Hi. I’m Yuki, the cat in the lower right, returning as a guest blogger with the ABCs—the alpha, beta, and chops—of feline life.
I live with Chairman Meow, seen in the upper left with the mouse he caught. He acts like Top Cat with that mouse, but let me explain. I’m the true alpha.
What, you may ask, is an alpha cat?
Some feline ethologists—behavioralists who study animal behavior—contend that the term “alpha” is most appropriately applied to pack animals with a highly defined social structure, like wolves, hyenas, and many primates. It usually depends on physical prowess, which may be determined by fights to the death; social alliances within the group; or parentage.
Since cats don’t live in the close pack structure that wolves, for example, do, they don’t form the same types of relationships. Although most multi-cat households have a pecking order, dominance may change from cat to cat, day to day, even time of day to time of day.
Jessica Char, who blogs on Feline Engineering, points out that the idea of an alpha cat comes from outdated research on wolves.
She explains that alpha is another word for dominant. It describes a cat that:
- Doesn’t stop when told;
- Continues unwanted behavior even when punished;
- Chases or pursues other cats;
- Behaves aggressively in some situations; or
- Demands attention, food, or play on their own schedule.
Okay, guilty as charged.
But there is another way to look at the concept. Pammy, who blogs on The Way of Cats, calls a dominant cat the “mad scientist of the cat world.” I like that characterization.
It’s especially apt when you consider my relationship with Chairman Meow. He’s not necessarily a beta, although Franny Syufy, writing on The Spruce Pets, says the second-in-line cat is indeed the beta. While this doesn’t necessarily mean the beta aspires to be alpha, she says that the beta may try to establish secondary dominance, especially when the alpha cat is out of the room. Or, in this case, when he catches prey.
If I am the mad scientist, I see Chairman Meow as the philosopher. He reads life like it’s a mouse—the joy is in the pursuit. Recent construction in our building has created new and joyful opportunities for both of us.
That leads us to the C, chops.
We’re old. But we still have chops. I’m 14 and the vet says I’m fat. I’ve also been diagnosed with IBS, which means no more chicken treats. But I’m better off than Chairman Meow. He doesn’t get chicken treats anymore, either. He’s only 13 and has kidney disease and cardiomyopathy. Because his heart only works at 50 percent, he has bitter pills to swallow. Neither of us likes that. But bitter pills are the price we pay for longevity.
Although we are running down the last of our nine lives, we’re cool cats, pursuing life like a mad scientist and a philosopher. Life is, after all, a cat-and-mouse game.