Green with Envy. How My Cat Reacts to Our New Dog

Understanding Feline Jealousy

Cats can experience jealousy and envy like humans do. It stems from fear of losing something they value to a perceived ‘rival.’ According to the ASPCA, jealousy in cats is not exactly like human jealousy, but cats may exhibit similar behaviors. Cats are very routine-oriented animals and can get stressed when changes occur in their environment, especially if it involves a new pet or person taking away attention. Cats that lack confidence or have high anxiety levels tend to be more susceptible to jealousy.

As experts from The Wildest explain, “Jealousy in cats is not an emotion itself, but rather jealousy describes a set of behaviors likely motivated by fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, or perceived threats to resources.” While cats don’t experience complex emotions like humans, they can display behaviors like aggression, inappropriate elimination, and attention-seeking that indicate jealousy towards a new pet or person.

Common Triggers of Feline Jealousy

There are several common situations that can trigger jealous behaviors in cats. Some of the most frequent triggers include:

Giving attention or affection to other pets – Many cats become jealous when they see their owners petting, playing with, or showing affection to another animal in the home. They want to be the sole recipient of the owner’s attention and may act out if they feel neglected. As per this source, cats can perceive attention given to another pet as a loss for them.

Introducing new pets – Bringing a new pet into the home is a very common trigger for feline jealousy. The existing cat had the run of the house and all the owner’s attention before, so naturally they will be upset when there’s a new animal suddenly sharing their territory and monopolizing the owner. Owners should expect jealous behaviors when introducing a new pet.

Changes in feeding routines – Cats tend to be creatures of habit and prefer regular schedules. As explained in this WebMD article, any changes to their normal feeding routine that results in them getting less food or having to wait longer to be fed can lead to jealous behaviors.

Changes in daily schedule – If the owner’s daily schedule changes significantly, resulting in the cat getting less playtime, affection, attention, etc. at the usual times, this disruption can cause jealousy in cats as well. Cats like their normal routine, so changes often lead to acting out.

Signs of a Jealous Cat

there are several signs that may indicate a jealous cat

There are several common signs that may indicate your cat is feeling jealous or territorial. These behaviors stem from anxiety and insecurity on the cat’s part, but can disrupt the harmony of a multicat household if left unchecked.

Some of the most common signs of feline jealousy include:

  • Aggressive behavior like hissing, growling, or swatting at the object of their jealousy, such as another pet or person
  • Inappropriate urinating or spraying outside of the litter box to mark territory
  • Excessive vocalization like meowing or yowling when they are not the center of attention
  • Withdrawing from social interaction or hiding from people and other pets
  • Signs of anxiety or restlessness like pacing, whining, or acting agitated

These behaviors may be triggered by interactions with people or other pets in the home that the cat views as rivals for affection and resources. A cat that suddenly hisses, swats, or blocks access to a person or animal that they previously tolerated harmoniously may be expressing jealousy or insecurity over perceived threats to their territory or status.

To curb jealous behaviors, identifying triggers and meeting the cat’s needs for security through proper care and environmental management will be key. But ongoing aggressive acts and house soiling warrant a vet visit to address any underlying medical issues exacerbating your cat’s anxiety. For severe or continuing problems, consulting an animal behavior specialist should also be considered.

Sources:
https://www.webmd.com/pets/cats/do-cats-get-jealous
https://www.thesprucepets.com/do-cats-get-jealous-553907

Why Cats Get Jealous of Dogs

cats may become jealous of dogs for a few key reasons

Cats may become jealous of dogs for a few key reasons. According to Why Cats Get Jealous and How to Stop It, dogs often require more attention and care from owners than cats do. Dogs tend to be more social and interactive with their human families, while cats are more independent. The increased bonding time dogs share with owners can provoke jealousy in cats.

Additionally, cats are very territorial creatures and view their homes and owners as their property. The arrival of a new dog in the home can threaten a cat’s sense of territory. As pack animals, dogs aim to integrate into the family structure, while cats prefer to maintain their status. This difference in social orientation creates prime conditions for potential jealousy and competition over owners’ attention and affection.

Lastly, dogs naturally want to interact and play more than cats. Their higher energy and desire for play and engagement can leave cats feeling ignored or like they are getting less opportunity for quality time with their owner (How to Identify and Fix Jealous and Aggressive Behavior). With their more aloof and independent nature, cats may perceive the greater interaction dogs receive as favoritism, stirring up feelings of jealousy.

Managing a Jealous Cat

There are several effective strategies for managing jealous behavior in cats. The most important is to ensure your cat is getting adequate solo attention from you every day. Set aside at least 10-15 minutes per day for dedicated playtime, cuddle sessions, or treat dispensing that involves only you and your cat.

Keeping a consistent daily routine is also helpful for jealous cats. Feeding, playtime, and lap time at around the same time each day gives anxious cats a sense of predictability and comfort. Make sure to fit in solo time for your cat during their usual daily activities.

Providing your cat with a safe space of their own, like a cat tree, cat bed, or cozy box placed in an area away from the dog is also recommended. This gives them an area to retreat to if feeling overwhelmed by the dog’s presence.

Natural calming aids like Feliway diffusers or calming treats with ingredients like L-theanine can take the edge off for stressed cats. Using them in your jealous cat’s prime hiding spots allows them to feel more relaxed.

With patience and consistency, these strategies can curb attention-seeking and anxious behaviors stemming from feline jealousy. However, if behaviors persist or worsen, consulting with your vet or an animal behaviorist may be needed.

