You might also ask whether domestic cats have a hierarchy with humans? Some people, even experts, think that domestic cats living in a group do have a hierarchy but it is untrue. I am able to refer to my general knowledge acquired over many years of writing about cats and to a couple of highly-knowledgeable authors. The author of an article on catster.com believes that domestic cats have hierarchies but I am afraid they are incorrect.
Linda P. Case
Linda P Case in her book The Cat Its Behaviour, Nutrition & Health states unequivocally: “However, the existence of established hierarchies within social groups has not been demonstrated. And social rankings are not an important component of cat relationships.”
She also writes that a single dominant male or female may exist within a social group of cats such as in a multi-cat home, but below this dominant individual, who is more aggressive than the other cats, there is no social ranking. These circumstances, therefore, do not describe a hierarchy. And a single aggressive individual does not act in the same way as, for example, the leader of a group of wolves who controls various aspects of the pack.
Irene Rochlitz, the editor of the book The Welfare of Cats (recommended), states in reference to domestic, stray and feral cats: “Group-living cats lack distinct dominance hierarchies, signals for defusing conflict and post-conflict mechanisms such as reconciliation”. She refers to a couple of studies (1) van den Bos & Cock Buning 1994b and (2) van den Bos 1998. She also states that domestic cats are not adapted to “living in close proximity to each other”. She suggests that if, for example, in multi-cat homes where domestic cats live close together, they had the opportunity to live further apart they would take the opportunity as it would reduce the likelihood of aggression.
She refers to the “incidence of behavioural problems” which tend to increase when there are four or more cats in a home. We know about the successes and failures of multi-cat homes in respect of creating a harmonious group. There are successes but there can also be antagonism between cats. If domestic cats had a well-developed hierarchical system of living in groups it would preclude this antagonism. This is further evidence that there are no hierarchies in the world of domestic cats.
I’m sure that people living in homes where there are a relatively large number of cats can see this lack of hierarchical structure. If you have read this article and got to this point then please leave a comment with your views.
Human – top of the group
In the first sentence I ask whether domestic cats might have a hierarchy with the human as the leader. There is no doubt that the human is the dominant individual in a group of cats in a home or elsewhere as they are the provider of food and security but this does not constitute a hierarchy as stated. The presence of a dominant human is no different to the presence of a dominant and more aggressive cat.