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Why Do Cats Get Jealous? 5 Causes & How to Help Them

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Maine coon cat cuddling owner

You love your cat, but lately, it seems like your feline friend is a little obsessed with you. Your cat won’t leave you alone and you may have noticed other strange incidents such as sudden angry outbursts or destructive behaviors like scratching furniture. Do cats get jealous and could that be what’s going on?

It’s common for us to want to explain our pet’s behaviors in terms of human emotions, like jealousy. However, cats don’t truly get jealous in the same way as we do. Cats are very territorial and competitive by nature. Jealous behaviors are usually how they react when they feel they need to maintain their rightful place in your home.

No matter how you describe your cat’s behavior, it’s not fun to live with, and you’d really like it to stop. The first step in solving your cat’s jealousy is figuring out why it’s happening. Here are five reasons that your cat might be acting jealous and how you can stop it.

The 5 Reasons Cats Get Jealous

As we mentioned, jealousy in cats is a sign that they feel threatened or insecure by something in their environment. There can be many causes of this behavior but here are five of the most common:

1. A New Family Member

The arrival of a new person or pet in your home can trigger jealous behavior in your cat. Whether it’s a new baby, a new significant other, or a new puppy, your cat may feel that this new arrival doesn’t belong in their territory and will react accordingly. Your cat may recognize that a new family member will compete with them for your attention, leading to a jealous response.

grey cat beside a baby
Image Credit: aprilante, Shutterstock

2. Loss of Attention

It’s not just a new family member, but anything that you start paying more attention to that can lead to jealousy in your cat. Whether it be a new project, your phone, or the fact that you started working from home, your cat may notice you suddenly have less time for them. This can lead them to display the jealous behaviors you’ve seen.

3. Poor Socialization

Cats who were poorly socialized as kittens are more likely to feel insecure or overly dependent on their owners, causing them to act jealous. An example of this is an orphaned kitten who was bottle-raised. Growing up without a mother or other kittens to teach them how to form attachments, the adult cat isn’t sure how to react to unfamiliar situations and may react jealously.

cat hissing
Image Credit: Pixabay

4. Change In Routine

Any changes in your cat’s daily routine can lead to feelings of insecurity and jealousy. This could be as major as home renovations or as minor as moving your cat’s food bowls to a new spot.

5. Lack of Personal Space

Because cats are territorial, they may act jealous if they feel they don’t have enough space. This could happen if they have to share litter boxes, food bowls, or beds with other cats. They might also feel crowded by more people or things in the house.

cat angry
Image Credit: Pixabay

Jealousy Behavior

Acting clingy or obsessed with you is just one of the many signs that your cat may be jealous. Here are some other behaviors that you might notice as well:

  • Hissing, growling, or swatting at you or others
  • Invading your personal space in search of attention
  • Aggressive behavior like biting or scratching
  • Destructive behavior like scratching furniture, carpet, or walls
  • Urinating outside the litter box

Signs of Jealousy in Cats

Whatever the cause of jealousy, it can manifest in a variety of ways. Signs of jealousy in cats include:

Antisocial Behavior

Antisocial behavior includes scratching and biting. It can also include destructive behavior such as increased scratching or chewing of furniture. Your cat may show its jealousy by knocking items off tables and causing more damage.

male domestic cat scratching furniture with front claws
Image Credit: Melissa Sue, Shutterstock

Aloof Behavior

Cats are known for being aloof. They come to you when they want attention or food but may stay out of the way otherwise. Jealousy can exaggerate this aloofness so that they spend even less time in your company.

Inappropriate Littering

Inappropriate littering means peeing and pooping outside the litter tray, and it can be a sign of depression, illness, or jealousy. It may also be an indication of ill health, so it is always something worth investigating if it is a new problem.

How to Help Your Jealous Cat/What to Do About It

Whether your cat is scratching and biting guests, chewing the curtains, or pooping outside the litter tray, there are ways to help reduce and eliminate these problem behaviors.

Identify the Cause

First, identify the cause of jealousy. Have you recently got a new cat or introduced a dog to the house? Have you been spending more time at home, working?

Spend More Time with Your Cat

If your cat is jealous of the amount of time you are giving to other household members, or even to your laptop, try to put aside some extra time to spend with your feline friend.

girl introducing cat to a beagle
Image Credit: Oksana Shufrych, Shutterstock

Give Them Their Own Space

A new cat or baby could be encroaching on what your cat believes to be its personal space. If they spend a lot of their time on a particular chair, and that chair is now taken up by the dog, they will get jealous. Try to set aside an area for your cat: an area that they like. Put a basket or bed, blanket, scratching post, and some toys in that area so your feline family member knows it is for them.

Introduce Interactive Toys

If you can keep your cat busy, they may not notice that you are spending less time with them, thereby reducing feelings and signs of jealousy. Interactive toys are a great way to keep your cat active. They are also good for cognitive, mental, and physical health.

Cat playing with stuffed toy
Image By: guvo59, Pixabay

Encourage Good Behavior

While some may scoff at the very idea of training a cat, it is possible. Provide treats when they do something positive that you want to encourage. Ignore them if they do something you want to discourage. Be consistent and keep up with the training. Eventually, your cat will understand.

Teach Them to Accept the New Routine

If you have introduced a new animal or human to the house, you can’t ignore them for the benefit of the cat. You can teach them that the new routine is not one to fear or be jealous of. Pet or play with your cat while spending time with the baby or pet them when they are near the new addition.

Create Positive Associations

If your cat is jealous of a new pet or new baby, one way to help stop this is to create a positive experience around any interaction they have. Pet or feed your cat treats while holding the baby or when your cat is near the baby. Feed your cat and your new pet meals together on either side of a closed door so they can smell each other and your cat associates tasty food with the new pet.

Ask Your Veterinarian for Help

If you’ve tried everything and are frustrated by trying to help your cat stop being jealous, it’s time to turn to a professional. Your veterinarian can help you with suggestions or strategies or even prescribe medications if necessary. If your cat’s jealous behaviors are severe, your veterinarian might refer you to a veterinary behavioral specialist.

How Can You Tell If a Cat Is Jealous?

There are many ways that cats show jealousy. They might try and come between you and the object of their jealousy. They might scratch or try to bite if you approach a new pet, or they might even attack the new kitten if they believe you are spending too much time with them. Spraying is another common symptom of jealousy and one that you need to watch for.

Are Cats Jealous of Their Owners?

If your cat has been part of your life longer than a new partner, your feline friend might become jealous of the attention you give your partner. Ensure your significant other pays some attention to the cat and try to pet the cat when you are spending time together.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with a jealous cat can be a frustrating and stressful situation. Thankfully, there are solutions and you don’t have to go through it alone. Remember, the first step is figuring out the cause of your cat’s behavior. The five reasons we discussed are a solid place to start your investigation. Don’t be afraid to ask for help before you give up on your cat.

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Featured Image Credit: Fercast, Shutterstock

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