The Alpha Cat Syndrome (2023)

behavior training

behavior training

The Alpha Cat Syndrome (3)The Alpha Cat Syndrome (4)

The Alpha Cat Syndrome (5)The Alpha Cat Syndrome (6)

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Cats are supposed to be warm and friendly creatures, seeking owner approval, petting and cuddles and purring their way through peaceful evenings at home. But not all cats are this amiable or this compliant. Some have an agenda of their own and seemingly refuse to take no for an answer.

These are “alpha cats.” They are natural leaders; they refuse to be led and attempt to take charge of practically every situation. These cats like their food when they want it and the way that they like it … or else. They may only let you touch them for short periods of time and then again, only on their terms. They rebel when admonished and demand attention, access, and assets – when the mood so takes them. You don’t own an alpha cat – he owns you, or at least, he thinks he does.

When alphas don’t get their own way, they bully and pressure you into immediate action. They may bite your nose or toes to get you out of bed in the morning. They may shriek their demands for food until you are forced to give in. They may growl if approached while eating and some are protective of their toys and naptime. And watch out if you try to pick up your alpha cat or pet him when he’s not in the mood. He may bite or claw his negative message to you in no uncertain terms.

Perhaps the most classical component of the alpha cat syndrome is petting-induced aggression. Alphas will jump up on your lap and allow themselves to be petted – but only for a short while. And when they’ve had enough, they narrow their eyes, glance sideways at the petting hand, and their tail begins to switch from side to side. This is the writing on the wall that heralds an imminent meltdown: Suddenly he’ll swat, bite, and maybe roll onto his side so he can attack you with all five sharp points simultaneously.

What to do? In essence, they must be shown who calls the shots, who is really charge, and who is the supplier of all good things. Then and only then will their bossiness be honed into acceptance and respect. The name of the behavior modification program is “Nothing in Life is Free.” It is a non-confrontational “tough love” leadership program in which the cat is required to earn all valued assets from the owner. A prerequisite is a modicum of training so that the cat can be called upon to carry out some task before being issued certain resources.

Nothing in Life is Free

  • Avoid all confrontations. Make a list of situations and things you do that cause your cat to become aggressive and conscientiously avoid these situations. If your cat bites you to make you get out of bed, shut him out of the bedroom at night. You may need to have earplugs handy to mute the noise of caterwauling or door scratching at first but the cat’s insistent phase should pass within a few days. If your cat bites you when he is on your lap and you are petting him, do not allow him onto your lap for a while until he has learned some manners. Also, learn to read the warning signs and ration your petting.
  • Training. Despite popular opinion, it is quite possible to train a cat to respond on cue. The best way to accomplish this is with click and treat training. The whole process is explained in detail elsewhere on this website. Clicker training basically involves three steps.

    Step One Teaching the cat that the click of a plastic “frog” or clicker heralds the arrival of delicious food treat.

    Step Two The cat learns that he can make the clicker click by performing certain actions.

    Step Three The cat is rewarded with a click and a food treat only if he performs an action after being cued.

    Take the action of sitting, for example. First click and treat the cat for nothing. This is called “charging” the clicker. Next click and reward sitting when it occurs naturally. Once the cat has grasped the concept and starts approaching you and sitting for a click (and thus a treat), escalate to the third step of the process, adding a conditional stimulus, in this case the word SIT. Using this technique I trained my cat to sit on cue in three days and she has never forgotten it. Try to teach your cat one new “command” per month. If this course is followed, in time you will find that pretty much all behavior problems, including biting, simply melt away.

