Green-eyed Monster. Is Your Cat Jealous of You?


Cat jealousy refers to feelings of insecurity, possessiveness, and rivalry that a cat may experience when there is a perceived threat to its relationship with a beloved human or another companion animal. While the concept of jealousy is commonly associated with humans, some experts believe cats may exhibit jealous behaviors as well.

This article will explore the signs, causes, and management of jealous behaviors in cats. We’ll cover topics like how to identify jealousy versus normal cat behavior, situations that can trigger jealous reactions, ways to prevent and cope with jealousy, and when to seek professional help for severe cases.

Normal Cat Behavior

Cats exhibit many typical behaviors that owners often perceive as unusual but are actually completely normal (Clairmont Animal Hospital). These include actions like kneading, purring, head-butting, chirping and meowing, rubbing, scratching, and marking with saliva.

Kneading is a common behavior where cats repeatedly push in and out with their front paws, alternating between left and right. It is instinctive and originates from when they would knead their mother’s belly to stimulate milk production. Adult cats continue to knead when feeling content and relaxed.

Another normal behavior is purring. Cats purr not only when they are happy but also to signal distress or pain. The rhythmic vibration helps promote healing and calmness. Even if your cat seems upset, purring does not always mean they are content (Advanced Animal Care).

Cats head-butt as a friendly greeting and to mark their scent. They also communicate by chirping or meowing. These vocalizations can mean anything from welcoming you to sounding an alarm.

Rubbing against people or objects deposits facial pheromones and scent glands from their cheeks. This is a natural territorial marking behavior. Cats also scratch objects to both mark their turf and remove the dead outer nail sheaths.

Overall, many peculiar cat behaviors are in fact completely normal. Know your pet’s quirks and understand how they communicate (Clairmont Animal Hospital).

Signs of Jealousy

Cats can exhibit various behavioral changes when they feel jealous or insecure in their relationship with their owner. Some of the most common signs of feline jealousy include:

Aggression: A jealous cat may hiss, growl, or even attack a person or animal receiving attention from their owner. This aggression is their way of demanding the attention be redirected back to them.

Excessive meowing: Some cats will meow loudly and incessantly when their owner is paying attention to someone or something else. The meows are a plea for attention.

Attention-seeking: A jealous cat may try to wedge themselves between their owner and the object of the owner’s attention. They may continually rub against their owner or try to sit on their lap.

Withdrawing: In some cases, a jealous cat may go off and sulk on their own when they feel ignored. They want to show their displeasure through withdrawal.

Marking territory: Urinating or spraying in inappropriate places can also be a sign of feline jealousy and insecurity. The cat is marking areas to stake their claim.

Overall, the most notable change in behavior is aggression or acting out when the owner shifts attention away from the cat. The cat resorts to whatever means necessary to regain their owner’s affection and attention.

Causes of Jealousy

There are several common triggers for jealous behavior in cats. One of the most frequent is a lack of attention from their owner. Cats thrive on affection and playtime with their favored humans. If they suddenly start getting less interaction, they may act out due to jealousy. New people or pets joining the home is another trigger, as the cat now has to share your attention. Even guests staying for short visits can provoke jealous actions. Changes in routine are also difficult for cats, as their perceptions of the “norm” get disrupted. Getting a new job or schedule, moving, or traveling can lead to jealous behavior since the cat’s expectations are not being met.

According to experts, “Cats can become jealous and stressed for several different reasons that have to do with being insecure in some way.” [1] Cats typically want stability, consistency, and plenty of quality time with their human. When these conditions are not being fulfilled to their satisfaction, they may act out with jealous behaviors to regain your attention and affection.

Managing Jealousy

There are a few techniques you can try to help manage and reduce jealousy in your cat:

Give your cat alone time with you. Set aside 10-15 minutes a day of dedicated one-on-one time to play, cuddle, or interact with your cat. This focused attention can help alleviate feelings of jealousy and reassure your cat of your affection.

Maintain routine and equal attention as much as possible. Try to stick to a regular daily schedule for feeding, play time, cuddling etc. And make an effort to give all your pets equal love and care.

Use positive reinforcement and discipline. If your cat acts out due to jealousy, do not reward the behavior with attention. Use treats and praise to reinforce good behavior instead. You can also use timeouts as discipline for unwanted behavior.

Check with your vet to rule out medical issues. Sometimes jealousy can stem from an underlying health problem. So it’s good to have your vet do an exam to be sure.

