Cats who live together, and especially cats in breeding catteries, develop a well-defined social hierarchy. This hierarchy is easily observed by simply placing a plate of fresh food among the cats and observing who gets to eat first. Usually you’ll find the dominant tomcat at the top of the list. Challenges by other males are dealt with forcefully, with the tomcat punishing any rebels swiftly and aggressively, so he can maintain his place in the hierarchy.
In catteries, stud cats are kept in separate cages when they reach adulthood to prevent fighting, either for dominance or the right to breed with certain queens. Although, as kittens, they may have played together, adulthood may bring about changes in their relationships.
An aggressive queen (a female used for breeding) may edge her way up the ladder by attacking a tomcat. Often this is the case if she does not want to be bothered, and the tom will retreat and leave her alone. Among the females, queens usually have a higher status than that of spayed females. Older queens that have been raised with adolescent females are dominant over them.
Play or Fight?
For us humans, it is not always possible to distinguish playing from fighting. It may be important to observe behaviors before and after such a bout to determine if it was play or something more aggressive.
When littermates play, they learn a valuable lesson that they carry on into adulthood. They learn through play to inhibit their bites and to sheathe their claws. They experience how it feels to be bitten or scratched by a littermate during play, and learn how to modulate their responses. These lessons help to discipline their urge to fight.