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Can Cats Get Jealous? How to Handle Cat Rivalry

People tend to think of their pets as members of the family, interpreting their behavior and personality the same way one would with another person in the household. We give our pets human-like traits by pairing a certain emotion with a certain behavior. An owner may say that her cat is happy when she is purring while gently waving her tail or upset if she sees her cat move away when approached.

But among the numerous emotions we give our cats, can cats get jealous?

How do cats express their jealousy?

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Jealousy Among Felines

In contrast to humans, what we see as jealousy is a little different for our furry friends. We may say that the cat is showing jealousy when threatened by another cat or animal.  As spoiled as they are under the care of a pet parent, it is innate within felines to survive in an environment with scarce resources, which may include their owners’ attention and affection. Seeing an unfamiliar cat or pet may be viewed as competition, and this is what us humans see as jealousy.

On top of a cat’s natural instincts, there are other factors that can cause a cat to express their jealousy such as poor socialization, which can cause jealous behaviors when placed in a situation with other cats or animals.

Cats are also territorial. In a multi-cat household, lack of personal space from other cats may cause jealousy. The insecurity of a cat toward her fellow cats may also make a cat jealous.

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Image Credit: Thomas B., Pixabay

Is My Cat Feeling Jealous?

Cats are creatures of habit. As a cat owner, no one else knows your cat’s personality, behavior, and routine as well as you. It is important to observe signs and sudden changes in your cat’s routine or behavior to determine if they are experiencing jealousy.

Aggression

A common sign that your cat is jealous is when she exhibits aggressive behaviors toward the cat or pet that she is jealous of, or toward you as her owner which include growling and swatting with her paws. Your cat may do this to scare off strangers, cats, other pets, or to inform you that she is jealous and upset.

Another thing to watch out for are sudden changes in routine. They may start peeing in places that they do not normally do such as the carpet or on the bed, or maybe begin scratching or knocking down furniture as a way of expressing themselves.

Withdrawal

Instead of taking the aggressive route, your cat may be more reserved and resort to withdrawal by walking away and hiding. Although cats can do this for many reasons, this escape behavior can be largely attributed to insecurity.

Attention Seeking

Some cats express their jealousy by seeking attention from their owners. They may crowd your space, cuddle next to you, rest on your lap, and ask for pets more often than normal. This may be your cat’s way of seeking assurance from her cat parent.

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Image Credit: Debra Anderson, Shutterstock

What Can Make My Cat Jealous?

Do cats get jealous of just about anything, or is their jealousy limited only to other cats? The truth is cats can get jealous to both. Cats’ jealousy is mainly toward things that are viewed as threats or competition to resources available to them, which can be their personal space or maybe the attention of their owner.

Here are some common things that cats can get jealous of:
  • Other cats
  • Kittens
  • Babies
  • Other unfamiliar animals/pets

How Do I Deal with My Cat’s Jealousy?

Although cat jealousy is difficult to handle, there are things that you can do as a cat parent to make sure your cats do not feel jealous especially in multi-cat households.

The first step in solving a problem is identifying the problem. It is important to determine what is causing your cat to be jealous. After identifying the cause, the necessary adjustments can be performed to ensure that the cause is addressed.

Giving your cat attention is a good step in addressing your cat’s jealousy. Bond with your cat, play with them, soothe your cat to give assurance that she is not loved any less. Providing extra attention usually encourages the cat’s behavior, whether she feels more aggressive or withdrawn.

In a multi-cat household, it is important to ensure that your cats have their own personal space. Make sure that there is no competition with resources by giving each of them equal amounts of attention, careful enough that you do not show more affection to one compared to the other.

As situations are generally unavoidable, whether it be due to a stranger in your home or a multi-pet household, it is good to teach your cat to adjust to the situation. Constantly providing your cat with attention when faced with a stranger by petting them, or by simply keeping them close can help ease their anxiety. Slowly helping your cat adjust to the jealousy-inducing situation can help them in the long run.

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Image Credit: Stokkete, Shutterstock

Rivalry Among Cats

With the different causes and signs of jealousy identified, another problem that can be difficult to manage is rivalry among cats. Cat rivalry is a common problem in multi-cat households and are more apparent with cats of the same sex.

Rivalry can occur from the competitiveness between 2 or more cats when jealousy among the cats involved escalate. Signs that you have a cat rivalry in your household may include fighting over resources or dominance. There should be nothing to worry about if the cats get along for most of the time but may be a cause of concern if the fights occur often.

Another sign may be hiding or withdrawal of a cat from the more dominant cat. This may occur when there is a challenge in resources, where the inferior cat yields to the dominant cat due to their insecurity. Bullying among cats is quite common especially when cats try to assert their dominance toward a resource.

Handling cat rivalry is quite like handling cat jealousy but may need more work and attention due to the power play involved.

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Conclusion

Cats are individuals, and all of them may experience jealousy in various ways. One factor may be a trigger for one cat but may not bother another. One may respond to jealousy in a more aggressive manner, another may respond in a more withdrawn manner.

As cat owners, it is important to identify what causes your cat to feel jealous and ensure that your cat (or cats) feels that they are loved despite the jealousy they are experiencing. Just like a human experiencing jealousy, all your cat wants is assurance and security from the one they love!

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Featured Image: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock