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Changing of the guards: alpha cat is letting go

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Stumpy has been my alpha cat for over 10 years. Last year he contracted a gum disease that we struggled with for a long time and finally had half of his teeth pulled a few months back. He's feeling marvelous again and looks as healthy as he has ever been in his life.

Which is really odd that, now that he's feeling better, he's passed over his king status to Spanky (4 years old). We've known that Spanky would take over some time in his life, just never suspected that Stumpy would allow it while he was alive.

The biggest give away is the changed behavior in our queen, Scarlett (age 6). She is a people cat and only tolerates the other cats in the house except for Stumpy. She always had high regards for him. They would play occasionally, but only when she felt so inclined.

So Scarlett is now playing with Spanky. Continuously. They wrestle (playfully) all day long. She has never had this level of interaction with cats in her life. And its so hysterical to watch as she is 7 pounds and he is 16 pounds. She gets the better of him most times and if he by chance lands on top of her, she just squeaks, backs off, then leaps back on his head.

Dakota has been giving Stumpy a hard time since he got sick (an alpha want-a-be). Now that Spanky is alpha, he stands between Dakota and Stumpy and if Dakota tries to approach, he runs him off.

So not only is Spanky alpha, he is doing his best to keep the peace in the house. He's always been an ambassador cat and I'm so happy that my peaceful lover boy has the reigns. It means a quiet reign for many years to come.

The guards have changed.........and Stumpy is not threatened by it at all.
post #2 of 18
It is great that Stumpy is taking it well and Spanky is looking after him. Fred had his alpha staus challenged a couple times, but remained alpha until he went to the Bridge at the ripe old age of 18. I sometimes wished he had let a younger kitty take the reins and retired.
post #3 of 18
Fascinating! Maybe Stumpy is a little relieved to let go of the weighty responsibility of being Alpha. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, y'know.
post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CarolPetunia View Post
Fascinating! Maybe Stumpy is a little relieved to let go of the weighty responsibility of being Alpha. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, y'know.
I think you are right. Because of the size of my household, being alpha is not an easy thing. There are always those in the wings waiting for the right moment to try to take over. Stumpy is so relaxed of late and I'm so happy for him. He had alpha thrust on him when we lost our previous alpha very unexpected from heart failure. He's served very well, and now he hopefully gets the full benefits of retirement.

Cat hierarchies always fascinate me.
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by krazy kat2 View Post
It is great that Stumpy is taking it well and Spanky is looking after him. Fred had his alpha staus challenged a couple times, but remained alpha until he went to the Bridge at the ripe old age of 18. I sometimes wished he had let a younger kitty take the reins and retired.
Your Fred always fascinated me, mostly because he retained his alpha status until he crossed and he lived so long as alpha. He had to be a wonderful boy!
post #6 of 18
Aww it's great to hear everyone is getting along well though
post #7 of 18
Fred was a wonderful boy. Someday I want to go back to the old neighborhood where these cats have been breeding for years and see if I could run across one of his descendants. I think he was semi feral and wandered in to a good thing. AND brought his brother. I miss him terribly. Ooops, I have hijacked the thread, sorry.
post #8 of 18
Awww, that's so cute that he "retired."

Have you ever read the Warrior Cats books by Erin Hunter? They're written for children, but are still a great read for all ages. I'm waiting for the next series to start hitting bookstores. I only mention them because the cats are in clans, and each clan has a leader (or alpha). There are also elders, warriors, etc. It's nice to get lost in such a world. I have definitely started seeing my cats in a whole new light.
post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Momofmany View Post
Cat hierarchies always fascinate me.
they fascinate me as well. Its so great to hear that Stumpy has given up the reigns so well and is enjoying retirement. Its also great to hear that Spanky is doing so well as the new alpha.

