If a cat walks over your head and sits on your shoulder is she trying to dominate you?

If a cat walks over your head and sits on your shoulder is she trying to dominate you? The short answer is no. The reason why your cat walks over your head and settles down on your shoulder is because she does not regard your head as ‘out of bounds’. And I think that’s right. She is simply making her way to your shoulder to settle down as a friend.

Cat dominating person!
Cat dominating person! This is a tabby cat on the head of Morrissey, the singer- songwriter. I don’t know who took the photo.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

People don’t walk over other people’s heads because it would cause injury. However, domestic cats are much smaller than humans. There’s no chance of being hurt if a domestic cat walks over the head of her owner. You see young cats walking over the heads of adult cats when they are resting together. They see no problem with it and there is no problem with it. Also you see cats resting on the heads of large dogs.

I feel that domestic cats have an innate ability to recognise the chance of injury to another friendly animal and avoid it. Also I have never encountered a situation in which a domestic cat has tried to dominate a human. It simply would not happen for several reasons.

Friendly behavior

As mentioned, a cat looking to rest on a person’s shoulder is acting as a friend to that person. She wants to be in close contact and is demonstrating friendly behavior rather than an attempt to dominate.

Size and intimidation

Secondly, humans are much larger than domestic cats and far more dangerous. Domestic cats recognise the potentially intimidatory nature of the human and on size alone humans can and do intimidate domestic cats. This prevents the domestic cat thinking about dominating humans.

Default relationships

Thirdly, the default relationship between domestic cats and their owners does not allow for the domestic cat to dominate the human. Domestic cats normally see their owner as a surrogate mother. This eliminates the possibility of the cat dominating the owner or attempting it.

When a domestic cat brings home prey she is, it is argued, trying to train her human companion to hunt. Under these circumstances the domestic cat relates to her owner as a kitten. This scenario is incompatible with cat domination over a person.

To conclude, the domestic cat relates to their owner as a mother or offspring. The idea of cat domination cannot enter into this scenario.

P.S. The domestic cat to human relationship is an interspecies friendship. It is very special and should be treasured.

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2 thoughts on “If a cat walks over your head and sits on your shoulder is she trying to dominate you?”

  1. The idea of dominance is coming from a human (humans obsess over the idea) who thinks of cats with an understanding of dogs, who they tend to confuse cats with. Although cats do at times dominate or submit (my cat Einstein was a fierce protector who chased any dog who came near our house), it’s not their modus operandi especially in relation to us. They know they can’t dominate us and cats are too smart to try or to challenge their meal ticket or endanger their friend. It occurs to me that many questions about cats come from a place of conflict… from people who don’t think of cats as friends. Really annoys me. I know that Michael simply repeats these questions and is one of the best cat friends I’ve ever known.

  2. Love this.

    The floor is usually the dominant position for domestic, cared for cats. The higher up they go, the more they are showing submission or defence, I think.

    If you watch a real cat fight, it is usually the initial aggressor who is fighting from underneath. Perfect position to bite at the vulnerable, soft under side. I have witnessed this a few times, with indoor/outdoor cats and exclusively indoor cats. I have also witnessed this within feral colonies (rare though, ferals tend to be very careful to avoid serious fights)

    When big cats make a kill, they usually bite the neck of their large prey from underneath.

    I wonder which of these behaviours evolved first, or maybe they evolved together?


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