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Alpha Cats?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I have watched Dexter & Sadie (litter mates) closely for 5 years, in an attempt to determine which one is the alpha cat.
Their behavior suggests that they frequently change who is top cat.
I have read that cats, unlike dogs, trade alpha positions.
Does one cat always dominate in your cat family or do your kitties appear to trade the alpha position?
Lei
PS...they play a little rough sometimes but never hurt each other. They get along just fine.
post #2 of 20
I don't really like the term “alpha†with respect to cats and here's why: when most people hear that term, they think of a rigid hierarchical social structure with one dominant individual, such as the pack in dog world. It's not usually that simple in cat world. There is dominance in cat social groups, and sometimes one individual is dominant all the time, but often dominance is very fluid and changes with time, location and situation.

For example, I have one cat who dominates vertical space, another cat who dominates the floor, another cat who dominates the furniture. One cat dominates my lap when I'm sitting on the recliner, another when I'm sitting at my computer. One cat dominates feeding time, another cat dominates the water fountains. One night one cat will dominate playtime, another night a different cat.

Another major difference is that in the pack social structure the alpha individual wins his dominance by right of contest, whereas in the cat world it's something more subtle. It seems to me it's often actually by consensus. Rocket didn't have to fight the other cats for his rights to my lap, they just seemed to give it to him. The terminology I like to use is that the subordinate cat "defers" to the other cat. Perhaps it's a matter of everybody getting along peacefully without the need to fight. It's well-know that cats prefer to avoid fights when they can.

Anyway, feline dominance an ever-changing landscape of social interaction. That's the way it is at coaster's house, to answer your question in a roundabout way. And it's really interesting and fun to watch.

This is all just my opinion, of course, and I hope it’s appropriate here in response to your post instead of in IMO.
post #3 of 20
Esmeralda is definitely the alpha here, and it doesn't change - she always is. If she wants something (to eat, a certain place to sleep, a toy, etc.) they all clear the way for her. Even Henry, who loves to pester the other cats, NEVER bothers her, only Meeko and Phineas. It's interesting, because I'm not sure how she got this position - if any of them does do anything she doesn't like, she'll give them a swat, but nothing particularly violent; she definitely didn't gain her position through fighting with the others and emerging the winner or anything - so I have no clue how she managed it, but she did.
post #4 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Juniper
I have no clue how she managed it, but she did.
It's some kind of feline Jedi mind trick. Ace has pulled it too, except that he is vertically challenged; he never jumps on anything higher than a bed. Also, he will let another cat push him out of the way to eat. Unless it's pieces of chicken. He'd fight to the death for a tidbit of real chicken. But the other cats generally don't mess with him, and he is the one who does the correcting of the other ones, if any needs done.
post #5 of 20
Juniper - I think your experience is what I describe as the subordinate cats "deferring" to the dominant cat. They recognize the dominant cat and just give him/her the position by consensus, so the dominant cat doesn't have to win the position by contesting for it. Just a few hisses and growls and stare-downs and the others back off and concede, because cats really don't want to fight. They try to avoid fights.
post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
Tim..Our cat's behavior, even in a relatively small indoor environment, is fascinating.
I agree with you, "alpha" is not a useful term to describe our cats fluid social interactions.
I am going to start looking for their more subtle changes, that I had not been aware of before.
Your information is going to make a very interesting subject even more so.
This really is fun. Thanks so much.
Lei
Quote:
Originally Posted by coaster
I don't really like the term “alpha†with respect to cats and here's why: when most people hear that term, they think of a rigid hierarchical social structure with one dominant individual, such as the pack in dog world. It's not usually that simple in cat world. There is dominance in cat social groups, and sometimes one individual is dominant all the time, but often dominance is very fluid and changes with time, location and situation.

For example, I have one cat who dominates vertical space, another cat who dominates the floor, another cat who dominates the furniture. One cat dominates my lap when I'm sitting on the recliner, another when I'm sitting at my computer. One cat dominates feeding time, another cat dominates the water fountains. One night one cat will dominate playtime, another night a different cat.

