Is there a cat expert who can explain what’s this?

Street cat standoff before possible fight over territory
Street cat standoff before possible fight over territory
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The title to this post is from YouTube and it is badly worded but I have retained it. The video maker is asking for an explanation. Here it is. If anyone can add or amend then please leave a comment.

The video shows what I’d call a sumo-style standoff to avoid a possible fight over territory. Cats do this as a preliminary to a fight but often one of the cats accepts that he/she has to leave and does so thereby avoiding a fight which can affect either one or both cats’ abilities to survive.

There is a lot of good sense in this behaviour. It settles a dispute over territorial rights through “negotiation”. It seems that instinctively one cat knows he is less able to win the fight. Or perhaps the loser of this vocal standoff accompanied by physical intimidation knows he is in the wrong.

In the video this is the ginger tabby cat and he moves away rapidly but in my experience more often than not the “loser” walks away in super-slow motion so as to retain face and dignity. It is a peculiar sight seeing the loser walk away in this slow way.

Wining is not always about the size of the cat. It is more about dominance and intimidation through character as is demonstrated in the video.

The black cat goes so far as to place his head against the head of the other to reinforce his message at which point the message is received. Often there is a couple of feet between the two throughout.

Domestic cats always make the same or similar sound when indulging in this sort of behaviour. It is very particular and specific to this situation.

An interesting aspect of this video is that I suspect that these cats know each other and may even be friendly on occasion. The ginger tabby seems quite relaxed while the black cat is committed to getting rid of the other.

Two regular visitors have a different take on this (see their comments below):

Harvey, a regular visitor says:

The reason why the loser of the staring match creeps slowly away is so as not to prompt the pursuit after prey instinct in the winner which would result in an unnecessary fight..

Eva says this about the behaviour:

Simple – He is a wild street cat and wants to mate because she is in heat. Wild male cats behave this way and will aggressively intimidate her into submission. He will try to use fear tactics to move her in a hidden place, away from people or other animals. They will mate off and on. Once he has her under his control-it will be difficult to retrieve her or separate them.

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22 thoughts on “Is there a cat expert who can explain what’s this?”

  1. I second the mating theory. The black cat may also have some siamese in him as they are very vocal. Also…when threatened, a cat will move away slowly to avoid a fight or chase.

  2. Yeah!
    Yes, I believe that it was a potential fight and a very good standoff.
    Foolish little blackie could have gotten his -ss torn up by being so aggressive. The older (I believe) orange cat retreated under a vehicle to avoid it. Age brings wisdom.
    The black one just sauntered off. Good for him.

  3. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    My first thought after watching the video and before reading any comments, was that the ginger tabby is a queen in heat and the black tom wanting to mate with her. So I agree with Eva.
    We saw this same behaviour here in our street a few months ago! The young cat had been mated already twice and another tom came along, a black one, he was courting her with his head and words of passion but she must have had enough as she ran under a car to escape him.
    He might have caught her eventually though as one of her kittens was black!
    It’s a real problem that although the houseful of cats they have could all be neutered free via Cats Protection, the people they belong to are letting them keep on breeding ๐Ÿ™

    1. Agree with you Dee that both cats are male. Especially when you consider that the majority of red cats are.

      Nor does it resemble any feline mating ritual I’ve seen.

  4. -Simple-He is a wild street cat and wants to mate because she is in heat. Wild male cats behave this way and will aggressively intimidate her into submission. He will try to use fear tactics to move her in a hidden place, away from people or other animals. They will mate off and on. Once he has her under his control-it will be difficult to retrieve her or separate them.If anyone wants to rescue her they will have to divert his attentions. Water or sand would work-grabbing her will cause him to attack her and you The intruder . Good Luck-[She seems rather young and afraid]

    1. Thanks Eva. That did cross my mind. My assessment as you can see is different and you could well be correct. IF she was in heat wouldn’t she have presented herself to him? I’ll add your words to the article as an alternative scenario.

  5. It happens this way without fighting when they figure out that the king of the castle is still strong enough to keep his title, but when the newcomer feels some weakness or aging in the king, he will have a go. This ensures the harem always has the strongest male to ensure genetic health but also to be tough enough chase off intruding males who may harm the kittens. Having said that There is another way to look at it. I have several outside toms which are entire. They get up these pranks too, but they seem more like harmless test runs. The loser of the staring match just goes a little bit away and lies down or helps himself to the food and all is forgotten. In the case of a colony with females and kittens I am sure the situation would be quite different and only one tom would remain on the battlefield. The reason why the loser of the staring match creeps slowly away is so as not to prompt the pursuit after prey instinct in the winner which would result in an unnecessary fight..

      1. I like that too I’ve seen this behaviour but never before realised what it was. The only thing I can add is that its clearly a prelude to a potential fight however I’ve never heard anything like that extent of ghostly wailing before and I’ve never seen a cat butt right up to another cat like that before! I’m going to send this to my cousin now who doesn’t like cats because only a few minutes before we were talking on the phone and I heard the most awful cat fight which I had to go and check out as didn’t want my cat to be in the middle of it. I’m sending it to her because she says theres a cat round her way that screams at other cats like nobody’s business and it scares her at times so I thought she might like to see this then she’ll know what real cat screeching sounds like!! Ni evil intentions meant of course! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Harvey – you have nailed the scenario perfectly.

      I notice the red cat is avoiding eye contact with the black one wherever possible so as not to antagonise them.

  6. Very surprising that the black cat won dominance.
    Or, did he really?
    In my colonies, big orange male cats rule. Any one of them would have been rolling on the ground with this black cat.

    1. Nice point Dee. I agree that large orange cats are not infrequently the boss but it is not always that way. It is about the level of intimidation displayed which is about confidence and a dominant character.

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