hierarchies among our furry friends

September 1. Spring is (officially) sprung, the grass is riz, & the puppy is jumping all over the place. (In quite a different way from Bella – Ben gets up on his hind legs & prances. Must be a poodle thing.) But his arrival has rather upset the social order.

Having pets of two different species (the goldfish don’t count here) sets the stage for the development of some interesting social hierarchies. The interspecies communication is good to watch as well.  When Bella joined us nearly 15 years ago, Milo was our only cat. Well, there was Possum, but he was old & gaga & didn’t really notice the pup. Milo very soon taught our little lab that cats rule, OK? In fact, when things happened that Milo didn’t like, such as him being groomed, when it was all over he’d go off quite deliberately to find & hit the dog!

So when the other cats came along, one by one, Bella already knew that dogs were at the bottom of the hierarchy. (Which went: Milo>Fidget>Merry=Ginger>Bella, in case you were wondering.) In any case, she adored kittens & was hugely protective of  them all. This didn’t stop her wanting to play – & I was fascinated to see that the ‘play bow’ dogs use to signal this was understood by the cats as well. So we’d get these hilarious sessions where the dog chased a cat up the hall, & then at the end of the passage things were reversed & the cat chased the dog back down 🙂

Milo’s death upset the kitty hierarchy somewhat, although that’s now settled down again, but it didn’t alter their attitudes to Bella. Cats still ruled. But I’m afraid their noses are now well & truly out of joint. Ben doesn’t really know how to deal with cats, I think, although he was certainly very cautious around the vet’s cat, Patrick, this morning. But from the cats, it’s a combination of peering suspiciously round corners, full-frontal fluffed-up back-arched threats on bumping into Ben in the garden (he whines & backs down, which is a good start), & giving us the complete cold shoulder.

Knowing how hierarchies develop, I’m confident it will all work out in the end. We may even see the cats stealing the dog’s bed, just as they used to with the old girl… (Disclamer – neither of the two below is/was ours!)

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6 thoughts on “hierarchies among our furry friends”

  • “Ben gets up on his hind legs & prances. Must be a poodle thing.”
    It is – if you have two, they ‘dance’ with each other which is fun 🙂
    I’ve found it interesting that animals tend to be (fairly) tolerant of the very old or very young of any species. Our friends have three cats with a very distinct hierarchy of their own (Pickles>Polly>Barney)but when their house, and even food, was invaded by a senile 21-year-old cat from down the road, who thought the house was hers, they didn’t attack her in the way they would have any other invader.
    Interestingly, our friends also had a rabbit and Mo was defintely the top of the hierarchy as he frequently chased the cats around the lawn!

  • Alison Campbell says:

    Haha – our rabbit Luke (he was originally called Lucy but then he grew up…) not only played with the cats – he used to try to mate with them on a regular basis. (They eventually gave up sleeping in his pen.) One mixed-up bunny!

  • It must be nice to have dogs that don’t simply view cats as lunch. We had our cat before we got our first dog but the combination of a large chase oriented dog and a small timid cat did not equal the happy domestic home we were hoping for.

  • Alison Campbell says:

    I know friends of ours were quite worried when we got the Burmese; Bella must have been 3 by then & said friends were quite worried that cats & dogs don’t mix. (Especially small psychotic cats…)
    Ben views cats as s-c-a-r-e-y, although I think he’d quite like to play as well judging by his behaviour. On the feline side, I suppose they realise he’s a dog rather than an interloping cat – it may be hard to tell with all that hair 🙂

  • When our poodles were puppies they had the ‘haircut’ known as a lamb clip. Appropriately, the local border collie used to try to round them up when they were at the park!
    Previously, we had a toy poodle, Dion, who went blind in his dotage, and my aunty’s cat used to lure him into dangerous situations (e.g. the edge of the fenceless balcony) by sitting out of reach and meowing. Has anyone discovered a ‘vindictiveness gene’? If so, I’m sure cats have an overly generous share!

  • Alison Campbell says:

    I think a lamb clip sounds most appropriate given how bouncy Ben is 🙂 Would certainly make him easier to dry! He fell in the fish pond this morning. Didn’t seem to faze him, but my goodness! there’s not really all that much puppy, under all that hair!

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