HomeCat Behavioralpha catAlpha Cats: Are we Doing them Justice Placing Them in this Category?


Alpha Cats: Are we Doing them Justice Placing Them in this Category? — 23 Comments

  1. We have an alpha cat here. Sabu is alpha and patrols his home and enclosure. He keeps peace among the cats and is not against wading into a tiff and stopping it cold. The only cat he will bow to is little tiny Missy Mouse. She mothered him and helped raise him and if The Mouse says no …well then that is OK with Sabu.
    Sabu will mark inside the house unless we are dilligent about extra loving and talking to him about his attitude. We have learned his body language so well that a simple, “Don’t DO That” stops him from spraying and he calms down. I wish it was as easy as to handle the feral population but that is just not possible.
    Outside the ferals have their pecking order and the twins run the neighborhood. They decide whether a cat is allowed in their territory and who is allowed to sleep with the sheep. LOL

  2. The catlover in the household, who is perhaps dominant when it comes to nurturing the felines, and then, her feline becomes dominant. Feedback, please?

  3. Jo, I was unable to read the full article due to my eyes, but what I gather is sometimes true. My Shrimp, who is the elder in the clan, is blind in his left eye, and has never considered himself worth following, yet my roommates cats do, as well as the two rescues.

  4. Thanks Reno,

    I wonder if Jackson is referring to “scared” kitties who need to have their confidence built. It seems to me that on the shows dealing with scardey cats that after working with them to build confidence they no longer behavior in that typical description of “Pariah”. I wish I could ask him what he means.

  5. Jo, I tend to agree that in homes with only two or three cats, the roles change…..a lot! Many, many moons ago, my husband and I had only two cats and I could see role reversals often. Then we unexpectedly got a third and it was the same…..then a fourth and so on until now we have seven. Now, however, there is DEFINATELY a matriarchal hierarchy with Mischief in charge. All the others defer to her. The role reversals still happen, but only with the “underlings”, never with Mischief. And, having lived with two of them, I disagree with Jacksons belief that there are no “pariah” cats. Currently I have two. They retreat with tail down and slinky movements whenever Mischief makes her presence known. Now, I believe that behavior will change over time with Carrie and I can see her blossoming into a more confident cat as time goes on. Tallulah, on the other paw, was bullied too often I think. She will come out and about with hubby and me and the other cats, but as soon as Mischief gives her “the look”, she will slink away to her “cave” that we created for her to feel safe and secure. She is ten now, and we have had her for five years. She is better, but I believe she is a good as she’s going to get as long as Mischief is the leader. I do believe the heirachy will change again once Mischief crosses OTRB. Just as a side note, I have used the Thundershirt for Tallulah and she “played goat” at first, but then she did become a bit more “outspoken” when wearing it. Her little body is somewhat deformed, though, making the Thundershirt uncomfortable for her to wear. So that is not a long term option for her.

  6. I don’t think either of my current cats would be called alpha–or else they take turns. And I haven’t had a “normal” cat who thought he or she was the boss of me. I don’t tolerate that and cats are not stupid. They figure out that kitty “please” and “thank you” further the feline agenda more quickly than growling or biting. However, I have had cats who had behavior problems who behaved this way until they could be settled down and reassured that they could count on their next meal coming.

  7. Well, I had a female Girl Tammy who i had for 12 Years. She always did try to Boss myself around. She always expected the other cats to submit, until Ozzie came along. She always looked like she was angry. I had to outsmart her, as she loved opening fridge doors and would Jump up on door handles and let herself in. As well, if you wouldn’t listen to her straight away she would knock things off bookshelves, she would watch them fall to the ground while looking at you. I’m not sure she was a boss. She was very strong willed. Even when she used to sleep beside me if I went to put my hand out to see what cat it was she would put her claw on my hand and it hurt. I miss her strong willed nature and i guess she was very protective. She helped me in a difficult time in my Life, just my her waking me up to take my meds when i often forgot in the early days, and knocking on door handles she helped me so much. Shes been gone 2 Yrs now 🙁

  8. Sylvia Ann,

    I love your writing. It is so visual and tactical. It is a delight to read your comments.

    I still am thinking “top cat”. But I haven’t lived with a “clowder” in a long time- just two or three- and I do see them changing roles constantly. Maybe it is really different when cats live in larger groups.

