On cat fights

Tuesday I witnessed a cat fight.


I was sitting at my desk when my ponderings were interrupted by an incessant miaowing outside.  I made my way to the window and, after a few seconds’ search, spotted them beneath a tree just inside the animal park next door.

Stray cats are a bit of a problem around here.  We live on the edge of the CBD in an area containing several apartment buildings.  Between the rubbish collection areas of these buildings and rodents along the river bank there’s plenty of food.  It doesn’t help that a former tenant of our building started feeding them, making them so tame that one snuck into our kitchen and started eating leftovers from a plate on the counter while we were watching TV.

But I digress.  It was interesting to watch these two.  They stood nose-to-nose, miaowing for a good five minutes.  Then, in moments they were at each other, snarling, clawing at each other and rolling around on the ground.


I made a remark to the wife that the miaowing before they got into it was like trash-talk between humans in the run-up to a rumble.

Wife:  They’re vicious.  I’ll never refer to girls fighting as a cat-fight again.

Me:  Have you ever seen two girls get physical with each other?

Wife:  Almost every day during break at the school.

Me:  And what does it look like?

Wife:  Oh.

Thinking about the incident again this morning I wondered at how similar we actually are to animals.


We get territorial and defend our territory starting with snarling and posturing and, if our opponent doesn’t back off, escalating to outright violence.  Sometimes we just make a lot of noise because we’re hoping the last option won’t be necessary.

Those of us who are bigger and stronger (or wealthier and more connected) think they therefore have the right to dominate the rest of us and use us for their convenience.

Some of us have perfected the art of camouflage, learning how to blend into the background because there are others who are opportunistic predators, experts at picking off the weak and lonely, simply because they can.

We herd together, reacting as a group, running in the same direction without anyone needing to tell us which one, in the process forgetting to think for ourselves, merely responding to outside stimuli.


But we also have the potential to look out for each other.  Sometimes we manage to fit in, each contributing our part toward the greater good, complementing each other and making things work.  We can stand together and defend each other, including the small and the weak.  We can be loyal.

I must confess, I’ve never been able to understand why men get excited about (human) cat fights.  To Google’s credit, when I typed “cat fight” into an image search I got more pictures of actual cats fighting than of women fighting…on the first page of results.

(In case you came here expecting a review of Inferno, please note it will go up on Sunday.  My technical difficulties the previous two days have disrupted my planning a bit.  Sorry for that.)

4 thoughts on “On cat fights

  1. I’ve always hated the phrase “cat fight” being used to describe women fighting. It has a demeaning edge to it. I’m writing this too late in the evening to untangle the source of the overtones, but it’s not too late to hear them.

    Good post, though.


  2. On my experience, for a good example of animal behaviour in humans one need look no further than academic university departments. Irrespective of how they intellectualise their assaults on each other’s reputes, it boils down to ape-mentality territorialism. I may sound a little cynical but I’ve been at the receiving end of it here in New Zealand, often, and I don’t even work in a university – all I do is write books that they mistake for an intrusion into their territory. I’ve even had New Zealand’s top academic historian explode with anger and swear on national broadcast radio, purely when the interviewer mentioned my name. Extraordinary. And, disturbing though it is to be at the receiving end of profound hatred from total strangers, it has at least shown me what their world is like.


    1. When I mentioned predators picking off the weak ones I was actually thinking of online chat forums (including Goodreads – there especially you get wild dogs that start feeding before their prey is even dead). I can see that academia can be similar. I might have to rethink my postgraduate studies… 😉


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