  • No free lunch. Feed your cat twice daily so that you control when he gets fed. At mealtime a cat should be hungry. Have him SIT before you click and put down the food bowl. The meal becomes the reward. No SIT = no food that mealtime. If the cat knows how to SIT on cue this request is perfectly fair. If he ends up missing a meal or two this will sharpen his appetite and thus the likelihood that he will respond as directed the next time. You will have made the meal conditional upon the cat showing you respect and good manners. Think of it as requiring the cat to say “please.”
  • Working for petting. Petting should be rationed to keep your cat hungry for your attention. Petting and attention are supplied only when the cat does something to deserve them, like responding to a voice cue or hand signal. This is particularly advisable if petting-induced aggression is a feature of your cat’s aggressive repertoire. Even if your cat has performed well enough to deserve petting, be cognizant of a deteriorating situation. Furtive sideways glances and a twitching tail mean that it is time to quit. To avoid this situation, keep petting sessions short and never try to pet your way out of an aggressive moment.
  • Put your cat’s toys away and supply them only when he has done something to deserve them. Allow the cat free access to the toy until he loses interest and then pick it up and replace it in the toy chest (or drawer).
  • Ration games. As useful as games are to help your cat blow off steam, they are also fun and as such should only be engaged in only when your cat earns the right.
  • Never respond to attention seeking (demanding) behavior. Act dumb. Walk away. Disappear. Deliver what the cat wants later, on your terms, and only in response to the successful accomplishment of an assigned task like sitting, coming when called, or waiting patiently.
  • Fire engine service. If your cat starts trying to bite you or acts aggressively in any way, remove yourself from his presence for a few hours (turn, walk away, and leave the cat alone) or herd the cat into another room for time out. If withdrawal of your company is the result of your cat’s shenanigans, as opposed to you turning into a big squeaky toy, he should soon get the picture that you mean business and will not allow yourself to be victimized. Cats learn. You should, too.

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The Alpha Cat Syndrome (8)

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The Alpha Cat Syndrome (24)


What is alpha cat syndrome? ›

Some have an agenda of their own and seemingly refuse to take no for an answer. These are “alpha cats.” They are natural leaders; they refuse to be led and attempt to take charge of practically every situation. These cats like their food when they want it and the way that they like it … or else.

How do you treat an alpha cat? ›

Never respond to attention seeking (demanding) behavior.

Walk away. Disappear. Deliver what the cat wants later, on your terms, and only in response to the successful accomplishment of an assigned task like sitting, coming when called, or waiting patiently.

What is a alpha cat called? ›

When a cat gets described as an “alpha” (or sometimes just as “dominant”) what someone often means is that it's showing one or more of these behaviors: Doesn't stop when told. Continues unwanted behavior even when punished. Chases or pursues other cats. Behaves aggressively in some situations.

How do cats show dominance over other cats? ›

Simple dominance will be exhibited by a cat by marking or spraying urine on territory, stealing and hoarding toys, rubbing its face on items it wants to claim as its own, claiming specific areas to sleep, pushing other cats away from the food bowl, and/or starting at or physically intimidating other cats.

Is my cat trying to dominate me? ›

Cats may occasionally show signs of aggression toward people or other pets when they want to establish social dominance. Cats that block doors with their bodies or swat at other cats as they pass may be demonstrating this type of behavior.

Should I let cats fight it out? ›

Never let the cats “fight it out.” Cats don't resolve their issues through fighting, and the fighting usually just gets worse. Interrupt aggression with a loud clap of your hands or spray from a water gun.

How do you stop a dominant cat? ›

When you notice aggressive signs, try to separate the cat from the situation. Try to maintain positive reinforcement instead of punishment. Once they're ready to be reintroduced, use calming toys or food to help take the stress off the situation.

Is there an alpha cat in a household? ›

Most multi-cat households have a pecking order, which may change from time-to-time and even day by day. The Alpha Cat: Alpha cats exert their dominance over the other cats in the household. This can lead to aggressive encounters when another cat is a threat to its dominance.

How do you dominate an alpha cat? ›

When dominating a cat, don't be rude to the cat. Don't mock the cat while doing it. Just be firm and loving as a cat-mom, and you will get across the message that the cat's not rejected. Time, patience, honesty, confidence and consistency are the best ways to establish enough trust that you can dominate a cat.

