I took a class on primates a couple of years ago. It was on primate sexuality, actually, but stop snickering. The thing I most frequently remember from it is the idea of displacement as a way of determining the social hierarchy of a group of animals. Animal rank is more a matter of submission than of dominance, when you get right down to it; once rank is established, the animals at the top don't often have to exert themselves to prove it, because lower-ranking animals will give way to higher without a fight. It's just easier to acknowledge that you're outmatched than to constantly need to have it proved, particularly if you're the one who'd be getting the crap beaten out of you in the proving.
So you watch when two animals find themselves in competition for something -- a desirable place to sit, a piece of food, whatever -- and wait for one of them to defer. If animal A is enjoying sitting on excellent rock X when animal B walks by, but gets up and moves and lets animal B have the rock, animal B is the higher ranking one. Pretty simple, really. I've started noticing my own deferring behavior, which turns out to be incredibly embarrassing; I move aside for squirrels and cross the street to avoid eight-year-old humans.
And I regret to say, when Gato fucking Malo comes back in my yard, chasing Bella once again, and they come yowling out of the side yard and under the porch in a 75%-white-25%-black fur tornado, I do not charge under the porch with fists and feet flying to assert my controlling interest in that cat. I duck into the house to get a big stick and put some proper pants on*, and then I stand on the safety of my porch waving my big stick threateningly over the porch railing in the hopes that Gato Malo will be suitably intimidated without me needing to come in contact range with him again. Ultimately, this means I wait tremblingly for him to decide to leave, and then go and collect my cat when she comes out from her hiding place in the crawlspace.
Even at nearly ten times my opponent's size, armed with a big stick and armored in pants and shoes, I'm the lower monkey around here.
*Pants note: I do not mean I was standing on my porch indecently clothed, I mean I was wearing a skirt which would have been even less protective than the pajamas I was wearing the last time I got into it with that bastard.Posted by dianna at November 5, 2005 11:47 AM