaps in on the target. Claws will be unsheathed. 

You can tell when your cat has been a victim of cat aggression as they will often have scratches on the forehead and top of the head above the eyes.

What About When They Slap People?


A playful cat will often walk along and slap your feet and ankles as you walk by. This playful behavior is totally friendly if a little inconvenient! The cat won’t have claws extended and won’t bat you with full power – just a playful, curious slap to see what happens next.

To the ladies out there, you might also find your cat slapping away at jewelry that hangs or longer hair. Both of these can be interesting and curious items for your cat and offer some potentially playful fun.

Attention Seeking

Ever been sitting there minding your own business only to get cuffed on the foot or even more strangely, on the head by your cat? Sometimes a cat will use a little slap to remind you they are there and need or want some attention. 

My cat favors this approach when she is looking to play. She has no doubt learned that a slap to my feet whilst I am watching the tv brings out the cat toys and interactive play whilst I try to distract her away from my person!

orange tabby cat crouching about to slap an incoming hand
Watch Out!


My cat only ever hissed and slapped me in a non-playful manner once. It was so out of the ordinary, so out of character it immediately conveyed meaning. 

In this instance, my cat, who was an indoor-outdoor cat, had had an altercation with a neighboring cat. She had obviously lost the altercation because she had turned and fled. In the chase that followed the triumphant cat that was seeing her off bit her on the base of the tail!

Over the course of 24 hours, this bite turned bad. So bad that my cat lost interest in everything – eating, drinking, moving….the lot. Concerned for her change in outlook, but unwise to the situation, I approached her to socialize. I touched her back and immediately unleashed a wailing slapping banshee – the full works. 

This pain-related aggression was so utterly out of character that I immediately understood that the bite was much worse than it looked and that my cat was in great pain – cue visit to the vet to lance the wound and sort the infection.

In this case, the slap was dished out with way more vocalization than was normal, although claws were sheathed – a clear warning was issued – “don’t do that again, or you get it” 


A cat will slap a person very viciously as a form of defense. Corner a cat that doesn’t trust you and you are likely to be met with a flurry of unsheathed slaps that draw blood. Enter the space on an insecure cat or a cat that has been mistreated in the past and your hands are likely to get shredded by vicious slaps.

If you don’t get the message after these slaps your next transgression into their space will be met by bites, and a cat bite can be very dangerous.

Fists Of Fury!

Why A Slap, Why Not A Kungfu Kick Or Bite?

On the face of it, a slap seems like a real lightweight way to settle an argument – like two little kids going at it in a park. And in some ways, it is meant to be just that – a simple, non-life-threatening action that can demonstrate power, strength, agility, speed without creating serious harm to either party. A convenient way to size each other up. 

But then, a cat’s arsenal of weapons amounts to teeth and claws, and a slap is a very effective way of deploying the slashing momentum of the claws! Additionally, you look at how a slap occurs and it is either a headshot with great potential to catch an eye or a leg shot to bring down prey that is escaping.

A slap is a very useful way of communicating. Slaps can be playful teasing or brutal slashes designed to damage and this is probably why cats opt for a slap rather than a body slam – gradients of slap actually constitute a level of communication that all cats can appreciate – a body slam does not.

Should You Stop Your Cat From Slapping?

a red tabby cat with orange eyes sitting swiping with a paw against black background

If you live in a multi-cat household you are likely to see cats slapping each other on a regular basis.

Generally, there is no harm in it. Slaps for play or even to work out the hierarchy in the house are best left alone. Let the cats sort themselves out and have fun together. 

Aggressive slapping that escalates into a fight requires intervention.  

So how should you intervene? Well don’t go in with your hands because you are likely going to become the victim in the altercation! 

Go for the short sharp distraction. A loud clap, whistle shout should send the protagonists scarpering in different directions. Failing that, or if this sort of action becomes a little too common, you should invest in a water pistol so the warring cats can be shocked out of their mindset by a little spray of water when they embark on this type of undesirable behavior.