How to Solve Jealousy in Cats

Kitten looks at and play mobile phone on bed.

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Like people, cats have different personality traits. One of those happens to be jealousy—or, at least, what looks like jealousy. In fact, it's probably your pet displaying some aggressive, competitive, or hierarchal tendencies in an attempt to get what it wants, whether it's a favorite toy or extra head scratches.

Jealous cats often crave attention and are clingier than a standoffish cat, and sometimes they can act out. While it can be frustrating, there are steps you can take to stop the jealous behavior. The key is trying to discover why your cat is feeling this way.

Why Do Cats Get Jealous?

Just like some people, cats can become jealous when they feel they're being excluded or their environment has changed drastically or suddenly. The jealousy may be triggered by any number of events:

  • Cats may show signs of jealousy when you pay more attention to an object, person, or another animal. This is especially true when you used to spend this time playing with your cat. It may be the arrival of a new family member, such as a newborn baby or pet. Simple things like your cell phone, a video game, or a hobby can also be triggers.
  • Poor socialization as a kitten may lead a cat to become codependent on you and display signs of jealousy at times.
  • A sudden change in daily routine, including your cat's feeding schedule, can cause behavioral issues such as jealousy.
  • A lack of personal space, beds, or other belongings can also encourage jealous behavior if a cat feels threatened by another pet.

Signs of Jealousy in Cats

Typical "jealous" behaviors include hissing, growling, and swatting at the object that the cat is jealous of, such as your cell phone while you are holding it. Jealous cats may also intrude on your personal space while you are holding a new baby or video game controller. They may attempt to sit on your lap while you cuddle with your significant other instead of them.

A jealous cat can be more aggressive and start scratching or biting. It may also lead to destructive behavior, including chewing or shredding furniture, curtains, and other items. Objects sitting on a countertop or table, such as a drinking glass or decoration, may be knocked over or broken as well.

In some cases, cats may begin urinating outside of the litter box to make a point. Urine marking is one of the most problematic and frustrating behaviors for cat owners. Not only is it a sign that something is wrong with your cat, but it is difficult to clean and eliminate the odor, which can lead to continued marking.

Some cats will simply spray onto walls and other vertical surfaces. Others will squat and make urine puddles outside their litter boxes. This may be random items like sofas or plastic bags, or the item they're jealous of. Sometimes, the target may be an object the animal or person they are jealous of uses regularly. For instance, if your cat is envious of the new dog, it may mark the dog's bed.

How to Stop Jealous Behavior

It can be difficult to manage jealousy in a cat, but there are things you can do to eliminate or lessen the unwanted behaviors.

Determine the Trigger

The first thing you need to do is determine what exactly is provoking these behaviors. Once you figure out the cause of the jealousy, you can address the problem. Ask yourself what has changed in your home:

  • Did someone new move in?
  • Did you recently bring home a new baby or pet?
  • Are you spending more time doing something you didn't do before?
  • Has your cat's favorite spots in the house been disturbed?

Spend More Time With Your Cat

The easiest way to decrease jealous behavior in your cat is to simply spend more time with it. The extra attention can usually curb the bad behavior and there are many ways you can do this:

  • Get a few interactive toys, such as feather wands and laser pointers, that allow you to play with your feline friend.
  • Make it a point to seek out and pet your cat when you come home or anytime you have a free moment.
  • Cuddle with your cat on the sofa or bed and give it your undivided attention for a few minutes.
  • Offer your cat treats when it shows good behavior.

Give Your Cat Personal Space

Many cats really like their own personal space. If you have introduced a new family member—whether a person or animal—you may have inadvertently taken away from your cat's established area.

To correct this, give your cat a place to call its own again. This may mean moving the new pet's feeding station to another room or giving your cat a new perch where it can observe the family undisturbed. Make sure your cat's favorite toys are not available to the newcomer as well.

When it's a new person in the home, try to keep their personal belongings out of places your cat previously claimed. It can also be helpful to have that person interact with the cat in or near that location.

Teach Your Cat to Accept It

If you cannot completely avoid the person, pet, or item that is the subject of your cat's jealousy, work on helping your cat adjust to the change. You can reward your cat with treats, praise, attention, and petting when it is near the object or person, for example. It's also good to incorporate your cat into the change whenever possible.

For example, hold the new baby while also petting or playing with your cat. Have your significant other give your cat treats and feed them at mealtime. You can also feed the cat before a new pet to establish priority and rank within the household.