Do alpha cats groom others? ›

Can Cat Grooming Be a Sign of Dominance? Even though cats only groom each other if they're friends, it can also be a sign of dominance. Researchers have found that cats that are "higher-ranking" in a colony are more likely to groom the lower-ranking cats, just like a mother grooms her kittens.

How do you tell if a cat thinks it owns you? ›

11 Signs Your Cat Thinks She's Your Owner
  1. She's never quite sure why you're sleeping in her bed, but she's willing to share ... for now. ...
  2. She gets super offended when you get upset with her. ...
  3. She's not amused by your messes. ...
  4. She gets worried when you're in a room without her - what if you hurt yourself?
May 14, 2015

Does the alpha cat clean other cats? ›

Social ranking

Often times, the dominant cat in the household will groom the others as a way of reinforcing his position in the hierarchy.

How do you discipline a cat for attacking? ›

Instead, whenever the cat begins to swat or play attack, immediately stop the play by walking away or by using some non-physical form of punishment such as a water sprayer, can of compressed air, cap gun, hand held alarm or perhaps a loud hiss.

Are cats right or left dominant? ›

After the research was complete, Wells and her team found that almost 75 percent of the cats had an obvious paw preference, with most of the girls favoring their right paw and most of the guys favoring their left.

Should I let my cats fight for dominance? ›

If your cats are fighting, don't allow the fights to continue. Because cats are so territorial, and because they don't establish firm dominance hierarchies, they won't be able to work things out as dogs sometimes do. The more often cats fight, the worse the problem is likely to become.

Do cats feel disrespected when you pick them up? ›

It is not uncommon for cats to dislike being picked up, even if they're generally affectionate. There are some aspects of cat behaviour which might help to explain this. And some tips to help if you really need to lift your cat.

What does it mean when a cat puts its head against you? ›

Cats head bump each other and others to create a communal smell because cats recognize each other by smell before anything else. What your cat is really trying to tell you is, “Hey, I want you to smell a little more like me but don't worry I still love you!” How is this done?

Is it OK to let cats hiss at each other? ›

Some hissing is normal during this stage. Don't punish the cats for hissing or growling as that can form a negative association about the other cat, as well as you. Allow the cats to see each other once there has been no hissing for a couple of days.

Do male cats get along better with male or female cats? ›

Gender. Male (neutered) cats are generally believed to be more accepting of other cats, both male and female. Even though this has not been my experience, female cats may not get along as well with each other.

Is it bad to hold a cat against its will? ›

Cats can become very anxious or frightened when they're not in control and have a limited ability to escape, so don't try to hold one against its will. Some cats may feel unstable when they're held, while others may associate being picked up with being taken to the vet.

How do you fix a territorial cat? ›

Keep a regular routine – In terms of anxiety level, the less change, the better. Try feeding your cat at the same time every day, scheduling a set playtime, keeping their bed in the same spot, and staying on top of litter box cleaning. The calmer your kitty, the less likely they are to become territorial.

What is the hierarchy of cats dominance? ›

There is no linear hierarchy (social structure with clear ranking where each animal in the group is dominant over those below it and submissive to those above it) within these social groups but conflict over resources can occur. Cats recognise colony members vs. non-colony members.

How do you tell if a cat is smart? ›

Signs of cat intelligence: Your cat quickly learns new tricks; easily differentiates between different events and/or items; rapidly solves food puzzles; and is very responsive to your emotions, gestures, or pointing cues.

Why is my cat so disrespectful? ›

Cats hold a grudge. When a cat is mad, she wants you to acknowledge it. Some will act out doing such things as clearing the books off the coffee table, sumo wrestling a feline roommate, or emptying her water dish out onto the floor—all to get your attention.

Does the alpha cat lick? ›

“In some cases, a dominant cat may groom a cat that is 'lower' in social structure (subordinate), perhaps to establish or to reinforce their social dominance,” says Bruce Kornreich, DVM, PhD, a professor at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and the director of Cornell's Feline Health Center.

Why do cats lick you? ›

From a young age a cat's mother would not only lick them as a way of grooming them, but also to show affection. Cats then replicate this behaviour with you as a way of showing their own affection – it simply comes naturally. This licking behaviour is not just exclusive between pet and owner.

