Feline organizational structures- part 1

The case for observing cat organizations closely

There is a recurring organizational pattern in groups of living things which bears inspection. As the dominant species on this planet, we often tend to think we invented time and motion studies, downsizing, and interdepartmental strife. This is far from the truth, as groups of animals have been doing these same organizational activities ever since they crawled out of the sea.

After 50 years of making a living by interacting with business organizations, I am still struck by the marvelous parallels that exist in nature. It occurred to me this morning that there are useful lessons to be learned by observing the actions of organized groups of non-humans.

We can look at the power struggles of cats, for example, and see what is actually at the bottom of this behavior without the painful emotional reaction that comes from observing power struggles that hit closer to home. It is easier to be objective and actually learn something from observing cat "harassment", for example, than from reading a case study about employee harassment.

I have a unique opportunity to observe a group of six cats in action, so you will be subjected to my off-the-cuff analysis of what happens and how their actions might be relevant to your business life. You have been warned. There is still time to switch to Blue Ridge Blog and see Marie’s pictures instead. 🙂

Merging of corporate cultures – the first days

Gretchen and I and our two cats have invaded the quiet harmony of the Thompson household and their four cats. Until we arrived, the four cats of the household were a temporarily stable organization.

All males, they are dominated by Antichrist, a large black shorthair. The second in command is Dr Jeckyl, a rangy and energetic orange tabby. Third is Trouble, a retiring grey and white alley cat. At the bottom of the group is Loki, a black kitten who plays the part of the harmless Fool.

In our group of two cats, Buffy is the dominant one, an Alpha Female who takes no nonsense from her brother, Sherman. Buffy is a serenely beautiful and intelligent cream-colored Abyssinian mix wih a chronically bad temper. Sherman is a jet black Abyssinian mix with a fearful/adventurous/affectionate multiple personality.

Like many corporate mergers, this merger was forced on those involved by external circumstances. In spite of our efforts to manage the encounter, the cats began their own efforts to take advantage of the disruption and move up in the pecking order and settle old scores.

Antichrist lost control of his group in the first moments of the merger as Dr Jeckyl moved in and tried to establish a new order of relationships by being the first to dominate the newcomers. While Antichrist waited nervously, Jeckyl boldly approached the newcomers while they were still in their transporters and after a moments inspection, began a strange keening wail directed at Buffy, who stared back without flinching.

Trouble retreated to the nether regions of the house and was not seen for days. Loki bumbled around underfoot, peering in one cage after another. Sherman retreated to the back of his transport cage and bided his time.

This corporate merger proceeded to evolve over the next few hours and I will pick it up in the next post. Meanwhile, I would like to provide character sketches of the individuals involved. Like the characters in one of my favorite business blogs, Big Picture Small Office, these cats are unique individuals as well as characters in a larger drama.

Character played and personal profile

The Fool is generally found at the bottom of the corporate ladder and Loki plays that part in this household drama.

Loki is the only kitten I know who runs like he had six legs. An engaging kitten with a carefree attitude toward life, he stumbles across his older housemates, arousing their disapproval and flits off with a cheerful "so sue me" attitude.

He has a congenital motor disability which makes him even more clumsy than the usual kitten but what he lacks in coordination, he makes up in unstinting affection and entertainment value.

Loki is at bottom of the household pecking order, but is the most communicative and affectionate cat in the group. He can generally be heard purring loudly while tucked in against your side. Like many individuals at the bottom of the organization, he has a lot to offer if you treat him right.

Pictures will accompany these character sketches in the future. Stayed tuned.

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