How to Recognize and Deal With a Jealous Dog or Cat
Do Pets Really Get Jealous?
You may not want to call it jealousy, but you can probably admit that changes in the home can create problems for your pets. You may have seen this when introducing a new pet into your home, or you may have seen this when bringing a new baby home from the hospital. Consider the signs that your pet is having an issue, and consider the best ways of addressing that issue so you can continue to have a safe and happy home.
Signs That Your Pet Is Jealous
First, you should understand how a jealous (or territorial) pet might act. Here are some of the signs that your cat or dog may be jealous:
Hissing, Barking, or Growling
Sometimes, this behavior might be directed at the object that is triggering the jealousy. For example, a cat may hiss at a new baby that has been brought into the family. A dog may bark at a new kitten that’s hanging around the house.
Other times, your pet may hiss or bark at you, particularly when you are giving your attention to the triggering object. Your dog that never barks may suddenly start barking at you every time you pick up the baby.
Always Being Underfoot
Your pet may try to claim your attention by being around you more than usual. Cats that normally aren’t lap cats may start crawling onto you; dogs may never want to be in a room unless you're there, too.
In contrast, your pet may act sulky and stop spending time near you. Cats are more prone to this than dogs are, but either type of pet may exhibit this behavior.
Performing Excessive Self-Care
Your dog or cat may start licking itself far more than usual as a means of making up for the lack of attention it feels.
Undereating or Overeating
Animals may change their eating habits in response to the household change that is causing the jealousy. Animals that have ready access to food may overeat (this is more common in dogs). Alternatively, animals may not eat as much as normal (this is more common in cats).
If your pet suddenly starts tearing things up, chewing on things, or acting unusually wild in the house, you should ask yourself if he or she has a reason to be jealous.
Peeing or Pooping in the House
If your pet is house-trained but stops acting like it, then you may want to consider whether or not your pet is jealous.
Basically, if your pet’s behavior changes in any way and it seems to be in direct correlation with a change in the household, then he or she may be feeling territorial and jealous.
What to Do About a Jealous Pet
After recognizing the symptoms of jealousy in your dog or cat, you can make some changes that will reduce the problems in your household. You may be thinking that your pet just needs to learn to deal with the new puppy or new baby or whatever is causing his or her jealousy. But if you consider the signs of jealousy listed above, you’ll see that it’s in your best interest to restore the balance in your home by addressing the territorial needs of your pet.
Here are some things you can do to steer your pet away from jealous behavior:
Provide Love and Attention
Give your pet the attention that he or she needs. Your pet may just need a little bit of extra loving during this time, and you should be the kind of responsible pet owner who provides that extra care.
Consider what things are causing problems and address them. If the baby keeps playing with the cat’s toys and that’s when the cat gets upset, perhaps you should put the toys in a place where the baby can't access them (but the cat still can). If the dog is angry every time the cat jumps on the bed where the dog usually hangs out, stop letting the cat sit there. These little changes could make your pet happy enough to stop feeling territorial.
Do not stand for bad behavior, and don't let your pet rule the house with these new, unwanted behaviors. Implement whatever disciplinary methods you normally use whenever your pet starts hissing, growling, tearing things up, or otherwise acting out.
Take responsibility for supervising your pet during any changes. Make sure that you’re frequently present when bringing a new pet (and particularly a new baby) into the home. You may feel angry at your pet for acting out, but the truth is that it’s your responsibility to make sure your home stays sane and stable.
Wait it out. Your pet is eventually going to get adjusted to the new situation, so try to be patient.
Most Pet Owners Will Deal With Jealousy Sooner or Later
I have told people in the past that my old dog, Rusty, was the most jealous dog that I’d ever seen. Some people would respond that animals don’t know how to be jealous, but you could tell from Rusty’s actions that he felt jealous about everything. If I ever gave attention to my other dog (whom Rusty had grown up with his entire life), Rusty would immediately come over and get in between me and the other dog and demand attention.
Perhaps you don’t want to call it jealousy because that’s an emotion that you don’t think animals can feel. But can you really deny the behavior? Perhaps you would prefer to say that your pet is acting territorial. Call it what you will—it happens, and it’s something that you may need to deal with sooner or later if you’re going to have pets in your home.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.