Why do my cats bite each other's necks? ›

This can be a pleasure thing or a dominance thing. Some cats will do this because they like to… and will do it to other cats, stuffed animals, dogs, etc. If it doesn't bother your other cat – then maybe it is not worth worrying about. Make sure the cat doing this behavior has plenty of playtime, toys, and stimulation.

Does a cat trust you if it sleeps next to you? ›

Sleeping near you

If your kitty likes to sleep near you - or even on you - this is an indication that they have total trust in you.

How do cats mark their owners? ›

Cats will mark with scent glands on their feet, cheeks, face, and tail as well as with urine. Cheek rubbing (bunting) and scratching (with both the odor from the glands in the footpads and the visual mark) are both forms of marking.

How do cats show they trust you? ›

One simple way to know if your cat trusts you is if her tail stands straight up, especially when she sees you or walks toward you. Some cat experts consider it to be a “thumbs up” in cat lingo. If the tail quivers slightly, it's even more indication that the cat has positive feelings toward you.

Do alpha cats eat first? ›

They may be mangy, flea-bitten and aggressive but male alley cats still have perfect manners. A study has found that when feral cats gather round a dustbin in search of food, the toms let the females and kittens go first.

What is the cleanest cat breed in the world? ›

Low Maintenance Cat Breeds. Sphynx. The hairless cat breeds like the Sphynx are often the first choice for want-to-be cat owners who are concerned about allergens.

Who is the dominant cat when grooming? ›

In groups of big cats, such as prides of lions, cats groom each other to show dominance. If one of the higher-ranking cats in the group grooms a lower-ranking cat, this shows that the higher-ranking cat is in charge and the lower-ranking cat is submissive in response.

Is spraying a cat with water abuse? ›

Our team of vets agree that using water bottles to discipline cats isn't the best course of action. According to Dr. Dwight Alleyne, “Spraying cats with water can create a negative association with humans. As a result, they may become more anxious or even aggressive over time.”

What happens when you terrorize a cat? ›

Scaring them may yield a “funny” response, but it can cause long term damage to their psyche. It can also be a detriment to you if your cat can't trust you anymore. It's generally a good idea to observe the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Does spraying a cat with water work? ›

No. Here's the problem with spraying a cat with water: The only thing the cat learns is that when he sees the water bottle, it's time to run. “Run whenever you see this bottle” is not a particularly useful cue to teach, and running to escape punishment is not a positive way to interact with your cat.

Can a cat be autistic? ›

The answer is yes, cats can have autism. While it's not as common as in humans, there are certain behaviors that suggest a cat might have autism. Cats with autism often exhibit repetitive behaviors like pacing or spinning, excessive vocalization and having trouble adapting to change.

Are more cats left pawed or right pawed? ›

Overall, 39% of cats were right-pawed, 36% were left-pawed, and 25% had no preference. Thus, cats have almost the same chance of being left- or right-pawed, unlike humans who have a 90% chance of being right-handed and a 10% chance of being left-handed.

When your cat is always by your side? ›

They love you and want to show their affection

Another common reason why your clingy cat follows you around the house is that they are showing love and affection. While cats have gotten a bad rap being stereotyped as aloof or "evil," cat owners can quickly debunk this myth.

Will catnip calm an aggressive cat? ›

Research suggests that catnip targets receptors in their brain to make them feel happy. After an initial bout of stimulation and excitement, the herb helps soothe your cat and calm its aggressive behavior.

Can you train a cat to stop attacking other cats? ›

If one cat keeps attacking a particular cat, the first step is to separate the cats from each other completely — in separate areas of the house. Do not allow them to paw at or smell each other through a door. If they must be in adjoining rooms, place a barrier at the bottom of the door.

Why does my cat sit on my lap and then bite me? ›

Are you confused when your cat is snuggling on your lap, purring, seemingly content, you are gently stroking them and all is harmonious… then they turn around and bite you? Rest assured, this is not unusual! Some kitty lovers call this a 'love bite', others call it petting aggression.

