Tag Archives: Alpha

The Dominant Cat


We have always joked that Chris has to be the alpha in the house. The truth is, cats are not like dogs, there is no “alpha” cat in the wild, at least not among African Wildcats, the species that evolved into the modern domestic house cat.

African Wildcats are loners, especially the males. Each male has a single territory that does not overlap another male’s territory but may overlap several females’ territories. This may cause competition for mating purposes but there is no group that requires a leader.

About 12,000 years ago in the Middle East, humans started to give up their hunter-gatherer lifestyle and became farmers. This, of course, was a very gradual process but eventually there were communities of people growing wheat and other grains. They stored these grains in large bins that attracted rodents. The increase in rodents, in turn, attracted cats.

The humans not only tolerated the cats, they welcomed them. Cats were an almost perfect solution to the rodent problem but having several cats in the same area was a bit unnatural. I don’t know how they got along back then but over time they evolved to tolerate each other as well as humans.

Our domestic cats today have never developed the hierarchy or cooperation found in a pack of wolves, but they can live together in large groups that are not related without killing each other. Some even develop friendships with each other. I have noticed that male cats seem to get along better than female cats but that is the opposite of what happens between wild cats. I have also noticed that a lot of fighting happens between periods of calm.

Understanding what drives social behavior in cats is a complicated issue that I don’t come close to understanding. Chris’s behavior is a good example. He is always trying to be the dominant, or alpha, cat in the house, but since cats don’t have alphas, I’m not sure what he is thinking. Frankie does not let Chris dominate him, which is sometimes a source of tension. Puck is the submissive one and I sometimes feel bad because Frankie is always chasing him around the house in what may, or may not, be play.

Chris is different. He will show Puck plenty of affection most of the time but occasionally he will grab the back of his neck and hold him down. I try to break it up but Chris won’t let go. I have to pry his mouth open. On several occasions, I have even seen him standing over Puck, with two legs on the left and two on the right, dragging him by the neck across the floor. A short time after that he will lie down next to Puck and wash his ears.

Bad cat Chris grabbing Puck by scruff of neck

I have heard that pinching the scruff of a cat’s neck will produce a calming affect. Perhaps it is necessary as a kitten so the mother can carry her young without them struggling and it just remains through adulthood. I’m not sure why Chris would want to calm Puck down. He is already submissive to Chris. Perhaps it is just a friendly reminder that Chris is the boss.

What do you think? Do your cats do this?

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The Food is Always Better on Another Cat’s Plate


Since the first day Chris entered our home, he has established himself as the alpha kitty in all areas except food, especially canned food. He likes the canned food and will eat it but doesn’t place a high value on it like our other cats (past and present) do.

Puck, however, was originally named “Chow Man” because of his love for food. Indeed, we named him Puck because, in part, he was into food as much as Wolfgang Puck.

I feed the cats wet food twice a day, in the morning, when I get up, and when I return from work, or around 5:00 on the weekends. The same thing happens every time. Puck and Frankie jump on the counter while I am opening the cans. Frankie then jumps back down to the floor where Chris is waiting. He knows that is where he is fed so he wants to be there waiting. Puck doesn’t think that way. He is on the counter eating out of the first bowl as soon as I scoop food in it. That is when Frankie starts talking to me, telling me to hurry up. I quickly scoop food out for the other two cats and set it down in front of them.

Chris will then eat for about thirty seconds and walk away. I think he anticipates Puck coming to take his food so he just leaves it before that can happen. I then have to pick up his food and bring it to him because Chris is somewhat of a dry food addict and I want him to eat as much wet food as possible. Sometimes I move his food two or three times but every time, before he finishes, Puck shows up to take over.

Our cat Puck stealing Chris's food.

Let me help you with that, Chris.

Our cat Puck stealing Chris's food.

Oh, you’re done? Thanks.

I don’t know why big, bad, alpha-cat Chris allows his food to be taken from him so easily but he does. I also don’t know why Puck has to leave his bowl, which still has plenty of food in it, to take the same food from another bowl. I usually then grab Puck’s bowl and put it in front of Chris but it isn’t long before Puck covets that bowl of food.

