Cat Behavior Problems And Your Alpha Cat
Many people are familiar with the concept of an alpha dog. The alpha dog is the leader of the pack. If your dog doesn’t accept your position as alpha dog in the household, you’re probably going to have behavior problems with him.
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But how many people have ever heard of an alpha cat? We think of cats as being solitary animals, but they can live in communities, as is shown by the number of feral cat colonies that exist in many places.
Some cats in a community have a higher status, and they’re known as “alpha cats.” Alpha cats are extremely aggressive to the cats around them, which enables these particular cats to get more food and other privileges than the other cats do.
Do You Have An Alpha Cat?
If you have cat behavior problems, it’s entirely possible. This goes beyond occasional ornriness. An alpha cat is a natural leader who’s extremely headstrong, and who always wants her own way. She doesn’t hesitate to use aggression in the form of biting and scratching to try to bully and control her owner and any other animals in the household.
Dr. Nicholas Dodson has written an excellent article, The Alpha Cat Syndrome. He says an alpha cat will:
- bite you on the nose or toes to get you out of bed in the morning
- loudly demand food until you give in and feed her
- growl if anyone comes near her when she’s eating
- be extremely protective of her toys
- allow you to touch her only when she feels like it
Dr. Dodson says the classic sign of an alpha cat is petting-induced aggression. Your cat will jump into your lap and want you to pet her. Of course, you do. But within a few minutes, her ears go back, and her eyes narrow. She’ll look sideways at your hand, and then her tail starts lashing back and forth. The next thing you know, she’s savagely attacking your hand, biting and clawing you for no particular reason.
What do you do with an evil cat like this?
Use Behavior Modification To Change Your Cat’s Behavior
Your cat probably already knows that you supply all the good things in her life, like food, petting, and a warm lap to sit in. You gain control of her behavior by forcing her to earn these things, instead of just giving them to her. Sound a little harsh? Probably, but your cat needs to learn that you’re in charge, and this is a non-confrontational way to do it.
The first thing to do is to make a list of the situations that cause your cat to become aggressive. Then avoid these situations. If your cat bites you to get you up in the morning, don’t let her in the bedroom at night. You may need to buy some earplugs so her yowling at the door at night doesn’t keep you awake, but don’t give in. She’ll stop after a few nights.
Take control of the feeding situation by getting her on a twice-a-day feeding schedule. You may want to try using clicker training to teach her to sit quietly before you feed her. If she doesn’t cooperate, don’t feed her. It won’t hurt her to miss a meal, and she’ll be much more likely to show good manners at the next mealtime.
Make your cat work for petting, especially if she’s used petting-induced aggression against you before. Pet her only when she does something to deserve it, like coming when called or sitting quietly when you feed her. When you do pet her, be alert for signs of aggression as mentioned above, and stop petting her immediately. Avoid a bad situation by keeping the petting sessions short.
Don’t respond to demanding behavior. Training your cat requires ignoring the behavior you don’t want, while rewarding her when she does what you do want. Walk away and ignore her if she’s being demanding. Give her what she wants later, but only if she does something you want her to do, like sit quietly or come when she’s called.
Showing your mean cat some “tough love” can change your cat’s behavior from demanding and aggressive to learning to respect you and accept you as the alpha cat in the household.