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Patterns of Social Interaction in Cats (Felis Domestica)

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The results of this study reveal the following general characteristics of dominance hierarchies in groups of cats observed in a standard testing situation: 1. In all groups, a differentiated and fairly linear dominance hierarchy was observed. The degree of differentiation and the consistency of the linearity was a function of the individual group. 2. In every group a clear and statistically significant relationship was obtained between dominance rankings based upon performance in four-, three-, and two-cat groupings. 3. The stability of dominance hierarchies over a period of time differed among the two groups that were tested in this respect. In one case no change was observed; in the other the leader's place was taken by a formerly subordinate animal. 4. Observations of the leaders competing together, and also with the three subordinate members of each of the groups, suggested that relative differences in dominance that were exhibited between high-dominance animals are reflected in the degree to which they are able to dominate other subordinate animals. 5. No clear relationship was obtained between aggression and dominance as defined by food-getting success. In one group the most dominant animal was also the most aggressive, but in the other two leaders ranked low in aggressivity and sometimes did not retaliate when aggression was directed toward them. While there seemed to be a tendency for more aggression to be evidenced in meetings among the leaders of the three groups, again such aggression did not seem to be related to food-getting success. Finally, the social behaviour of cats as observed in the present study was contrasted to that of infra-human primates. It was generally concluded that dominance-submission relations are far less complex and more predictable in the cat than in the monkey.

Affiliations: 1: (University of Oregon

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