The Bullying Homestead Part 2

I want to do a post on human bullying, but yesterday and today I’m leading into it with more important issues, namely the way the creatures I observe every day interact and the shifting bullying behavior among them. 

I’m only going to skid across the surface of it, but I don’t want to digress and find myself up to my neck in human bullying issues without first briefly having laid the groundwork among the kinds of creatures people probably learned bullying from.  In this case, cats and chickens.

This is Tabby, daughter to Shiva, the Cow Cat.  Tabby’s the youngest cat around here, always reckless, always strong-willed and independent, always one to avoid conflict.  She’s always been demanding of attention and affectionate. 

But for the past month she’s suddenly become the bull-goose bully around here, beating the hell out of the older cats including her mother, Shiva.

This is Shiva the Cow Cat.  Mother to Tabby, probably hatched around 2000, wandered into proximity with me around 2002 as a stray.  Jeanne carried her to Kansas with her where she lived a few years and had a litter including Tabby.  Around 2005, she and Tabby drifted back into the mix in my life.

Shiva’s never wanted much attention, only a daily stroke and scratch behind the ears to acknowledge I knew she was around.  But her main joy in life was taking walks with me in the woods, sometimes accompanied by Tabby.  When there were cows on the place Shiva took a lot of pleasure helping me chase them off, sometimes almost getting underfoot of them in the process. 

But she was weakened a couple of years ago from some illness almost killed her and she’s never completely recovered.  Sometimes she’d still like to take woods walks, but Tabby’s put a stop to it, and generally with the walks with cats, by attacking her and driving her back to the cabin.  That ends the strolls for both of them.

This is Niaid, littermate to Hydrox, but without a contract.  The old friend who loaned her to me shortly after she was weaned was murdered a few years ago, so she’s in an awkwardly poor-relations status.  She’s part of a 1997 or 1998 litter, but she’s still the hunter/gatherer of the place.  Even travels through the woods up to Gale’s house as nearly as we can figure, to catch rodents in his chicken pen.  She was never a bully, but she could always take care of herself.  Now Tabby’s beating hell out of her, too.

This is Hydrox, littermate to Niaid, 1997-1998 vintage.  He used to have aspirations for being Top Cat, he and I both figuring he’d take over the boss-man job around here if I die before him.  But he’s sort of lost interest in all that the past year, become satisfied to just lie around and let things happen.  Aside from a daily hissing-swatting-spitting match with Niaid he doesn’t get involved in the social climbing and networking.  He’s the only one Tabby’s not bullying yet. 

As I explained yesterday, the chickens bully all the cats, though Tabby’s become more prone to put it to the test, locking eyes and playing out the last scene to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly with them.  But she still backs off when someone has to.

Meanwhile almost all the deer have become a lot more aggressive, challenging both cat and chicken in standoffs they always win.  A cat sleeping out by the garden’s liable to find itself nose-to-nose with a deer, then shoved, then chased back to the cabin.  Or a chicken, deliberately knocked ass-over-appetite by a deer with a sudden urge to scurry off.

This is almost certainly a lot more information than you think you need to know about the animals around here, as well as the social life.  But I think some of it applies to how humans interact in human environments and I might use some of what goes on among these creatures as a platform for discussing human bullying patterns.

Old Jules

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15 responses to “The Bullying Homestead Part 2

  1. John Northcutt Young

    And we humans think we invented bullying, thanks for the post.

    • Hi John. Thanks for coming by this morning. I suppose I’d never thought about it much before, but bullying’s definitely not exclusively a human behavior. Gracias, Jules

  2. I thinkanimals bully to establish a pecking order. It keeps everybody straight. Are humans bullying for social dominance too?

    • Hi Rumpydog: You might be right, though I suspect there’s more, a great deal more to it than that. Also for humans. But the question you asks presupposes the initial premise you offered represents the truth of it. I’ll not attempt to dissuade you. Thanks for the comment. Jules

  3. I think I know where you are going with this and look forward to upcoming posts. If you look at our closest ancestors…the chimp…we could probably explain a lot of our behaviors.

  4. You make me think deeply, and I love that. Sometimes I think it’s just part of human nature which makes me think “ego,” but then yes, we see it in our animals as well.

    And then there’s the totally-random-but-maybe-not aspect that my Filipino friend Rebecca is certain of: possession by spirits in the unseen worlds. The culture she comes from thoroughly validates this world we westerners scoff at. They believe when a body is ‘down,’ for whatever reason (sickness, injury, alcohol, drugs), its psychic immune system is likewise compromised, and it is vulnerable to possession.

    There is so much I do not know, and I try not to discount any of it. I even wonder about my own behavior some days. (Is it me or is it memorex?)

    Thanks for the thoughtful post, as always.

    • Hi Bela: I always appreciate your visits and comments. There’s probably a lot more to what you are saying about the metaphysical aspect of such things than we’ll ever understand. As for memorex, all I can remember about it is that their cassette tapes tended to go bad fairly fast. Gracias, Jules

  5. Is Tabby relative in age to a teenager? She sounds like she is displaying that type of behavior; perhaps her hormones are at work :)

    • KS Shultz: Thanks for the visit and read. Actually Tabby must be getting along toward middle-aged. I’m guessing she must be nine years old. Being the youngest around here only makes a creature young compared to creatures everywhere else. Gracias, Jules

  6. That was an interesting post! Thanks for sharing. I love observing animals too, though I’m hardly ever around any.

  7. Jonathan Caswell

    Old Jules—My wife and I have had, back when we lived in a winterized cottage, as many as three cats at once. MOM CAT, who was the mother of SUMMER, often beat on SUMMER ’till SUMMER got big enough to beat back. MOM CAT was also very territorial toward first PUSS CAT, who needed an operation and then never quite re-established herself and GINGER who was a late arrival from the city who was eventually pushed out into the woods, despite my best efforts to keep her. Talking about bullying—I’m ashamed to say that I had a lot of favoritism toward PUSS CAT…my first cat (even before meeting the gal who became my wife). When MOM CAT clobbered PUSS CAT, I was more than likely to retaliate for her and then regret it and make it up to MOM CAT with a hug, apologetic words, etc. Me the BIG BULLY! Got over that—took some time. My wife was jealous of PUSS CAT (or was it PUSS CAT…of her?). PUSS CAT…and a number of our cats…were one=person cats, or nearly so.

  8. Enjoyed this blog about bullying. I see it strongest with the geese who bully everyone else and each other. They even try to bully me. I don’t put up with that. The ducks bully each other and sometimes a chicken, if it is smaller. And the chickens all pick on the silkies who scurry to safety and hide to keep from being beat up on. One older black silky rooster bullies everyone but the geese and they have an arrangement of some kind. He and the oldest goose were the only birds here for about 8 months during their reaching adulthood. I think there is a bond between the two. Thanks, Mary

    • Mary: Thanks for coming by for a read. Sounds as though you have a nice flock. My silkies have always been gutsy. Love those silky hens – best brooding hens I’ve ever seen. Gracias, Jules

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