Is it true that some short-tempered domestic cats assert their dominance over their caretaker by using violence against them? Perhaps they do but I believe that we must be very careful when we assess it because there is a fine difference between playing and deliberately using violence to assert dominance.
You’ll probably find that under certain circumstances within a home, perhaps more often in multi-cat homes, that some partly unsocialised cats may attack their owner as a means to dominate. However, I’d have thought it was rarely encountered.
We know that cats within a colony will have a hierarchy and dominant cats will assert their dominance through body language and behaviour. We also know, or I believe that this is the case, that domestic cats see their human caretaker as a cat and therefore, on the face of it and logically, it is possible for a domestic cat, despite the huge disparity in size, to try and assert dominance over his human caretaker/guardian.
Dr Bruce Fogle states that his sister’s cat developed a habit of smacking her face when she was asleep and also her ankles when she was awake. Her cat did this when he wanted food. He goes on to say that some cats go further than this and attack the new boyfriend who has just moved into the apartment.
I feel compelled to at least partly disagree with the good doctor because I do not think that when a cat is getting the attention of his owner that they are attacking them in any shape or form. The cat is simply attracting attention and often this takes place when the person is asleep while the cat is fully awake in the early hours of the morning. This is due to the disparity in the internal clock of humans and cats.
In addition, attacking ankles is nearly always associated with play and has nothing to do with hierarchical dominance.
The doctor says that if a cat does attack their caretaker, the person should not let the cat think that he has won. If they do it inevitably leads to more aggression. The person should stand their ground and for the more aggressive cats a cat behaviorist, Vicky Halls, suggests that the owner could wear full biker leathers and a full-face helmet!
The doctor suggests using a soft cushion as a means of protection, or to throw at the cat, when the cat is aggressive. In addition heavy gloves should be worn and as an alternative, if the cat dislikes water a lot, then a water pistol can be used.
I have to say that I disagree with nearly all of this but perhaps I am out on a limb in my thoughts. I have never experienced, however, cat aggression directed at me by any of my cats unless I have provoked it.
None of my cats have ever been anywhere near aggressive towards me but this may be partly because they recognise my dominance over them even though I make no effort to demonstrate it. That said I’m not sure I’m correct in that assessment. However, there may be something in the fact that some people have a more submissive nature and if you combine this with a cat who is naturally dominant, the circumstances may invite a problem.