Your Cat Knows How to Avoid Conflict (as Much as Possible)

How to Think Like a Cat - Stephane Garnier 2018

Your Cat Knows How to Avoid Conflict (as Much as Possible)

’There were only four dissentients, the three dogs and the cat, who was afterwards discovered to have voted on both sides’


Cats don’t like conflict, except when it comes to defending their territory, ’courting’ the neighbour’s puss, or giving an intruding tomcat a good hiding.

Have you ever seen a pack of cats gather to battle another pack of cats, on the false pretext of territorial annexation or protection of natural resources? The whole thing orchestrated by two big moggies wearing general’s stripes? Never!

The older a cat gets, the more it employs stratagems to get its enemy to flee, so avoiding conflict.

Ziggy has an unbeatable trick he uses when a large tomcat enters his territory at night. As soon as he senses danger approaching, he hides and waits. The first time I heard him growling, low and loud, it was quite terrifying. Upon entering the garden, I spied another cat dashing away as fast as it could. Ziggy was nowhere to be seen. I called him, but he didn’t come.

It was only when I went back inside that I realised his technique: he was hiding behind a few branches of Virginia creeper in the shadow of the outside window ledge, boosting his voice (honestly, he sounded like a tiger), which served to warn the intruder of his apparent physical size without him having to show himself. If the other cat remained in the vicinity, he would know what to expect in the coming fight. Nine times out of ten it worked. The cat fled, and Ziggy remained at his hidden sentry post until he was sure that the other had crossed back over the border of his territory. Then he came out and continued his patrol. Despite his three paws, Ziggy’s nighttime weapons for avoiding conflict were cunning, strategy and make-believe.

Cats are not bellicose scrappers. They are proud, and will always avoid having to fight, as long as their territory is not under threat. It’s a precept that I read in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Perhaps Sun Tzu, writing over two and a half thousand years ago, was also inspired by a cat? The Art of War has become a key text for strategists and military leaders, although some of them have clearly forgotten its teachings . . .

Cats have an interesting way of managing conflicts, compared with the sparring that humans still like to indulge in — a practice as old as it is useless.

In a conflict, there are always two losers. Cats have long known this.

Insofar as possible: avoid conflicts.