Sociality in Cats
During a confrontation between two cats, there is no submission as such. If one of the cats has a more defensive than aggressive attitude and decides to flee, he will usually be attacked even if he flees. However, many studies report a kind of hierarchy observed within groups of cats, especially in the control of access to food resources. Again, these “hierarchies” are fluctuating because, in this particular case, it was observed that kittens 4 to 6 months old present in a group of feral cats of both sexes, were more likely to access the first to the food, as if this food had more value for them than for the males, who otherwise do not help to raise them.
This unexpected tolerance could come from the fact that, since male cats do not have to defend their access to females or their offspring, they would not have the same absolute necessity to feed themselves first to maintain their physical condition, as they do. is the case for lions who must constantly defend their group of competing males. Beyond this social tolerance towards young people, a hierarchy is established among adults: in males, the oldest feed first, and in females, priority is given according to the size of the body.
During domestication, the cat would have been confronted with higher population densities, necessitating the emergence of intra-specific communication signals. Cats occupying a lower position in the hierarchy are more likely to greet “high-ranking” cats with high tails, and high-ranking cats receive greetings with raised tails, respectively. This signal could carry a friendly message, defusing an aggression to come, and reassuring the two interlocutors. Similar behavior is found in the lion, whereas no such signal is found in other non-social Felidae.
Affiliative behaviors, especially “allogrooming” or mutual grooming (licking of one cat by another), are frequently observed in cats living in colonies. This mutual grooming would have above all a social function, making it possible to establish and reinforce the affiliative links between the individuals. As a result, this behavior is more often expressed by cats who are related or have lived together for a long time.
However, mutual friction, head or body would not be presented in females between them, and males tend to stay closer to each other more often. (It should be noted that these two points concern sterilized indoor cats.) Cats sharing strong social ties would also be more likely to sleep in contact with each other.
One can also evoke in affiliative behaviors greetings between cats with high tail, already mentioned in a previous paragraph. This signal would carry a message aimed at defusing conflicts, especially since the signal is noticeable from a distance. This behavior is also common between kittens and their mother, as well as in the relationship of the pet cat with its owner.
Apart from the sexual nature of the female estrus, the behavior of “rolling” or rolling on the back is also manifested in young cats in the presence of older males, as well as in these males. It could be a form of submissive behavior, without being really comparable to the dominance relationships observed in the canine species.
The game is of paramount importance in the development of the kitten: it allows him to develop his locomotor skills and acquire the foundations of social behaviors that will be useful as an adult. If the mother is present, she plays a reassuring role. In his study of musculoskeletal play in kittens raised in cages with their mothers, Paul Martin showed that the mother’s use of a multi-story frame encouraged kittens to climb higher.
The game shares common motivations with the predation behavior. The movement of the toy can be enough to trigger the game. Hunger and the size of the toy (the “prey”) directly influence the behavior of the cat: a hungry cat will more willingly attack a large toy and have more of close contact with the toy, as well as dare to attack larger prey and be more inclined to kill it. Smaller, smaller prey-sized toys (such as mice) would further the game, regardless of the cat’s state of satiety.
This gambling behavior persists in adulthood, as well as other juvenile behaviors, confirming the existence of neoteny in the feline species.