This kind of behavior reminds me so much of another species. Hmm… I can’t quite put my finger on which species that is. Anyone have any ideas?

 

Photo Friday: Temporary Cease Fire


Chris still torments Frankie which surprises us because he never treated Puck that way. I think Frankie is not as willing to cede to Chris’s authority as Puck is so Chris must feel that he has to show him again and again who’s boss. It could also be that Chris wants to show us how bad of a cat he can be. Sometimes though, there is peace in the house.

Frankie and Bad Cat Chris

The Baddest Cat You’ll Ever Love… or Not


I have always found Chris’s bad behavior to be annoying but at the same time loveable, like a toddler that is more adventurous than most. Lately though, that bad behavior has gone from cute to  somewhat mean.

Chris and FrankieI’m talking about Chris’s treatment of our newest addition, Frankie. No longer, it seems, is he the cute, mischievous child but he now acts like the ruthless corporate executive that needs to stay on top at all costs. Okay, that last part is a bit exaggerated, but he has put himself in a position of being “less lovable.” Rose has even used harsher words than that when referring to Chris.

I don’t want to imply that there is a war going on in our house. It really isn’t that bad. Most of the time Chris and Frankie can be in the same room without a problem, although they are by no means friends.

The problems usually occur in the evening when Rose and I are home trying to relax. It starts with Chris wanting to get close to Frankie for a good smell. Frankie, not sure what Chris is up to, gets nervous and starts to hiss. This triggers the fight or flight response in Chris, only Chris doesn’t have a flight response.

At this point Frankie has hidden himself behind the chair or some other object and Chris in now in hunter mode, pursuing his prey, which happens to be Frankie. This ends any chance we have to relax and one of us has to deal with disciplining Chris. I will usually grab Chris by the scruff of the neck and hold him down until I think he is more concerned with what I am doing and will stop going after Frankie. I also want him to know that there is an alpha male in the house that is not named Chris.

This sometimes works but usually Chris just gets up, gives me a piece of his mind, and then starts looking for Frankie again. Now it is time for Rose to step in. She picks Chris up and puts him in “time out.” In other words, she puts him in our bedroom and closes the door. She did that last night and when she let him out we discovered he had broken a picture frame above Rose’s jewelry box, and he did it without even knocking it off the wall. Somehow Chris always finds a way to counter what we do to try to stop his bad behavior.

While I am concerned about Chris losing his lovable status, I did hear something that may keep it intact. We went to the other coast of Florida to Visit Rose’s dad on Friday and when we came back on Saturday our cat-sitter, who is also our neighbor, said her little boy loved coming with her to visit Chris. Apparently, Chris played with the boy and gave him attention while Puck and Frankie stayed away.

New Cat Troubles


I have introduced many cats to our household over the years and it is never easy but usually after two or three days the war is over except for some minor skirmishes now and then. This time the war lingers on after eight days. It is getting better though. This weekend has been a bit of a turning point and the war has gone from the Civil War to the Cold War.

I did not expect Chris to be this bad. When we introduced Puck, Chris was eager to play with him. It was Tigger who had the problem. I can’t say it is all Chris’s fault though. Frankie gets very defensive when Chris or Puck enters the room and hisses and growls at them. Puck does the right thing and keeps his distance but Chris is undeterred and pushes forward, causing Frankie to retreat under the bed or stand his ground and fight.

Sometimes a fight starts just because Chris is too close. He seems curious about Frankie and wants to smell him but Frankie feels the need to defend himself. Other times Chris wants to show Frankie who is boss and will Chase him under the bed. We were leaving the house today and as I was locking the door I saw Chris chase Frankie out of the living room and down the hall. Out of pure impulse I went back in the house and chased Chris from the bedroom making a show of stomping my feet as I followed him out to the patio. I think I might have over did it though because it looked like I scared Chris. I felt bad about it but I also think Chris needed to learn that what he was doing was not acceptable.

We did have some good moments this weekend and I think we can at least leave the bedroom door open when we are gone. There was one moment yesterday when the two of the smelled each others nose without a fight starting. They also spent time together on the patio, although not too close.

