The Green-Eyed Monster. Do Cats Experience Jealousy?


Have you ever noticed your cats competing for your attention or even fighting over resources like food or toys? These behaviors may be signs of jealousy between cats. Cat jealousy is a complex topic that many owners observe but don’t fully understand. This article will explore the signs of jealousy in house cats, how to distinguish jealousy from territorial behaviors, the causes of jealous behavior between cats, and tips for preventing and managing feline jealousy in multi-cat homes.

We’ll demystify cat psychology and explain why and how cats experience jealousy. You’ll learn how to promote positive relationships between your cats and reduce conflict through tips rooted in the latest cat behavior research. Whether your cats are new to each other, or have coexisted for years, insights from this article can strengthen the bonds between your furry friends.

Signs of Jealousy in Cats

There are several common signs of jealousy that cat owners may observe in their feline companions. One major sign is aggressive behavior toward other cats in the home, such as hissing, swatting, or attacking. Jealous cats may attempt to prevent other cats from getting attention or resources. According to, jealous cats may physically come between you and the object they are jealous of.

Another sign is attention-seeking behavior from the jealous cat. They may meow, rub against you, or even nip to get your attention when you are interacting with another cat. This is their attempt to divert your attention back to them.

Finally, inappropriate urinating or spraying outside of the litter box can signal jealousy in cats. A cat feeling neglected may spray walls or furniture with urine to mark its territory and convey its unhappiness. This territorial behavior stems from jealousy over resources like space, affection, or your attention.

Territoriality vs Jealousy

There is an important difference between territorial aggression and jealous behavior in cats. Territoriality refers to a cat feeling the need to defend its territory against newcomers. This is an instinctual behavior to protect resources like food, resting spots, territory, and mates. Territorial cats usually only target newcomers like a new cat in the home or an outdoor stray cat coming into their yard. The aggression is driven by the need to defend resources.

Jealousy on the other hand is not protecting resources from outsiders, but rather competing for affection and attention from those already in their social group and territory. A jealous cat is not always aggressive, but may exhibit attention-seeking behaviors like rubbing, meowing, or trying to sit on the owner’s lap when they are interacting with another cat. This stems from a desire for attention rather than a need to protect resources from strangers. So territorial behavior is driven by instinct, while jealous behavior is driven more by emotion and social bonds.

Here is an example to highlight the difference: A territorial cat may hiss and attack a new cat in the home, feeling the need to defend its territory. But that same cat is unlikely to attack its housemate if that other cat is sitting on the owner’s lap. A jealous cat however would likely try to push the other cat off the owner’s lap because it wants that affection and attention from the owner for itself. So territorial aggression stems from protecting resources, while jealousy stems from competing for social attention.

Cited from:
How to Deal with Territorial Cats | ASPCA Pet Health Insurance

Resource Guarding

Resource guarding is a common behavior where cats protect or monopolize resources like food, water, litter boxes, resting spots, toys, and human attention. It stems from a cat’s natural survival instincts to secure limited resources. In multi-cat homes, resource guarding can lead to conflict and aggression between cats as they compete for resources.1

Cats may guard resources like their food bowl, favorite sleeping spot, or litter box area. They may block access, stare, growl, or even attack another cat that approaches. This territorial behavior is partly instinctual but can be exacerbated by environmental factors like having few resources available.

To reduce resource guarding issues, provide multiple food, water, and litter box stations spread throughout the home. Give each cat their own bed and toys. Increase playtime and mental stimulation. And use pheromone diffusers to ease tension between cats. With patience and proper management, resource guarding can often be resolved.


One common sign of jealousy in cats is attention-seeking behavior. Jealous cats often meow loudly, rub against their owner, or even gently nip to get attention, especially when the owner is interacting with another cat.

According to Why Your Cat Is Meowing So Much, attention-seeking behaviors are a cat’s way of demanding your focus and interaction. If your cat meows, purrs, or starts kneading you with their paws when you pet another cat, they are likely jealous of the attention you are giving the other feline.

Cats can become very possessive of their human companions. As social creatures, they thrive on attention and interaction. So when a new cat gets introduced or another pet starts getting more focus, some cats resort to attention-grabbing tactics like meowing, nudging, nibbling fingers, or even swatting to redirect your attention back to them.