  9. Though his scars proved he was a killer, I never saw Count Dracula fighting with any of the other strays in my yard. Instead, here’s what I saw.

    The Count (though the name to which he responded when he was called was ‘Momma’s Man’ uttered with taffy-pull vowels and weighted with a sympathy he’d never known before) was gnarly and misshapen. His fur was black and coarse to the touch, and his ribs had odd protrusions as if he had suffered multiple fractures from – what? – being kicked by someone? His legs were stumpy, his tail askew. And he couldn’t have weighed six pounds.

    Bertil, by contrast, another homeless waif who came calling for years, was an orange Hogan’s Hulk of a cat. He too was unneutered and feisty. He was unused to being pet and had huge yellow talons, so he wasn’t a lap cat. Yet he tried his best to show his good will, and after having filled himself with 12-14 ounces of canned cat food and a bit of cooked liver or stew meat, he’d roll at my feet in a bonhomie mood on sunny days.

    Though Bertil was twice the size of the Count, he’d be eating his victuals for a few minutes, then glance uneasily over his shoulder and see the Count ambling down the driveway, headed straight for him. (The Count usually materialized a few minutes after Bertil’s arrival.) Bertil’s face froze at the sight of the sinister, knobby presence closing in on him and, hungry as he was, would humbly turn from his saucer and continue backing down the steps as the Count stood still as a statue, four feet away, drilling holes in him with his stare. Vanquished, Bertil shrank into himself, then whirled around and plunged into the shrubbery.

    I had to be present during their meals, with a saucer for Bertil, who was crouched out of sight under the bushes, and one for the Count; if I hadn’t been, the Count, after eating his fill, would still have kept Bertil from eating his own breakfast.

    What was he like in his interactions with me? Coldly suspicious for three years. But in the fourth year, toward the end of his days, he’d come running to me when I called his name, lie on his back, then allow himself to be held and pet. Ruth knew what that cat did to me when I finally had to have the vet end his suffering from renal failure.

    He was the Man – stunted and broken, yet feared by all the other male cats. He was ‘Momma’s Man,’ too – my poor old battered, plug-ugly sweetheart.

    A very nice essay, Jo!

  10. With one male in our otherwise all-female clowder, and that male having lived the first fourteen years of his life as a pampered “only cat”, it’s my observation that he does indeed rule his harim, and the roost, though the edges have softened a bit after five years among us. In the past, our beloved Samuda definitely was the one everyone deferred (de-FURred?) to, and he ruled with a velvet paw and with love. He never met a cat he didn’t love, was friendly with everyone — feline or human — and he will always be our leader, as he watches over us from the Bridge.

  11. My male 5 year old tomcat “Matata” is definitely a “Alfa Cat” who “Yowls” early in the morning to wake up the household and prowls around the house like a “Big Cat”. Strangely he is terribly afraid of human strangers akin to wild “Big Cats”.I will never be able to take him to a vet for examination or treatment as he turns violent if handled roughly.His behaviour is typical of a human child wanting attention and at times being destructive.

  12. Excellent post. I have two of my boys who each think he is the dominant male — tending to want to spray (all my cats are fixed). But for the most part, they all get along. There aren’t any who are on the submissive side. Each will stand his or her ground. I share my loves and cuddles equally with them. I believe they all know Mommy loves each one of them. We have the occasional “swat” or “chase'”, but never does it get vicious. Mommy babies all of them, and they, in turn, baby me!! No major behavior issues with any of my “kids”. . . <3

  13. Thanks for this Jo. we have a so-called alpha cat where I live. He roams around the area bullying other cats protecting his territory. However, I don’t think he is what is called an alpha cat. He is simply not neutered which brings out all the testosterone fuelled male cat characteristics.

    I tend to agree with you that the concept of the alpha cat in respect of domestic cats is over egged. There are confident cats and there are timid cats; 2 different types of cat personality.

    The more confident cats may impose their will upon the more timid cats while the timid cat simply back off because they are timid but this does not necessarily mean that the confident cat is alpha, meaning a leader.

    It is said, though, that only 2 sorts of cats live in groups: the lion (a pride) and the domestic cat and when cats live in groups a hierarchy forms and in feral cat colonies a male cat usually is at the top of the hierarchy. These leading cats do not bury their faeces and get first pick of the ladies. Is that an alpha cat?

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