When to Seek Help

While mild jealousy is fairly common in cats, more serious jealous behaviors can become problematic and even dangerous. If your cat’s jealous actions escalate and result in aggression that causes harm, destructive behaviors, or not eating, it’s important to seek help from a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

Signs that professional assistance is needed include biting, scratching, or attacking people or other pets in the home. Cats experiencing extreme jealousy may hiss, growl, or stalk family members in a menacing way. In some cases, they may block access to desired people or things. Cats acting out due to intense jealousy can also resort to inappropriate elimination outside the litter box or destructive behaviors like shredding furniture, knocking things off shelves, and more.

A lack of appetite or refusal to eat may also indicate that jealousy has become a serious problem for a cat. If your cat stops eating or shows a loss of interest in treats they once loved as a result of jealous feelings, it’s vital to get them checked out right away, as cats can develop dangerous hepatic lipidosis from not eating.

A veterinarian can rule out underlying medical conditions and refer you to a certified animal behaviorist if needed. With customized behavior modification therapy and training tactics, most jealous cats can overcome troublesome behaviors. But seeking professional support promptly is key to resolving intense jealousy before it jeopardizes the safety and wellbeing of family members or the cat.


Enrichment refers to providing mental and physical stimulation for cats in order to reduce boredom and negative behaviors like jealousy. According to the ASPCA, “Environmental enrichment involves modifying the environment with toys, food puzzles, and scratching posts to allow cats to perform highly motivated behaviors.”1 Some enrichment ideas to help an overly jealous cat include:

  • Providing toys like feather wands, balls, and treat puzzles that create physical and mental stimulation. Rotating the toys keeps cats engaged with novelty. 2
  • Offering scratching posts, cat towers, and window perches so cats have appropriate outlets for natural scratching and climbing behaviors.
  • Using food puzzles like puzzle feeders and hidden treats around the home. This makes cats “hunt” for food.

A properly enriched environment provides cats with activities and diversions to make them less focused on human interactions they might be jealous of. It taps into their natural behaviors in a healthy way.


One of the best ways to manage cat jealousy is through positive reinforcement training. This involves rewarding your cat with treats, praise, pets or play when they exhibit calm behavior around you or the source of jealousy. Some tips for positive reinforcement training:

– Identify triggers that cause jealous behavior like petting another cat or giving attention to your partner. Before exposing your cat to these triggers, have treats ready to reward calm responses.

– Start training in low distraction environments first before moving to more challenging situations.

– Immediately reward any pause in jealous behavior by tossing a treat on the floor or directly rewarding with pets or praise.

– Use a clicker or verbal marker like “yes!” to precisely mark calm behavior. Pair this with giving a treat.

– Be patient and consistent. It may take time for your cat to learn that calmness around triggers is rewarding.

– Avoid punishing or scolding jealous behavior as this can make cats anxious. Focus only on rewards.

With regular positive reinforcement training, your cat can learn better manners and overcome feelings of jealousy in a positive way.

Preventing Jealousy

Proper early socialization can help prevent jealousy in cats. Kittens that are exposed to a variety of people, animals, places, and experiences from a young age are less likely to become jealous later in life. Introduce kittens to children, other pets, and new environments gradually so they have positive experiences.

It’s also important to meet your cat’s needs for play, affection, and attention. Set aside dedicated playtime and make sure to give your cat plenty of pets, cuddles, and praise each day. Cats that have their needs fulfilled are less likely to become jealous when attention shifts elsewhere. Additionally, give your cat their own special spaces and perches to relax in.

Providing adequate mental and physical stimulation through toys, scratching posts, cat trees, and food puzzles can also prevent boredom and jealousy. Try to maintain consistent daily routines as well so your cat feels secure.


In summary, while cats do not experience complex emotions like jealousy in the same way humans do, they can exhibit possessive behaviors that may appear jealous to us. Jealousy in cats often stems from fear, insecurity, or a need for more enrichment. Common signs like attention-seeking, aggression, urine marking, and destructive behaviors point to an underlying cause that should be addressed through training, environmental changes, and meeting the cat’s needs. While some jealous tendencies are normal, extreme or sudden behavior changes warrant a veterinary exam to rule out medical issues. With patience and proper care, most jealous cats can become more secure and relaxed. Though cats may not feel jealous, their behavior reminds us to be conscientious caregivers who make them feel safe and loved.

Scroll to Top