The album received a generally positive reception from the media and music critics, but became the group's third lowest-charting and second lowest-selling album, reaching number eight and the top twenty in the UK and on the Irish Albums Chart, respectively. Catfights and Spotlights spawned only two singles, with the international top ten entry "Girls". The second and final single "No Can Do" was released on 22 December 2008.
After they had completed the Change Tour in May 2008, the Sugababes announced that they would not go back into the recording studio until September 2008 to work on their next album, insisting they needed more time to work on their new material. However, on 15 June 2008, band member Keisha Buchanan told an interviewer that the group would start work on a new album straight away due to opportunities to record with new producers, and by 17 June the trio had started recording. Less than a month later at the annual Liverpool Summer Pops in Liverpool, they announced that the lead single was completed, describing it as "amazing". The title of the single, "Girls", was revealed on 11 August 2008 and was released on 6 October 2008 in the UK.
The album has been described as having a "funkier" sound by Orson's lead singer Jason Pebworth, who has been working with the group in the recording studio. In an interview, the Sugababes described the Catfights and Spotlights as having a more mellow and mature sound which focuses mainly on their vocals.
The album was also described by Range as darker.
Catfights and Spotlights debuted at number eight on the UK Albums Chart with first week sales of over 23,000 copies, becoming their fifth studio album to reach the top ten in the United Kingdom. However, it also became their first album since their debut One Touch not to peak inside the national top three. The album fell out of the top fifty in its fourth week of release. As of Monday, 19 January, the album jumped 22 places from 96 to 74 with sales 2,000. It was eventually certified Silver by the BPI.
In Ireland, the album debuted at number 18, before falling to number 42 the following week, while in Greece, the album entered at number 33, before dropping to number 37 the following week. However, on its third week the album climbed to number 22.
In an interview with Daily Star Sunday, Sugababes member Heidi Range blamed their music label, Island, for disappointing sales of their new album. According to Range, "The sales have been disappointing but I don't think it is a reflection on the album's quality, and the problem is the promotion, I don't actually think our fans know we've even got an album out."
An unreleased song that never made the cut to the album, "Hot Under the Collar" leaked online in February 2013—almost five years after the album's release.