Dealing With a Jealous Pet Dog or Cat
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 with the statement that animals don’t know how to be jealous, but you could tell from Rusty’s actions that he was certainly a jealous dog. If I ever gave any attention at all to my other dog (a dog that 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 that dogs can feel. But can you really deny the behavior? You may have seen it when introducing a new pet into your home or you may have seen it when bringing a new baby home from the hospital. 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.
Signs That Your Pet Is Jealous
The first thing that you need to do is to be aware of the signs that occur when a pet experiences jealousy (or feels territorial, as the case may be). Here are some of the signs that your cat or dog may be jealous:
· Hissing or barking at the object of jealousy. For example, a cat may hiss at a new baby that has been brought into the family. A dog may bark at the new cat that’s hanging around the house.
· Hissing or barking at you, particularly when you are giving your attention to the object of jealousy. Your dog that never barks may suddenly start barking at you every time that you pick up that baby.
· Always being underfoot. Your pet may try to stake out his or her claim on your attention by being around you more than usual. Cats that normally aren’t lap cats may start crawling on to you. Dogs may never want to be in a room that’s not the room that you are in.
· Disappearing. In contrast, your pet may act sulky and stop spending time near you at all. Cats are more prone to doing this than dogs are but either type of pet may exhibit this type of behavior.
· 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 that it is getting.
· Undereating or overeating. Animals may change their eating habits in response to the change in the household that is causing the jealousy. Animals that have ready access to food may overeat (more common with dogs). Alternatively, animals may stop eating as much as normal (more common with cats).
· Acting out. If your pet starts suddenly tearing things up, chewing on things or acting unusually wild in the house, you may ask yourself if the pet has a reason to be jealous.
·Using the bathroom 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 your pet may be feeling territorial and therefore acting jealous.
What to Do About a Jealous Pet
After recognizing the symptoms of jealousy in your pet, you can make some changes that will reduce the problems in your household. You may be thinking that this is just a pet and he needs to learn to deal with the new cat or new baby or whatever it is that’s the object of his jealousy. But if you consider the signs of jealousy listed above, you’ll see that it’s probably in your best interest to restore your home to balance by addressing the territorial needs of your pet.
Here are some things that you can do about a jealous pet:
· 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 that provides that extra care.
· Consider what things are causing problems and reduce 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 cat can get them but the baby can’t. If the dog is angry every time that the cat gets on the part of 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. This doesn’t mean that you should let your pet rule the house with these new bad 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 around a lot when bringing a new pet (and particularly a new baby) into the home. You may want to get angry at the pet for acting out of jealousy but the truth is that it’s your responsibility to make sure that 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.
You may not want to call it jealousy but you can probably admit that changes in the home can create problems for your pet. Consider the signs that your pet is having an issue and consider the best ways of addressing that issue so that you can continue to have a safe and happy home.