Can a domestic cat bully their owner?

The question in the title is a little extreme some might think. There’d be right but I’m looking at some extreme examples in the human-to-cat relationship. We know that in multi-cat homes there are instances of one cat bullying another. A dominant cat bullying a submissive cat. We also know that in homes where there are cats and dogs, the cat can sometimes get the upper hand over a dog. You must have seen a dog being very submissive towards a bullying cat who blocks the path of a dog coming down the stairs. I’ve seen that a few times.

Caveat: the question of whether a cat can bully another is debateable because the word ‘bullying’ is really about human behavior but I think it can be used in this context. The general public would probably agree that pets can be bullies sometimes.

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But can it go to such an extreme that a domestic cat police their owner? The size difference prevents this but not entirely in my opinion. Perhaps “bullying” is the wrong word. It’s plausible to suggest that a domestic cat can intimidate their owner to the point where the owner’s behaviour is modified.

That’s not far short of bullying. The relationship between cat and owner might have deteriorated. Perhaps the owner was considering getting rid of her cat. She was always ambivalent about having a cat. She was not interested and was nervous about claws and teeth. She didn’t interact that well with her cat and perhaps began to yell at her cat.

At this point in time, arriving at the present, a cat might retaliate and start slapping the owner around the hands or even the face if they are allowed to approach near enough. This might frighten the owner and further deteriorate the relationship.

Some cats can be very confident. The size difference becomes irrelevant. They feel emboldened enough to attack their owner. This can happen albeit rarely. It might happen in the street when a person meets a strange cat that they have never met before. But that would be more about cat defensiveness because they are frightened. They might strike out but this wouldn’t be bullying in the classic sense.

I’m thinking of intimidation over a long period of time as a reflection of a poor relationship between human and cat. The cat gradually takes the upper hand and the owner does nothing about it or simply puts up with it.

There are no formal hierarchies amongst domestic cats in, for example, a multi-cat home. This is unlike the domestic dog. However, there might be a two-cat hierarchy in which one dominant cat bullies a more submissive cat. And as the domestic cat views the human owner as a surrogate mother it is feasible to ask whether they might bully their caregiver.

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