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Feline Dominance - I just don't understand this!

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
When the one-year-old skinny Sheba entered our lives a year ago, she quickly took over as dominant (or so I thought) over the 14 and 15 pound macho males in the household. That is, she took the preferred spot in my bed beside me just to the left - the best spot for the easiest petting. If Red Cat was in that spot getting petted before she came to bed, he would look over his shoulder repeatedly to make sure she wasn't coming. She would chase Purdy off the bed and he had to sleep elsewhere, though in recent months she allows him on the bed provided to sleeps at my feet. If one of the others was in my lap in the computer, dining, or sewing rooms and she came near, they would jump out of my lap and leave, allowing her the prime realty. One year later that is still the case.

But I've noticed something else. When it comes to food, she seems to be at the bottom of the ladder. She has a different food than the boys, who eat a prescription hypo-allergenic product. So I've been feeding her in a different room. Problem is, Purdy likes her food better than his own. So if I'm not paying close enough attention, he comes into the computer room and eats her food. And she lets him! If he makes any indication that he wants her food, she just leaves. (Red Cat is too busy eating both his own food and Purdy's in the sewing room to pay attention to Sheba's food, though if he found it, he'd eat that, too.)

So what gives? Are there two different dominance things going on, one for lovin' and another for food? Or would it be considered a territorial thing with her claiming me as her "territory" (no matter what room I'm in)? This is confusing. It was so much simpler while I thought she was dominant and that was that.
post #2 of 5
Cat's sole purpose in life is to keep their humans guessing.

I think what you've observed is pretty normal. Which cat is dominant depends on the location, situation, and time of day. Sometimes there's one cat dominant all the time, but doesn't sound like you've got that. They work it out amongst themselves and you're the last to know.
post #3 of 5
Maybe this is a case where, when it comes to claiming you, they "let her win" because they're such nice guys, but when it comes to food get outta my way baby, all bets are off!
post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 
Either that or maybe she is the "nice guy." Maybe like so many human mothers, her maternal instinct tells her that the rest of the family must be fed first and she will just take what's left over. Of course Sheba is not a blood relative to the other members of her family, and the boys are both old enough to be her great-great-great grand-daddy (maybe with a few more greats thrown in), but it's an idea.
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
OMG, it just occurred to me. I'm the one who TAUGHT Sheba that she is last when it comes to food!

For a while after I realized that she was "top cat," I tried to feed her first and feed all three in the same room. But that became a major problem, as when I started feeding them different types of food Purdy and she decided they liked each other's food better than their own. So in the past month or two I switched to feeding the boys in the sewing room and Sheba in the computer room. But all the food is kept in the sewing room. And I'm lazy. I didn't want to take her dish to the sewing room, then shut her in (which she hated without me there) to keep the boys out until I got their food. So more recently I've just fed the boys first, then brought her dish of food with me to the computer room, sometimes shut the door but often left it open and tried to watch that Purdy didn't come in, and let her eat while I surfed the web. So in all probability, I'm the one who caused this conflicting dominance behavior. Duh!
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