Fighting Cats is something I rarely see but hear. The very special sound of a Tom cat howling in a standoff is very distinct.
Cats fighting is a mixture of Sumo Wrestling, Poker and Politics. It is rarely seen in the wild as there is sufficient space for male cats to have their own territory. But in suburbia, the stray or feral cat’s territory may overlap with another’s and that’s when the fur could fly.
The pre-fight procedures are it seems designed to minimise the need for actual fighting. The pre-fight Sumo Style standoff and posing can help to identify the “superior” cat which might lead to the other cat backing off.
When the two cats come across each other the cats will make themselves look bigger (arched back, fur erect, legs stretched) and present a look that says, “I am dominant” and not fearful.
The howling then starts. These sounds are extraordinary and very hostile. I can only presume that they are meant to achieve a dominance one over the the other to avoid the fight that could result in the dominant cat being injured despite winning the fight. That would be bad for his chances of survival.
The game of psyching each other out intensifies and continues with a clear demonstration of intent. The dominant cat will do a “dry run” of the killing neck bite (much like a sportsman practices his stroke before doing it for real). This tells the other cat what is to come if he doesn’t back down and sod off.
If the protagonists are evenly matched there will be a stand off, much howling and a very gradual retreat to allow each to withdraw without losing face (and looking weak) thus mirroring what happens so often in negotiations and arguments between nations and people.
Occasionally all the posturing cannot stop the fight, which is intense and will stop for the displays to continue for another chance to resolve the dispute without serious injury.
A winner is eventually found and he will perform a ritualistic and ceremonial sniffing of the ground. The loser understands this as the end of the fight. It all sounds familiar to me.