I love hearing about your family!
post #10 of 18
That's great that there has been a peaceful changing of the guard a it were.
post #11 of 18
Ok, this may be a stupid question, but how can you tell which is the alpha cat? In my zoo, I would guess it would be Harley because he is the oldest male, but he rarely interacts with the other cats now...spends most of his time sleeping. They don't let him eat first..the kittens always eat first (well, they're a yr old now, so not kittens but that's how I think of them). Missy does have a hero worship thing going on with him though...always wanting to snuggle up to him, rubbing against him, etc. I would say she is the lowest on the totem pole. The only cat that is territorial is Little One, and she is female. But, if ANYONE (us included sometimes) gets into her personal space, she starts giving that little warning howl. Usually, if she sees it's me or hubby she will stop and make up with us, but not always. And, god forbid one of the dogs get too close! Can a female be alpha?
post #12 of 18
a female can definitely be alpha, i personally think they're more likely to be my Alpha is my girl Sapphire

that really is neat, glad Stumpy can retire early!
post #13 of 18
My alpha is our girl Pepperpot. She definately is the boss of our house!
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
You could call my girl Scarlett an alpha, but I prefer to use the label "matriarch", even though she has never had kittens. Females have a totally different style of leadership than males. They tend to be more territorial, and any time I've ever had a litter box war has been between females. In my house, they are either totally accepted or totally rejected, there is no in between. An alpha female usually feels superior to every other cat in the house and choses who they will interact with.

Males have a totally different set of rules. You can tell an alpha by a number of signs. They are forever observant of what is happening in the household. You will see them plant themselves in central locations where they can see in many directions. They usually eat first at a food bowl, and sometimes will eat so much that they throw up afterwards. They also tend to want to keep peace in the house - I've seen them step between cat fights to break them up. They get the first choice of their spot in the house - if another cat is lying there, the alpha only needs to walk up to them and stare at them to get them to move. In a large household, they generally have to get along with everyone, because if they are combative with others, they have to fight and any physical challenge where they can lose can eliminate their rank.

The other interesting thing that I've seen with all of my alphas happens during their playful wrestling matches. They will be the ones laying on their backs egging the other cat on and when the cat lands on them, they rabbit kick them and wail like there is no tomorrow.
post #15 of 18
Why would the males switch the alpha position? Lucky used to be the alpha cat at mom's house. Now he is with us (soon to go back). Cello took over the alpha position but recently gave it to Spunky. I was curious of why they do this?
post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
In my case, my guess is that Stumpy was forced into the role of alpha at 18 months old and took it on because there wasn't any other cat in the house that wanted it at the time. He's now 12, has been sick for the last year, and recognized that there is a perfect replacement for him. Spanky is a very good natured cat and the word I always used to describe him was "kind". He's an good friend of Stumpy and won't threaten him. Why not give up a big job? Poor baby has been ruling my very large household for 10 years, anywhere from 8 cats to 16 at one point. It's not easy being alpha in a very large household.

My last alpha crossed at 8 years old from heart failure. It puts a physical strain on them and I was afraid we would lose Stumpy at a young age. He's appears to be healthier now that he's made his decision.
post #17 of 18
Cats really are fascinating when they interact with each other. I know I wouldn't want to have just one cat again... it's so much funnier to have more than one.

When I had only Joshua, he was constantly glued to me (sleeping on my back at night and on my lap during the day) and when Kinah came along, she quickly established herself as the alpha cat and claimed my lap as her territory. (she only hissed at Joshua once while she was on my lap, and the hierarchy became clear)
Funny thing is, Joshua was a large 1.5 year old male, and Kinah a small 6 month old female. Go girl!
Now Joshua will snuggle on my lap when Kinah is busy elsewhere.
post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by krazy kat2 View Post
Fred was a wonderful boy. Someday I want to go back to the old neighborhood where these cats have been breeding for years and see if I could run across one of his descendants. I think he was semi feral and wandered in to a good thing. AND brought his brother. I miss him terribly. Ooops, I have hijacked the thread, sorry.
I'll hijack this for you. Just do it. Go back to the neighborhood and find one of his relatives. Most of my cats came from my immediate neighborhood and I can tell the ones that are related by their behavior. In my heart I know that Spanky is somehow related to Stumpy, just don't know the connection.

I'm having an interesting behavior experiment with our best friends. We had an orphaned litter of 4 kittens. We bottle fed them from 10 days old and our friends adopted 2 of them when they were 5 weeks old. They wanted to finish the bottle feeding process to bond with them and we agreed. We have 2 of the litter and they the other 2. Even though we separated them at 5 weeks old and they are now over 4 years old, it is amazing how much alike they behave, even in very different environments.

Which brings me back to this thread. One of the adopted kittens, Elwood, is behaviorally similar to Stumpy (probably a distant uncle), and looks just like Spanky (probably a distant cousin). And within their household of 4 males, he is alpha. Hmmmmm.......
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