Do Cats Get Jealous? Not Quite Like Humans Do, But Close
When our feline pals suddenly act strangely around another animal or a new baby in the household, it's all too easy to wonder, "Do cats get jealous?"
Well, not exactly, says Mary Molloy, CPDT-KA, an animal behavior consultant with Behavior Vets of NYC. It's more about your cat noticing he's not getting what he wants or another creature has what he wants.
"Experts identify jealousy as a complex emotion, like empathy and grief," she says. "Humans can indeed think about a fit of jealousy to the point of obsession, while cats live in the moment."
So we might be anthropomorphizing a bit to say a cat is jealous when really they just want something.
Do Cats Get Jealous?
Some studies indicate that many animals, particularly our companion pets, are fully capable of experiencing empathy and grief. So it stands to reason the covetous nature of human jealousy isn't completely out of the realm of possibility for felines, too. If they notice you're paying more attention to the dog and giving him snacks or have a wee human on your lap who smells funny, in their mind at that moment, "'I want the thing they have!' is very much in a cat's emotional repertoire," Molloy says.
Will your kitty become resentful or bitter, like humans often do when the green-eyed monster rears its ugly head? No, but he might act out in other ways to try to tell you he's unhappy with the current situation.
Signs of Jealousy in Cats
Molloy says when your cat sees some other animal getting something that (a) he wants and (b) he isn't getting, he might actually try to bully that creature into giving up that thing. He could also demonstrate frustration by biting you or the other animal or meowing more than usual both at the time or throughout the day and night.
Do cats get jealous of other cats? Sometimes, especially if they perceive more attention is being given to a new kitten, for example, or in households with multiple felines. After all, there's only so much room on the highest perch of the cat tree. As a result, his anxiety and stress might be more heightened, so you may notice additional adverse behaviors such as:
- Spraying and marking territory
- Sleeping in their litter box
- Fighting over food or other resources
It's understandable that your cat wants to rule the roost among other felines, but do cats get jealous of young puppies or dogs, too? It's possible, especially if they've not been properly introduced. One tipoff, Molloy says, is when cats push themselves between their owner and the dog who's getting treats. They might also swat at the pup more frequently or choose to hide whenever they're near along with the behaviors noted above.
Do Cats Get Jealous of Babies?
Often, it's less about jealousy and more that your furbaby is simply baffled by the strange scents, unusual sounds, and unexpected movements coming from this unfamiliar creature in the house. The drastic shift in routine also affects your kitty.
As you adjust, help your kitty adapt, too. Maintain his feeding schedule, stick to regular playtime, and give him plenty of subtle opportunities to get to know your child little by little as he feels comfortable. Rest assured, they'll likely be cuddling together in no time. Here are more tips for introducing your baby to your cat.
How to Prevent Jealousy in Cats
"Giving a cat choice and agency regarding cat–human interactions is crucial to building trust and a cat's welfare," Molloy says. Create a foundation of security, taking care to do things the way your kitty likes them, such as appropriate petting, noting the messages they send with their body language, and respecting their boundaries.
This applies to their interactions with other animals, too. "Be cognizant of giving one animal something the cat would want, and make sure they get their share," she adds. "This is especially important in multi-cat households where resource disputes can cause serious fights."
Finally, plan a variety of mental and physical enrichment activities to help you and your cat bond even more. By doing so, your kitty won't care what treats you toss the dog—they'll have confidence in the love you share with each other.