You may know the look—you come home after petting another cat and are greeted with the “evil eye” from your feline companion. Your cat seems to know you’ve been around another animal, and it seems to you that they might be envious.
But can cats really get jealous? If so, how do they show it and what can you do about it?
Can Cats Get Jealous?
Many people—including animal behaviorists—feel that cats do show a form of jealousy, but it is distinct from human envy.
Jealousy in humans is described as “the thoughts or feelings of insecurity, fear, and concern over a relative lack of possessions or safety.”1 In cats, jealousy can present as aggression; they show aggression toward other cats that threaten their security, especially if their status or territory is compromised. Aggression often surfaces when a cat does not feel in control of their environment.
Why Do Cats Get Jealous?
Cats can become jealous and stressed for several different reasons that have to do with being insecure in some way. Insecurities can arise anytime there are big changes in a household and your cat doesn’t feel in control of their environment.
New people or pets in the household can make cats feel jealous in two ways: stress about having fewer resources because the newcomer will take them away, and insecurity about their place in the household and the amount of attention they will get versus the newcomer.
Most cats will have a “home territory,” and they may be picky about who treads on it. If another cat (or even a dog, strange animal, or guest human) invades this area, a cat will often become stressed and may lash out at the intruder, trying to drive them off and re-establish their security.
Can Cats Get Jealous of Other Cats?
Jealousy over the presence of another cat is very common. All cats have different personalities, and some will be made insecure and display jealousy more easily than others. It is important to watch your cat and observe their cues and triggers.
You may see inter-cat aggression when two cats are stressed about having to live in close proximity to one another. Inter-cat aggression can occur between cats that don’t know each other (such as neighborhood cats) as well as cats that live with each other.
It is especially important to take care when introducing a new cat to your household. Aggression is often made worse by hormones, so having cats spayed or neutered may help. Consult your veterinarian for tips on how to safely introduce a new cat.
Will My Cat Get Jealous of a New Puppy or Adult Dog?
Many cats show aggression and other signs of insecurity toward new animals, and that includes dogs and puppies. Dogs can be particularly difficult, because they often move into the house and seem to simply “take over” as they explore the house, eat from the cat’s bowl, and take away some of your attention.
It isn’t unusual for an overly curious dog to take a few swats on the face as well as some well-timed hisses from a cat in the same household.
Do Cats Get Jealous of Babies?
Very much like dogs that move into a household, babies also tend to upend a cat’s environment. They make unexplainable noises and produce strange smells (from your cat’s point of view). Nighttime is no longer a quiet time for your cat to roam around the house, and stress levels in the house tend to rise. All these examples can contribute to insecurity (and hence a jealous reaction) from many cats.
How Can You Tell If a Cat Is Jealous?
Some cats are simply more confident and comfortable than other cats. Cats that feel insecure may show different behaviors that can be interpreted as jealousy. Signs include aggression (such as hissing, swatting, growling, or even unprovoked attacks), and stress behavior (such as hiding, or peeing or pooping outside of the litter box).
Some cats will even demonstrate destructive behavior. The signs of insecurity vary from cat to cat. If you see changes in your cat’s personality, talk to your vet. They can help you find the source of the stress, whether it’s a medical issue, jealousy, or something else.
What Is the Most Jealous Cat Breed?
Jealousy and insecurity are generally driven by personality. Although some cat breeds are known to be more “high-strung” than others, it doesn’t necessarily mean that individual cats of that breed will lash out more aggressively.
How Can You Stop Your Cat From Being Jealous?
Cats don’t become insecure unless they have a reason to be, so the best way to stop jealous behavior in cats is to identify and eliminate the underlying cause(s).
Sometimes the problem might be another animal or person in their environment. Cats thrive in steady, consistent environments where they can exert control. Your cat might need to have their own space that cannot be intruded upon by a new pet or person in the household.
Make sure you are giving your cat plenty of attention and time with you. If they need to adjust to a major life change, allow them to do so at their own pace. Ask your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist for help if your cat is not adjusting well.
- Wikipedia Contributors. Jealousy. Wikipedia. Published January 18, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jealousy
Featured Image: iStock.com/Andrey Zhuravlev