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Does My Cat Have an Alpha Human? Vet-Reviewed Social Facts

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

An angry brown and white cat with black stripes

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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In the dog world, you frequently hear about alpha theory. We all know that dogs have alphas within their packs or family units, and the goal is to be the alpha of your dog’s family unit. Cats are very different from dogs, though.

While there are dog-like cats and cat-like dogs, these two species are almost always worlds apart when it comes to just about everything, including social structure, communication, and behavior. Cats do not have alpha humans. Keep reading to learn more about how they see family units and humans.

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Do Cats Have Alphas?

Cats do not have alpha humans and don’t view family units in the same way that a dog, or even a person, might. Not only do cats not have alphas, but neither do dogs. Alpha theory has been thoroughly debunked time and time again.

We know that cats don’t have alphas and are overall incapable of viewing group dynamics in such a way. Cats tend to view themselves as an independent individual within a home. They may recognize humans as someone they feel affection for, who feeds them, or who provides them with playtime and comfort.

This doesn’t mean that they view you as their alpha, though. If your cat is begging you for food, it’s not because they think of you as the alpha of the family. Your cat begs you for food because they know that you feed them and they think that their begging will get what they want more quickly.

People often joke that cats don’t see their people as much more than hairless apes or oversized can openers, and while we can all get a chuckle out of these comparisons, they may not be too far off base.

Tubby Cat waiting for food
Image By: J.T. Ryan, Pixabay

Can a Cat Be an Alpha?

While your cat doesn’t understand the concept of an alpha or someone being in charge, that doesn’t mean your cat can’t act like an “alpha”.

Alpha Cat Syndrome is the name that has been given to the behaviors seen in “alpha” cats. What makes these cats seem to be alphas is that they will bully and fight to get what they want. In a home environment, this may come across like a certain cat has achieved the level of alpha over the other cats. In reality, the other cats are likely afraid of this cat or will avoid them to prevent any issues.

Cats are easily stressed, so most of them won’t go looking for a fight. With Alpha Cat Syndrome, though, your cat may stop at nothing to get what they want. When it comes down to it, this can be a major behavioral problem. It may take a significant amount of behavior modification training to break your cat of unpleasant behaviors associated with Alpha Cat Syndrome, like biting, scratching, chasing other pets, and generally wreaking havoc on the household.

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In Conclusion

Cats are not capable of recognizing an alpha, be it a human or another animal. Alpha theory in dogs has been debunked multiple times, so it should go without saying that this theory also wouldn’t apply to cats. Even within a home, dogs may view the family as a family unit, while cats may think of them as, essentially, roommates.

Some cats may exhibit alpha-like behavior. This doesn’t mean that this cat is an alpha or attempting to become an alpha within a family unit. It is simply a cat practicing undesirable behaviors. Oftentimes, these cats are not reprimanded, and behavior modification training is not attempted because people are either afraid of the cat or don’t realize that cats are intelligent enough to understand training exercises.

Featured Image Credit: RomanaMart, Shutterstock

Brooke Billingsley

Authored by

Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping...Read more

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