Chris and our new cat Frankie

Frankie keeps a watchful eye on Chris.

Chris, Puck and our new cat Frankie

Frankie, enjoying some time on the patio, has to keep an eye on Chris and Puck.

Puck and our new cat Frankie

Puck made it to the second perch but Frankie’s hisses forced him back to the table.

Things are slowly getting better. A little too slow for my taste but we don’t know what kind of trauma Frankie went through before we took him home. He may just need more time before he trusts the other cats. I think he might also have to accept Chris’s role as the alpha or we may never see peace.

You’re Not The Boss Of Me!


A friend of mine is staying with us this weekend and while he had his suitcase open on the bed, Chris, being the bad cat that he is, decided to climb into it and lie down on his clothes. When he picked Chris up to move him, Chris let him know in no uncertain terms that he was very unhappy with the treatment he was receiving.

Later, we decided to go out for breakfast and had to get the cats off the patio so we could leave. I picked up Puck and put him inside but Chris put himself under the cat perch, which he knows is the hardest spot to get him out of. When I tried to pull him out from under there, he rolled on his side and braced himself with his rear foot and front paw against the cat perch. He then proceeded to cry, growl and hiss at me the entire time I was trying to get him out. It took a bit of effort but I finally got him in my arms and was carrying him to the door when Puck ran back on the patio.

I love getting out but sometimes I really hate leaving the house.

Jealousy


Rose and I discussed getting a playmate for Chris since shortly after we got him. He has so much energy and always wants to play, but until recently our other cats didn’t want to play with him. That changed when we got our new kitten, Puck. He has turned out to be a great playmate for Chris. They spend a good part of the day pouncing on each other or chasing each other. Sometimes I even see them washing each other.

There is, however, a darker side of this relationship: jealousy. Whenever puck comes to Rose or me for attention, Chris is sure to show up seconds later. occasionally the opposite happens. Puck will come to us second and then Chris will leave, presumably in disgust.

Keep in mind that I have a hard enough time trying to figure people out so interpreting the behavior of another species could be beyond my ability.  Nevertheless, I feel Chris is the Alpha male in the house and he feels threatened by the kitten.

I have seen behavior from Chris that is different now than it was before Puck showed up. For example, he sometimes will grab Puck or Tigger by the scruff of the neck and hold them down for an extended period, as if he is reminding them who is the boss.

There is also something that he does not do that somewhat bothers me. Rose gets ready for work every morning by sitting at the counter in the bathroom. Chris used to lay on the counter while she got ready. He was somewhat of a nuisance for her but also a source of entertainment. He would lie there and grab her makeup or whatever he could get his paws on and pull it toward him.

Now Puck has taken over his spot so Chris usually just avoids the bathroom in the morning. That makes me feel bad because that was part of his routine that was taken away from him. Of course, Chris could easily take that spot back if he wanted to, so I am not sure why I feel bad about it. Perhaps it is because he does not want to take it back.

Puck takes over Chris's spot

Puck takes over Chris’s spot

All things considered, Chris is generally a happy cat and I believe puck has added to his life more than he has taken. Eventually, Chris will reestablish his dominance and all will be right with the world. Well…maybe not the world.

Chris Takes Over


It wasn’t long before Chris made himself right at home. He established himself as the alpha male from day one. I must admit that It surprised me that our other four cats let this little, skinny kitten completely dominate them.

Tigger was the alpha cat. We called him the Accidental Alpha because he was more like Baby Huey and would force himself into situations more out of ignorance than intention. Chris, I believe, wants everyone to know he’s boss.

He seems to have a dual personality. One minute he will attack some random cat, the next minute he slides himself in next to them and expect some affection or a bath. If these were people, every one would hate him, but cats are very forgiving.

When it comes time for treats it is no different. He will abandon his treats and eat those of another cat. I am never sure if he is being greedy and wants them all or if he is not totally happy with what he has and thinks the other ones are better. He is not a big eater so I would assume the latter.

Next time I will tell you about his poop. Bet you can’t wait for that.

Chris getting comfortable on his second full day at home.