Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The behaviour of dockyard cats

Dards, J. L. (1983). The behaviour of dockyard cats: Interactions of adult males.Applied Animal Ethology, 10(1), 133-153.

A study was conducted on the feral cats living in Portsmouth Naval dockyard, an enclosed site with an area of less than 100 ha, supporting a population of about 200 adult cats. Data were collected by direct observation, and individuals were recognized primarily by coat pattern. The behaviour of mature tom-cats was observed with respect to females and to other mature males. Most toms visited several groups of females, but the frequency with which a particular group was visited varied between toms. Some toms spent most of their time with one group, adopting a role similar to that of a “pride lion”. The courtship and mating behaviour observed in the dockyard conformed with that recorded for laboratory cats. However, females in oestrus were not heard to call, but toms which were apparently seeking oestrus females emitted a characteristic cry. Up to 6 toms were observed in attendance on unreceptive oestrus females. Sexual behaviour was observed in most months, with peaks in the spring and autumn. Most of the aggressive interactions observed between toms and females were initiated by unreceptive females during courtship. Male aggression towards females was rare. Amicable behaviour was shown, and was more frequently initiated by females than by toms. Females appeared to interact amicably more frequently with toms with which they were familiar. No amicable behaviour between mature toms was observed. Interactions were characterised by aggression, tolerance or avoidance. Agonistic encounters were mainly ritualised, and few fights were observed. It is possible that a dominance hierarchy existed between toms, formed by fights when young toms first became sexually mature.

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