Top Cat, Alpha Cat, Boss Cat
The Dominance Myth in Cats

Nicky Trevorrow and Penny Alborough
Cats Protection
What does ‘dominance’ mean?
“My cat
is ‘top cat’
over my other
cat”

“I need to show
my rabbit that I
am the ‘boss’”

“I n...
What does ‘dominance’ mean?
Definition:

‘An individual’s ability to maintain or
regulate access to some resources’
Domina...
Where did it come from?
Originally from early
studies on wolves

However these were
captive wolves
Where did it come from?
Often formed of
unnatural groups

Unable to escape one
another
Where did it come from?
Alpha pair

Old ideas for the formation of a wolf pack
Where did it come from?
More recent studies from wild wolves showed the
pack consists of a family group
Where did it come from?
Parents

Family groups made up of
parents and their offspring
Do cats have hierarchies?
Is there a ‘Top Cat’?
Where do we feature?
Where do we feature?
Why is this important to animal welfare?
• Leads to misunderstanding species-specific needs
• May be used to ‘justify’ usi...
Let’s look at the cat’s origins…
The solitary hunter

• Highly territorial
• Prey sparsely distributed over environment
• Does not co-operatively hunt with...
The importance of scent
Avoid stress and conflict

•
•
•
•

Can be predated upon by other animals
Survival of the fittest
Prefer to run away, hide...
How does this relate to feral colonies?

It’s all about the
clumped food
resource
How would cats prefer to eat?
In a large group?

Separately?

Neighbour’s cat

Using one food bowl?
How do cats use space?
What happens when one cat dies?
So if you have more than two cats…
Ensure there
are plenty of
resources for
all the cats

Appropriately
spaced out
In summary
• ‘Dominance’ is not a useful term for looking at
groups of cats
• As owners, cats are part of our ‘social unit...
Thank you for listening
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ICAWC 2013 - Top Cat, Alpha Cat, Boss Cat - Nicky Trevorrow & Penny Alborough

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ICAWC 2013 - Top Cat, Alpha Cat, Boss Cat - Nicky Trevorrow & Penny Alborough

  1. 1. Top Cat, Alpha Cat, Boss Cat The Dominance Myth in Cats Nicky Trevorrow and Penny Alborough Cats Protection
  2. 2. What does ‘dominance’ mean? “My cat is ‘top cat’ over my other cat” “I need to show my rabbit that I am the ‘boss’” “I need to be the ‘pack leader’ with my animals” “If my dog eats before me, they will think they are ‘top dog’”
  3. 3. What does ‘dominance’ mean? Definition: ‘An individual’s ability to maintain or regulate access to some resources’ Dominance can also be described as a ‘relationship between a pair of individuals’ It is not to do with aggression or status, nor is it a characteristic or trait of an individual animal
  4. 4. Where did it come from? Originally from early studies on wolves However these were captive wolves
  5. 5. Where did it come from? Often formed of unnatural groups Unable to escape one another
  6. 6. Where did it come from? Alpha pair Old ideas for the formation of a wolf pack
  7. 7. Where did it come from? More recent studies from wild wolves showed the pack consists of a family group
  8. 8. Where did it come from? Parents Family groups made up of parents and their offspring
  9. 9. Do cats have hierarchies?
  10. 10. Is there a ‘Top Cat’?
  11. 11. Where do we feature?
  12. 12. Where do we feature?
  13. 13. Why is this important to animal welfare? • Leads to misunderstanding species-specific needs • May be used to ‘justify’ using out-dated aversive training methods • Can lead to behavioural problems • Reduces the human-animal bond • In extreme cases, can inflict abuse on the animal and risk health and safety of the person
  14. 14. Let’s look at the cat’s origins…
  15. 15. The solitary hunter • Highly territorial • Prey sparsely distributed over environment • Does not co-operatively hunt with others
  16. 16. The importance of scent
  17. 17. Avoid stress and conflict • • • • Can be predated upon by other animals Survival of the fittest Prefer to run away, hide and climb Aggression is a last resort
  18. 18. How does this relate to feral colonies? It’s all about the clumped food resource
  19. 19. How would cats prefer to eat? In a large group? Separately? Neighbour’s cat Using one food bowl?
  20. 20. How do cats use space?
  21. 21. What happens when one cat dies?
  22. 22. So if you have more than two cats… Ensure there are plenty of resources for all the cats Appropriately spaced out
  23. 23. In summary • ‘Dominance’ is not a useful term for looking at groups of cats • As owners, cats are part of our ‘social unit’ • Important to understand and meet cats’ needs in order to improve welfare
  24. 24. Thank you for listening

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