This is a video showing a classic example of feline dominance in what is probably a multi-cat household. The dominant, grey cat is imposing his authority over the other cat by controlling access to resources which in this case is food in the shape of a fish in a bowl! This is my interpretation. I’d welcome the views of visitors. The video is considered funny to humans. It is, but it is a serious business for the cats 🙂
Humans will probably refer to what they see in the video as bullying but this might not be completely accurate because “bullying” refers to human behavior. I think a better description is that this is an example of a dominance hierarchy in a household where there is more than one cat. It might also be termed a subordinance hierarchy.
Hierarchies like this help to keep the peace and harmony in a household. It helps to control access to resources without a fight breaking out. When an individual cat gives way to another it prevents a fight. The cat deferring to the other is called a subordinate cat.
Development of a hierarchy?
In the video, the subordinate cat is very reluctant to give way but I sense from the demeanor of both these animals that the grey is dominant over the ginger tabby-and-white. However, I wonder if we are watching the process of one cat becoming dominant over another. I don’t think it’s been fully achieved.
Dominant cats might block the movement of subordinate cats. It’s a controlling behavior. They might bat at the subordinate with their paw, as we see in the video, or nip them. Dominant cats will also signal dominance through body posture which includes staring at the subordinate. In return a subordinate cat as you can see in the video looks down to try and avoid eye contact.
The experts say that dominance relationships “have profound effects on the rate of aggression and access to preferred resources”. High-ranking cats can control access to food by subordinate cats. It isn’t always about food. Sometimes access to the litter box may be controlled by a higher ranking cat in the household.
Aggression causing tensions
If a high-ranking cat is constantly aggressive towards subordinate cats it can cause conflict and social tension in the household. High-ranking cats are sometimes called bullies or despot cats. A factor which may make them what they are is inappropriate early socialization. Crowding may also be another factor. Genuine aggression is rare.