Yesterday evening, my dad went out in the backyard to lie around and Chinese run immediately into his arms for cuddles. After a while, Sklavenitis, who likes nothing more than being in my dad’s arms, appeared on the scene and approached him as well. This was followed by a storm of right and left cross punches by Chinese towards Sklavenitis who run away quickly (boy how lucky am I for not being all cuddly and stuff).
Do cats get jealous?
And here comes this agonizing question! Do cats really get jealous or are they externalizing behavior that humans see as jealousy? Is there really in a cat’s world what humans call jealousy?
There is a theory that says the following: As we know, cats are creatures of habit and predictability. They prefer stable environments without a lot of changes (and that is a strategy that helps them survive in many cases). So, they even want a specific place for their food, their toilet and their bed, they love specific toys and they like specific caresses.
Among the things they want to be constantly theirs is also your attention. And usually, what humans perceive as jealousy, is just the competition between the cats for the thing itself (even if that thing is you).
In nature, the thing that drives cats to be competitive is the scarcity of a resource. Male cats claim clean water, food, a warm nest and when they are in heat, even a female cat can be an object worth competing for. For female cats, and especially cat moms, their area or their nest, where they take care of their kittens is another thing that they would never want to share with other cats. So, as you can see, it is not exactly jealousy in the psychological sense of the word, but a competition for resources in rarity.
On the other hand, cats that live inside the house (including his majesty Tsitso) do not compete for such obvious reasons as food etc. However, their instincts are still in place and push them to claim various resources such as food, a warm bed and water, even if they exist in abundance (when was the last time a cat that lives indoors didn’t get fed?). It is about an instinctive reaction. And as I said before, cats see you also as a resource worth fighting for!
So, we understand that what humans see as jealousy, is just a form of competition for resources or a form of war for cats.
What should we do when the cat gets jealous?
Since as we mentioned before, jealousy is connected with sparsity in resources – except for the case of domestic cats who also fight for resources that are not in sparsity – the easiest solution to the problem is to make sure that the resources are never in shortage. This strategy may even work with domestic cats if you show them that these resources are available at all times.
So, the presence of abundant food, clean water, warm nests, more than one clean litter boxes (for domestic cats) ets. tends to make cats less competitive, whether they live inside the house or in the street.
You can use this strategy whether you are dealing with a cat colony outside your house or you are about to bring home a new cat and the results may be unpredictably positive.
Of course, in the case of domestic cats, the biggest challenge when it comes to resources may be “human attention”, because really how much time are you willing to offer to more than one cat?
When the cat is jealous – 7 typical reactions
How can you make sure a cat is jealous? There are several reactions that show that a cat is expressing what people see as a jealousy and is in fact a form of competition for resources in short supply:
Cats can become extremely aggressive when they are jealous and their aggression is manifested through bites and punches towards their competitors.
2. They mark areas they shouldn’t mark
The stress that takes over the cat when it is competing for resources may push it to mark several areas it shouldn’t (such as your bed) by peeing or pooping to state that it belongs to it.
3. They give you more attention
When cats are jealous of other cats because you pay attention to them, they fight for your attention by showing affectionate behaviors towards you, like licking your hand or your face out of nowhere.
4. Sound reactions
Cats may stir up their entire vocal repertoire in order to express the “jealousy” they feel. Whistles, growls, moans, grunts are just a few of their sound reactions that show their jealousy.
5. They terrorize your guests
In the context of competition for you (your attention) a cat may also try to terrorize your guests by attacking and biting them or by making threatening sounds.
6. They hide
This is the BEST strategy. I follow it and I highly recommend it. We are not barbarians; we solve our problems with a subtle, discreet psychological blackmail. When a resource is under question, we leave, hide and do not show up unless this resource stops being under question.
7. They disturb whatever you are doing
When you are the apple of discord, your cat may assume that your phone or your laptop is its opponent and will do anything to get between you and it!