Why does my cat lick then bite my other cat? ›

Cats that are bonded sometimes show sweet displays of affection toward each other, like grooming. They'll lick and bite each other, clean the other's fur, and spend a lot of time making sure the other cat is purrrfectly clean. This type of grooming is a good sign—it means your cats are friends.

What is the alpha female personality in bed? ›

She exhibits alpha female traits in bed

She has no trouble initiating sex. She is accustomed to pursuing her goals. A man will enjoy dating an alpha woman who is at ease and secure about her sexuality because men are typically the ones who initiate romance and intimacy.

Is only cat syndrome real? ›

Adopting a lone kitten can lead to what is commonly referred to as single kitten syndrome; a solo kitten is less likely to grow up as well-adjusted and happy as cats who grew up with another kitten. Kittens who are raised as only cats have an increased chance of developing various behavioral problems later in life.

Why do cats lift their bums when you pet them? ›

Smell Transfer

Cats recognize each other (and us) by scent. Raising the butt is your cat's way of getting their anal glands closer to your nose so you can get a whiff of their pheromones.

Why does my cat grab my arm and bite me when I pet him? ›

Cats are natural born hunters so if your cat grabs and bites your hand, it is replicating hunting behaviour and pretending your hand is the prey. Often, they wrap their front paws around your hand, scratch with their back feet and then bite – this is how they would kill their prey in the wild.

How do you discipline a cat for biting? ›

Species appropriate punishment such as “hissing” or the use of punishment devices such as a water sprayer, can of compressed air, or hand held alarm are better than using any physical techniques since they are less likely to lead to fear and retaliation.

How do you tell if your cats are bonded? ›

How can you tell if two cats are bonded? If you are unsure of whether cats are bonded, there are some things to look for. These include enjoying playtime together, and also sleeping next to each other. Other bonded behaviors include rubbing their bodies and faces against each other, and eating food at the same time.

Why does my cat bite me gently? ›

It probably feels like your four-legged fur baby has got it in for you, but these perceived acts of aggression are actually an indicator of affection. That can be quite difficult to fathom, right? But it's true; they're actually “love bites” rather than a defense mechanism.

Why does my cat bite me softly then lick me? ›

Why does my cat bite me and lick me? If your cat licks you then bites you, or bites you then licks you, this is likely a sign that they are overstimulated. Licking humans or other cats is usually a bonding exercise for cats that helps them share their scent and feel good.

What is a Zeta female personality? ›

A Zeta Lady is love, for she is able to generate and receive love. She is peaceful, kind, and understanding. Being a Zeta Lady means giving of herself to others, asking for nothing in return. She is willing to sacrifice her own life for the liberation of God's people for His name's sake.

What is a Delta female? ›

Delta. “Deltas are great communicators, despite being self-conscious and at times shy,” says Spencer. “A Delta has all the attributes of an Alpha, but tends to keep herself and her hopes and dreams to herself, shying away from wanting to put her heart on the line in fear of it being broken.

Who are alpha females attracted to? ›

There's nothing more appealing to an alpha female personality than a person who can stand up for what they believe is the right. A strong-willed man who stands his ground and can equal her tenacity will turn her on. Be strong and keep your personal choices and goals intact but remain open to conversation.

What is Tarzan syndrome? ›

Tarzan syndrome, or jumping from one relationship to another, is often a way to evade the mourning process or to cover up excessive dependence. It also makes it difficult to learn from mistakes.

What is the fading kitten syndrome? ›

What is “Fading Kitten Syndrome”? Fading kitten syndrome, sometimes referred as “failure to thrive”, describes a kitten that “crashes”, suddenly becoming ill or unresponsive, even if it was previously healthy.

Is cat ADHD a thing? ›

While some vets and animal experts seem to agree that cats can get ADHD, the condition isn't recognized by all. Cats can exhibit symptoms or personality and behavioral traits that are often linked to ADHD in humans, especially human children.


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