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Can a dog or cat get jealous?

Begging eyes, demanding attention, following you around, barking or mewing a lot, jumping up against you or even peeing in the house. Are these expressions of a jealous dog or cat? Or do we tend to wrongfully ascribe human characteristics to our pets? Below the answer to the question whether a dog or cat is capable of jealousy.

Jealous behaviour in a dog or cat facing change

Dogs and cats will often begin displaying jealous behaviour after something has changed. For example, when a new housemate has arrived; such as a partner, baby or another pet. This change will greatly affect you which means it will also affect your relationship with your dog or cat. They may have gotten used to receiving all the attention, and now they are suddenly expected to share it with someone else. It should come as no surprise that your dog or cat will notice you aren’t spending as much time with it as you used to, which will affect its behaviour.

Can a dog or cat be jealous?

It isn’t clear whether or not this behavioural change is the result of jealousy. It looks more like a way of demanding your attention – a logical consequence of the new situation. Your pet probably used to receive a lot more attention than it is now. Whether or not it specifically doesn’t want you to give that attention to someone else, isn’t clear. But there may be other emotions that affect the behavioural change in your pet, such as anger or frustration. (Read all about interpreting the body language of your dog and the behaviour of your cat, here). Your pet will need to learn to deal with the changed situation and you are the only one who can help!

Has your behaviour changed as well?

First, ask yourself what has changed exactly. Did you spend more time with your dog or cat before the change? This is likely the case. After all, you now have another person or animal to tend to as well. Does your dog or cat always join when you are sitting on the couch with the baby? It may very well be the only time you are sitting on the couch that day, while you used to spend hours there with your dog or cat. No wonder it will want to join you. Or has your cat suddenly started peeing outside the litterbox? Consider whether you may have been cleaning the litterbox more often in the past than you are now. Perhaps your cat just doesn’t like the hygiene of it, which has caused it to change its behaviour. Added another cat to the household? Always make sure there is an extra litterbox, sleeping spot, food and water bowl. Animals are creatures of habit and routine, which becomes extra important in the case of a new housemate.

Attention at fixed times of day

Getting angry at changing behaviour is pointless. It only creates frustration and anger which harms your relationship and exacerbates the undesirable behaviour of your dog or cat. Try to give your pet attention at fixed times of day and feed it in time; your pet needs these fixed patterns. Take your dog for a walk and spend some time spoiling your cat with cuddles. It is a complete mystery to your pet why you aren’t doing this as much as you used to or even stopped doing it altogether. Make sure it gets the opportunity to get used to the new housemate or situation. In addition, always make sure its safe spot remains its safe spot; it is his/her spot where it feels safe and can rest uninterrupted.

Pup or kitten and undesirable behaviour

Pups and kittens have the ability to learn a lot. Teach your animal how to deal with your housemates and the people and animals you love and spend a lot of time with. You can avoid anxious or aggressive behaviour by properly socialising a pup or kitten. Make sure you teach your pup or kitten how to be alone. This will prevent fear of abandonment and it will teach your pet to entertain itself when you are away. It also helps to give your dog or cat a spot of its own where it feels safe and always has access to when it wants to rest.

More reading:

How to create a safe living environment for your cat
Can I leave my dog at home unattended and for how long?
A dog-friendly home: what to keep in mind
Leaving a cat at home unattended, can it be done?

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