To earn your cat nerd cred, you’ve gotta know the three types of cats

Guest post by Pamela

Here’s a post from my favorite cat blog, Way of Cats. You will love it.

Images courtesy I am Maru.

I have organized general cat tendencies into three main “types” called Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. This was inspired by the classic science fiction novel Brave New World, wherein humans are assigned societal categories at birth.

Of course, I’m working with what Nature has laid down in these cats’ genetic pattern. It has nothing to do with Alpha dogs or other hierarchical ranking schemas. It is a way of expressing how each cat interacts with their environment. Knowing a cat’s type will inform us of our best strategies for choosing, raising, and training them, because we need very different approaches for the different types.

Except when cats are very young, or exhibiting uncharacteristic behaviors because of stress, we can figure out what kind of cat we are looking at — and what they will need. It’s important to understand how each cat regards their environment:

These are cats who feel confident about changing their own environment. Training them consists mainly of outwitting them. These are the cats who have to have everything be “their own idea.”

With their boundless reservoirs of brains and energy, we need to keep an Alpha cat busy and amused.

These are cats who feel confident about getting us to change the environment. Training them consists of fostering communication and negotiation. Beta cats are glad to cooperate, once they know what it is we want.

With their strong social skills and eagerness for companionship, we need to make sure our Betas are never lonely.

These are cats who don’t know the environment can be changed. Training them consists of anticipating their needs and letting them know how much we care. These cats hate to be a bother.

The Gamma’s retiring nature will bloom under dedicated fussing, and they must never be neglected.

Knowing the cat types are crucial for choosing and blending cats. We can explore the characteristics, observe our own cats for clues, and soon we can start building our own Cat Civilization, one defined block at a time.

Do you see your cat in any of these? My cat, Nelly, is totally an Alpha. The other cat in our house, India, is a total Beta. Cat people: ESPOUSE in the comments!

Comments on To earn your cat nerd cred, you’ve gotta know the three types of cats

  1. Oh I so have one of each!! Simba is my alpha and cery much the trouble maker and attention whore. Joey is a Beta and Dimitri is the Gamma. Oh I love this site!! 🙂

  2. Haha, the cat people come out in the comments.
    Our teeny orange stray kitten has turned into a monster alpha named OJ – he’s recently figured out how to jump on counters, and training him mostly involves chasing him down. Oddly, he’s been most cuddly during the process – I think he likes the boundaries. Weird.
    And his ‘big sister’ Mia has turned out to be this teeny little blue cat with a huge fluffy tail (she’s so proud of it, vain thing that she is) – she’s definitely a beta and pretty much hasn’t bothered jumping on counters counters since she realized she wasn’t welcome there.

  3. Loving all the descriptions! Have had various mixtures over the years; often alphas with gammas, now down to a big beta male–Gallagher–and a gamma female. Gallagher is an 18-lb red tabby. Walks on a leash, is perfectly content to be manhandled by my 4-year old, loves to watch the animals from the screened in porch and occasional sneak outside, yet is afraid to get far from the house. He shows some alpha tendencies when he wants his morning treats, but totally settled into his betahood when I became a mom. I call him my Irish bachelor.

    Skittles is a grey tabby, 9.5 lbs, born into a cat colony down by the docks and domesticated through a trap-neuter-release program. Hates being touched, but loves being in a house. Never wants to go outside, tolerates my daughter touching her without trying to rip her hand off (unlike some of my scars from vet trips), and is perfectly happy laying on the elmo pillow she confiscated from said kid and turned into her cat pillow. Loves watching birds from inside but knows how tough the outside life is and will let Gallagher have it. Has some beta tendencies in that she knows there are worse things than the life she has, and will totally rip Gallagher if he doesn’t treat her like the lady she is. Will not tolerate other animals or people, but likes to let us know she is around. She just has a 12-18″ zone that you can’t get through or she’ll bolt.

  4. i’m on cat number four and can’t wait to have a persian again. i think my limit makes me a borderline cat lady. in the meantime i’m a big fan of AdvoCat! at – she puts the borderline in borderline cat lady!

  5. I would think that Loki is an uber alpha. We refer to her as the murderous, soul-sucking overlord. She is literally untrainable- and my degree is in animal behaviour. She is insanely territorial, and hates any sort of stranger; especially strangers that like her. If anyone goes near anything she considers hers, she attacks; luckily she doesn’t have front claws, or any stranger in our house would have a lot more the the shit scared out of them when she pounces on them for going near her table. The only person she likes is my husband (her original owner), and she tolerates me, but I get at least one hiss daily. She loves to destroy anything she can reach; especially wires. And no, she doesn’t care if she gets electrocuted (obviously we try to hide every wire from her, but she can get into the most ridiculous spaces and fish them out). Oh, and if she is in the way of a door or cabinet you are trying to get into, instead of moving away, she flops down right in front of it and yowls. I have gotten her behavior slightly better, as she’s not allowed in the bedroom anymore (before that, it was like having an infant- she would wake us about about every 2-4 hours by destroying something to get our attention), and we feed her just before we go to bed, which has calmed her a little. However, you can’t keep her off or away from anything- she loves walking on the sticky side of tape, she cuddles on aluminum, she really doesn’t seem to care about sour apple taste, and spraying water doesn’t deter her at all. However, when she wants to be cute, she has the most deceptively tiny, high mew.

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