It’s important not to accidentally reward this behavior by giving the attention-seeking cat what they want. The best approach is to consistently give all your cats equal amounts of playtime and affection.

New Cat in the Home

Introducing a new cat into a home with an existing cat can lead to jealousy behaviors because the current cat now has to share attention and resources. It is important to properly introduce the new cat to avoid long-term issues. The Catchat site recommends initially keeping the new cat confined to a separate “base camp” room with their own food, water, litter box, toys, etc. This allows the new cat to get comfortable in the new environment.

Let the cats smell each other through the door before any face-to-face interaction. After a few days, do short supervised meetings between the cats, separating them again after 10-15 minutes. Gradually increase the time together, giving treats and praise for calm behavior. Be sure to give the current cat equal or more attention during this transition. Go slow with the introduction, because forcing interaction too quickly can cause long-term issues. With proper introductions over 1-2 weeks, most cats will adjust and coexist with the new arrival.

Bonding with Owner

Cats that have strong bonds with their owners are more likely to exhibit jealous behaviors. This is because they value their relationship with their human and want to guard it from perceived threats (1). Jealous cats may act out when they see their owner petting or playing with another cat in the household. They want to maintain their exclusive access to attention and affection.

To strengthen the bond between cat and owner, it’s recommended to have dedicated one-on-one playtime each day. Use interactive toys like wand toys that the owner controls, allowing the cat to focus their hunting instincts on the toy. Praise and treat the cat when they successfully “catch” the toy. This mimics natural predatory behavior and forms a positive association between owner and play (2).

Additionally, engage in calming activities like brushing that facilitate bonding through touch. Place multiple resources like food bowls, water bowls, scratching posts, and beds around the home so bonded cats still feel secure in their territory when the owner is away. With a strong attachment and feelings of safety, jealous behaviors are less likely to occur.


Sibling Rivalry

Sibling cats (or littermates) often exhibit jealous or competitive behaviors with one another, especially during the first year of life. This is a very common and normal occurrence as kittens are figuring out their place in the world and learning important social skills from their litter mates.

Kitten sibling rivalry usually peaks when the cats are 6-9 months old. At this age, kittens have plenty of energy and are establishing their independence. They may become territorial and protective of toys, food, their owner’s attention, or favored sleeping spots around the house.

It’s important not to punish jealous behaviors in kittens as this is a natural developmental stage they are going through. With patience, littermates will eventually work out a healthy balance and may form close, lifelong bonds as adult cats.

Preventing Jealousy

One of the best ways to prevent jealousy between cats in a multi-cat household is to ensure each cat gets dedicated one-on-one attention from their owner every day. Giving focused attention, playtime, cuddles, and treats to each cat individually helps them feel bonded to their owner and secure in the relationship. This helps prevent them from becoming possessive or acting out against other cats who seem to be hogging attention.

Along with individual attention, it’s also important to provide multiple resources like food bowls, water bowls, litter boxes, scratching posts, cat trees, beds, and toys so that cats don’t feel the need to guard or compete over limited resources (CatBandit). Having duplicates of key items in multiple locations allows each cat to have their own space and feel less threatened by their feline housemates. This can greatly reduce tension and jealous behavior.

With dedicated one-on-one time and plenty of resources available, most cats in a multi-cat home can live together harmoniously and avoid problematic jealousy. It takes effort from the owner but is well worth it for a peaceful home.


In summary, while cats may exhibit jealous behaviors, true jealousy likely stems from natural feline instincts like territoriality, hierarchy, and resource guarding. Cats are not prone to complex emotions like jealousy in the human sense. However, actions like attention-seeking, aggression, urine marking, and hostility toward other cats may indicate feelings of insecurity or competition. Being aware of natural cat behavior can help owners provide a loving home.

Understanding typical cat conduct is key for any owner. Learn your cat’s personality and needs. Provide plenty of resources like food, water, toys, litter boxes, scratching posts, beds, and perches, so cats do not feel the need to compete. Give each cat individual love and playtime. Introduce new cats slowly and properly. Consult your veterinarian for additional tips. With knowledge and patience, owners can reduce jealous tendencies and promote harmony.

For further information on cat behavior and care, explore the resources cited in this article. Reputable organizations like the ASPCA and Humane Society offer great educational materials for owners. Local shelters can also provide cat-specific guidance. By staying informed, owners can create a welcoming, enriching environment where cats thrive together.

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