Originally Posted by strange_wings
It's not necessarily a mothering instinct, but one that people will see in cats that live with each other, other animals, or even with their humans. As mentioned before, cats are social and will to an extent protect their group (a little like a lion pride).
It happens with cats and humans, too. When I was five a large german shepherd tried to come up to me and a cat I had at the time chased the dog off.
Cats will also often work together to drive off intruding cats. If anyone has watched ferals they've likely seen this happen. Or one will jump on an intruding cat and several other cats from the group will run to help.
That's what I believe. Normally I would think it's a mothering thing, as Willow, the scardy-cat, was terrified of Jake (and still is) but when she took over the raising duties of orphaned 4-week-old Buffy, it didn't take much for Willow to step over Buffy and raise holy hell on Jake. If he hung around Buffy, if he acted too interested in Buffy, if he was scrabbling on the floors trying to follow whoever was carrying Buffy away, Willow would shred him good. One time she and Buffy were on a bookshelf and Jake was squealing and running in circles and looking up at them. Willow got up and stood over Buffy and hissed him good, and then made like she was getting ready to jump off the bookshelf and launch herself at his head. She'd already turned his face into shredded tuna a couple of times, so I took Jake and booked it out of there, lol. Before Buffy came here, Willow was the sort to shrink into a ball and hope Jake didn't see her. When we first got Willow, she was all right with Jake, she let him sniff her all over and didn't even mind too much when he got intense and lifted her butt right off the ground. But then she slipped and fell out of a window one day, under which Jake was snoozing, and the surprise of a herding dog meant Willow ended up a tree and unable to get down (until dark, anyway). She's been terrified of him ever since, but her ego was boosted dramatically the first time she came to Buffy's defense.
If the defended is still a baby, I think it's a mothering instinct, but if the "baby" is grown up and capable of defending herself, I think it changes. It's more a case of protecting the pack. Molly, one of my newer girls, is hated by Buffy, but last week, Jake pissed Molly off (must have stepped on her tail or something), and with that snarl-shriek, Buffy came flying from out of nowhere and gave Jake a swatting. Jake, being surprised at her appearance, reacted and there was a cat-dog fight. Upon seeing this, Willow freaked out and gave him an ass-whupping, and Buffy (who had been on her back and cornered against the couch) was able to run off. Molly, being Molly, was oblivious to the drama she'd caused. Buffy doesn't like Molly, so she didn't jump in and attack Jake because she wanted to protect Molly, but she knew that Jake had become a threat to the "pack" and also to herself. She needed to tame him, tell him what's what. Still, gotta tell you, cat-dog fights are ugly, especially when the dog is 55lbs and the cats are 7lbs and 8lbs. Buffy and Willow are always stressed out for the next day, and Jake is usually coated with Willow-hair (she sheds through her feet whenever she's stressed, and last week there were a couple of nice clumps on Jake's hip). Fortunately their nails were clipped a couple of weeks ago, so this time Jake didn't end up bloody.
One time, a few years ago (right after Willow's confidence had been boosted when she learned she could defeat the big scary dog), Buffy had snuck out the front door. Jake was right there, so he took off after her. Then I realized a grey blur streak past chasing Jake. Buffy was up a nearby tree, Jake was looking up at her, and Willow was making mincemeat of Jake's back legs. Another time, it was just Jake and Willow outside (with me and my sister), and some girl went past with her dog. The dog wanted to meet Jake, and since the girl was on rollerblades, she crashed into a tree. Willow saw this and ran over, and who did she attack? Not the strange dog who caused the girl to smash into a tree and fall on her butt, but the creature she was put on this earth to kill. Jake. Poor guy must have been so confused, lol