Another major difference is that in the pack social structure the alpha individual wins his dominance by right of contest, whereas in the cat world it's something more subtle. It seems to me it's often actually by consensus. Rocket didn't have to fight the other cats for his rights to my lap, they just seemed to give it to him. The terminology I like to use is that the subordinate cat "defers" to the other cat. Perhaps it's a matter of everybody getting along peacefully without the need to fight. It's well-know that cats prefer to avoid fights when they can.

Anyway, feline dominance an ever-changing landscape of social interaction. That's the way it is at coaster's house, to answer your question in a roundabout way. And it's really interesting and fun to watch.

This is all just my opinion, of course, and I hope it’s appropriate here in response to your post instead of in IMO.
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
So that's what our kitties are doing...Jedi mind tricks. The force is with them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by evnshawn
It's some kind of feline Jedi mind trick.
post #8 of 20
Interesting topic. We had a recent problem with our boys (littermates) that I put down to them hitting cat adolesence (they're now just over a year old) and trying to figure out who's boss.

They also seem to alter between who's being dominant.
post #9 of 20
I don't know how much can really be said of "alpha cats" in a domestic household setting. I tried an informal survey a few weeks ago and it didn't really go anywhere. Here is my current thinking:

Living in a controlled environment is an artificial situation. Humans influence the pecking order with preferential treatment or interpreting the events so their favorite cat is whatever they want it to be. 99%+ of domesticated housecatcats wouldn't stand a chance if left to fend for themselves for an extended period of time, so I don't really see much value in calling one of your household pets an "alpha cat" or whatever.
post #10 of 20
Yes, I think that's an insightful comment. It's not a natural environment. It's not the same as a feral colony where there are no humans to influence the social dynamics. And in the home, interactions are seen through the lense of human conceptions. That's why it's so fascinating to try to learn and observe with an open mind. You learn things aren't always as they seem....
post #11 of 20
From my own personal experience, I've only had a house that had an actual obvious alpha cat twice. The first time, it was the mommy of the four litters of kittens we had living on our property (and the reason for her dominance was pretty obvious). The other, it was a ten year old female calico living with two males that were about two years of age (I'm sure age, as well as her demand for reign, were the main factors there). Considering I've owned over 20 cats, that isn't a large number.

Now, I'm not saying that's the norm...I just wanted to illustrate that there will be times where there flat out won't be an alpha. I have two siblings (brother & sister) that have never actually considered one or the other of themselves the alpha cat. Sunny (our female) is very smart, but is also much smaller than her brother, Hobbes. It seems to balance things out. Not to mention that my little ones love each other VERY much. They've been inseparable since day one.

P.S. LOVE your signature...that's BEAUTIFUL!!
post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks maherwoman, for your comment about my new signature. Cindy (rosehawke) created it for me. I love it too.
I edited this post & screwed it up.
I will PM a link to siggy designers on TCS.
post #13 of 20
Hmm...would she be willing to help me out on mine? To at least give me tips on how to do it? I don't have any recent pics of my babies on my computer yet, but it would be great, once I do, to be able to create something so beautiful.

Also, thanks for the feedback. Cats are so much fun!!

P.S. What is a torti? Tortoiseshell? Sorry, that's one I'm not familiar with....
post #14 of 20
maherwoman, see the cat in my signature on the left - she is a Tortoishell Bicolour.

Tortoishell is a colour of mostly black and shades of red.
post #15 of 20
Oh, ok...I'm familiar with Tortoiseshell's...just wasn't familiar with the term "torti". LOL...thanks for clarifying!
post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by maherwoman
Oh, ok...I'm familiar with Tortoiseshell's...just wasn't familiar with the term "torti". LOL...thanks for clarifying!
Oh whoops. Tortie or Tortie is just a abb. on Tortoishell.
post #17 of 20
Thanks...lol. Feel like such a dork. LOL!!
post #18 of 20
Thread Starter 
Don't feel bad...just look that the post I made when I first talked about tortis.
I am a sister dork.
post #19 of 20
LOL!! Ok, I feel better now...LOL!!
post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 
Glad I could help.
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