Cat Sanctuary

Two Alpha Cats

For a while, the Sanctuary office was known as the home of the Grumpy Old Ladies, and Kitty, Mindy and Tammy (who were all much beloved by the Shelter Manager) took pains to ignore each other at all costs. There were rarely any real battles, but there was a certain amount of bad language.

We also have our share of grumpy male cats, but putting them together in a room to grump with each other is rarely a good move. The grumpy guys tend to be much more aggressive than the grumpy gals, and we try to encourage them to locate in different areas, and hope they won’t encounter each other too often.

The particular grumpy pair I have in mind, are both called Alfred. To be precise, the front courtyard boy is named Alfie, which sort of sounds friendlier than Alfred – but his usual mood belies the name. Alfie came to us last year, a late-neutered tomcat; you can generally tell the males that miss an early neutering because they tend to bulk up, and the head and jowls are often blocky. He was initially brought in as a stray with an abscess (probably from fighting) and adopted last spring, but returned because of peeing issues. We think he is around 10 years old.

Alfie is blond and beautiful, like Leo – but he doesn’t live up to his appearance, preferring to be the courtyard bully. Cheryl tells me that a little while ago he had a thing for Mozart, and followed him everywhere, stalking him and picking fights. For a while we relocated him to the back courtyard, but the big boys there gave him a taste of his own bullying behaviour, and we eventually moved a slightly more subdued Alfie back to his starting place.

He’s definitely top cat, and can be very vocal when wandering around.  Kitty-Comforter Mel says “He loooooves catnip, tries to be close to you but he doesn’t know how to show affection. It’s like he wants to be petted but growls at you. He pees on everything.” He will occasionally “make nice” with a human, but don’t count on it! – he’s just as likely to swat. He and Winston can sometimes be found exchanging greetings at the window of the Newcomers door; Winston is pretty shy, so Alfie has no need to show off.  Cheryl thinks Alfie’s at his best when he’s sleeping – she says “He reminds me of the Lion in the Wizard of Oz!”

Alfred-in-the-back is a handsome tabby manx gentleman. He came to us with a “peeing” label; lack of urinary control is sometimes a manx thing, but equally it’s often a stress symptom. His former owners reported that he’d had urinary crystals, which can be very painful for male cats. During his caged period with us, he seemed to be managing just fine with the litterbox, and since emerging he’s not shown any real sign of problems in that area – other than where it comes to other cats.

Mostly, he’s an independent guy. He will tolerate a little petting before he moves off; he’s ready to accept treats or to interact a bit with humans, but he’s not a snuggle-bug.

But where Alfred’s problem lies is with aggression. He has established that he knows who the other pushy cats are, and he pushes right back. Cats don’t have a social hierarchy in the way that dogs do, but we do know that males, in particular, will attempt to establish their alpha status with each other (and with us!). Alfred has a particular “hate” on for Licorice; Licorice is not really a fan of other cats, and his arthritis often makes him grumpy, so being bugged by Alfred can produce a lot of yelling.
Grey Gizmo and Jasper come in for some face-offs with him as well, but it’s Alfred and Licorice that makes us keep the “Bad Cat” spray bottle on the table outside the TeaRoom.  Cool off, Alfred – life’s much better at the Sanctuary when you can get along with the other cats!
Alfie and Alfred are both alphas – and life for both of them can be a bit fraught. It’s a good thing there’s lots of space at the Sanctuary, and hidey-holes where they can take time-out when the stress of being social gets to be too much.


Blog by Brigid Coult (with thanks to Cheryl, Lori & Mel)
Photos by Lisa Brill-Friesen, Karen Nicholson, Cheryl Townsend, Michele Wright