Redirecting Jealous Behaviors

there are effective strategies for managing jealous cats

Cats often express jealousy through undesirable behaviors like aggression, marking territory, or excessive vocalization. As a cat owner, you can help redirect these behaviors in positive ways.

Provide appropriate scratching posts and cat trees for your jealous feline. Having designated scratching areas gives them a positive outlet for their emotions. Place posts near windows or doorways that trigger jealousy. Scratching posts made of sisal or cardboard appeal to most cats.
Source: https://cattime.com/cat-facts/how-to/48105-how-to-handle-jealous-cat

Use interactive toys to engage your cat’s natural hunting instincts. Toys like feather wands and laser pointers shift their focus away from the source of jealousy. Try starting a vigorous play session as soon as you notice signs of tension or anxiety in your cat. Mental stimulation through play is an effective distraction technique.
Source: https://www.thesprucepets.com/do-cats-get-jealous-553907

Offer treats when your cat stays calm around the perceived rival. Positive reinforcement helps change their negative associations. Favorite snacks or catnip can be powerful motivators. Always reward relaxed, peaceful behavior in the presence of people or animals triggering jealousy.

When to Seek Help for a Jealous Cat

While mild jealousy is common in cats, more severe jealous behaviors can negatively impact a cat’s wellbeing and relationships within a home. If jealous behaviors persist for an extended period or escalate in intensity, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian or animal behavior specialist.

Signs that professional help may be needed for a jealous cat include:

  • Prolonged decreased appetite over several days or weeks, which can signal stress or depression
  • Ongoing signs of depression like lack of interest in play, lethargy, or hiding
  • Aggression that causes injury to humans or other pets, such as deep bites or scratches
  • Excessive or inappropriate territory marking around the house with urine or feces

A veterinarian can check for underlying medical issues that may be contributing to the cat’s behavior changes, like illness or pain. They may recommend anti-anxiety medication in extreme cases of anxiety or agitation.

Meanwhile, a certified animal behaviorist can assess the dynamics between household pets and people and design an individualized behavior modification plan. This may involve counterconditioning techniques, environmental changes, daily routine adjustments, and other interventions to curb jealous behaviors and ease tensions.

With professional guidance and a carefully planned approach, jealous cats can overcome their insecurities and coexist harmoniously again. But seeking timely help is key to prevent issues from spiraling into more problematic patterns.

Sources:

https://www.webmd.com/pets/cats/do-cats-get-jealous

https://www.thewildest.com/cat-behavior/jealousy-in-cats

Professional Help for Feline Jealousy

in some cases, professional help may be needed

In some cases, feline jealousy may become severe enough to warrant seeking professional help. There are two types of animal behavior experts that can assist with a jealous cat:

Certified animal behaviorists have an advanced degree in animal behavior and years of experience working hands-on with pets and their owners. They can observe your cat’s behaviors, determine the triggers and motivations, and create a customized behavior modification plan. Methods may include desensitization, counterconditioning, and cognitive enrichment toys and games. According to the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, certified behaviorists are the best choice for addressing complicated jealousy issues in cats (source).

Veterinary behaviorists are licensed veterinarians who have completed additional training in animal behavior. They can diagnose any medical issues that may be contributing to jealous behaviors, such as anxiety, pain, or cognitive decline. Veterinary behaviorists can also prescribe anti-anxiety medications in extreme cases where behavioral modification alone isn’t sufficient. Medications like fluoxetine and clomipramine have been shown effective for some jealous and aggressive cats (source).

Creating Harmony Between Cats and Dogs

Introducing a new dog to a cat that is already part of the family can be challenging, but with some planning and training, it is possible to create harmony between feline and canine housemates. The keys are providing structure, meeting the needs of both pets, and allowing time for adjustment.

Joint playtime and training are excellent ways to help cats and dogs bond. Use toys that encourage interactive play between the two, like balls or feather wands, while keeping play positive and structured. Give treats for calm, friendly behavior around each other. Teach cues like “settle” or “enough” to interrupt over-arousal. Supervise all play sessions initially. Training together builds communication and understanding (https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/resource/how-introduce-dog-and-cat).

Give cats and dogs their own spaces. Allow the cat access to perches or closets where the dog can’t follow. Use baby gates to separate when needed, and rotate their time with you. Ensure the cat has food, water, and litter in an area the dog can’t access. This allows the cat to feel secure. Dogs should have a crate or bed in an area just for them as well.

Make sure both pets get adequate exercise, play, affection, and routines they enjoy. Aim to meet their environmental, physical, and emotional needs. Cats may need more one-on-one time to adjust to the new family member. Dogs require structure and training not to chase or be rough with cats. Keeping everyone happy reduces stress and territorial behaviors.

With planning, training, and commitment to meeting their needs, it is possible for cats and dogs to live in harmony and potentially become companions. But be patient – the adjustment period often takes several weeks or months. Stay positive, reward friendly behaviors, and don’t force interactions before both pets are ready.

Providing a Secure Environment

When faced with a jealous cat, it’s important to provide a secure environment that supports its needs. Maintaining a consistent daily routine can give your cat a sense of stability amidst the changes prompting its jealousy. Make sure you give your feline plenty of solo play time, petting, and lap time so it feels valued. According to experts at CatTime, “Make sure your cat gets individual time and attention from you every day” (source).

Additionally, refrain from punishing jealous behaviors, as this will only increase your cat’s insecurity. If your cat is acting out aggressively, redirect the behavior using treats, play, or by separating it from the source of jealousy. Consider underlying medical issues like arthritis, dental disease, or inadequate nutrition that may be causing your cat distress. With patience and care, you can help your jealous feline feel safe and loved again.

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