When it comes to our feline friends acting strangely around other animals or new babies, many of us wonder if cats experience jealousy. According to Mary Molloy, an animal behavior consultant, cats don't exactly feel jealousy, but rather they become aware that they aren't getting what they want or that another creature has something they desire.
Jealousy is considered a complex emotion, similar to empathy and grief, and while humans can obsess over feelings of jealousy, cats live in the present moment and are not capable of the same level of deep emotions.
However, there is evidence to suggest that animals, including cats, can experience empathy and grief to some extent. So it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility for cats to feel a sense of envy towards another animal receiving more attention or getting something they want. In these moments, cats may think, "I want what they have!", making jealousy a part of their emotional repertoire.
While cats may not become resentful or bitter like humans when they experience jealousy, they may display signs of unhappiness. For instance, a cat might try to bully or intimidate the other animal to give up what they want. They could also show frustration by biting, meowing excessively, or engaging in other disruptive behaviors.
Cats can also experience jealousy towards other cats, especially if they feel that more attention is being given to a new kitten or in households with multiple felines. Limited resources, like the highest perch on a cat tree, can further heighten their anxiety and stress, leading to additional negative behaviors.
It is possible for cats to feel jealous of young puppies or dogs, particularly if proper introductions have not been made. A telltale sign is when cats insert themselves between their owner and the dog who is receiving treats. They might frequently swat at the dog or choose to hide whenever the dog is around.
When it comes to babies, cats may not necessarily feel jealousy, but they can be perplexed by the unfamiliar scents, sounds, and movements coming from the new addition to the household. The sudden change in routine can also affect them. To help your cat adjust to a new baby, maintain their usual feeding schedule, continue regular playtime, and gradually introduce them to the baby in a calm and comfortable manner.
To prevent jealousy and promote trust, it is important to give your cat choices and respect their boundaries. This should apply to their interactions with other animals as well. In multi-cat households, it is crucial to ensure each cat receives their fair share of resources to avoid conflicts. Additionally, providing mental and physical enrichment activities can strengthen the bond between you and your cat, ensuring they feel loved and content.
In conclusion, while cats may not experience jealousy in the same way humans do, they can exhibit behaviors that indicate they are not happy with a situation. By understanding their needs, respecting their boundaries, and providing enrichment, you can help prevent feelings of jealousy and foster a harmonious environment for you and your cat.