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Correlation of dominance as determined by agonistic interactions with feeding order in cats

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  • 1 Department of Anatomy, Radiology, and Behavior, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.
  • | 2 Department of Anatomy, Radiology, and Behavior, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.
  • | 3 Department of Anatomy, Radiology, and Behavior, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.

Abstract

Objective—To determine whether the direction of dominance as determined by agonistic interactions away from food was different from the direction of dominance as determined by access to a resource in cats.

Animals—28 cats.

Procedure—Dyadic relationships and hierarchy formed from observation of agonistic interactions away from food were compared with those formed from interactions at the food bowl. A cat was scored as subordinate to another cat if it lost 3 of 3 interactions or lost ≥ 75% of the interactions when > 3 interactions occurred.

Results—Cats were observed for 449.4 hours. Hierarchy rank determined by agonistic interactions away from food was significantly correlated with rank determined by interactions at the food bowl. In 27 of 31 dyads, the direction of dominance was the same for food bowl and agonistic relationships, which was significant. In post hoc analyses, when considering the relationship between 2 cats, the heavier cat most likely ranked higher in each hierarchy; however, age was not significantly correlated with either hierarchy. On the basis of dyadic information, the older cat in a dyad was more often dominant in agonistic interactions. Males had a higher mean dominance rank than females; however, sex had no effect on rank determined by interactions at the food bowl.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Factors influencing dominant-subordinate relationships are of interest for understanding and treating behavior problems such as aggression and resource control. The outcome of agonistic interactions away from food was related to, but not perfectly correlated with, the outcome of interactions at the food bowl, although winners of those agonistic interactions tended to have control of food. (Am J Vet Res 2004;65:1548–1556)