Do Cats Get Jealous

Cat looking jealous

Cats are finicky creatures. They have definite preferences for people and things. But do they get jealous over their favorites?

As cat owners, we often observe our cats displaying behaviors that we might interpret as jealousy. For example, when we give attention to another cat, pet or person, our cat might meow loudly, scratch furniture or even attack the object of our attention.

But do these actions really indicate jealousy, or is there another explanation for this behavior?


Do Cats Get Jealous

Cats will often display behaviors interpreted as jealousy when they perceive they are not getting what they need or that what they need is going to another animal or person.

Whether or not that is jealousy as it is experienced emotionally by people remains much debated.

So in this blog post, we'll explore the question do cats get jealous and what factors contribute to their behavior.


The Science of Jealousy

Cat looking jealously at another cat's food

Before we dive into whether or not cats experience jealousy, let's look at the science behind this emotion.

According to psychologist David Buss, jealousy is an evolved emotion that arises when one perceives a threat to an important relationship or resource. In humans, jealousy can take many forms, including romantic jealousy, envy and even sibling rivalry.

But what about in animals? While it's difficult to determine whether animals experience emotions in the way humans do, studies show that many species exhibit behaviors that are similar to jealousy.

For example, in a study, conducted by Christine Harris and Caroline Prouvost, dogs were found to display jealous behaviors when their owners interacted with a fake dog toy. The dogs attempted to get between their owners and the toy and even snapped at the toy when it was given attention.


Do Cats Experience Jealousy?

Two kittens sitting together

So, what about cats? While there isn't a clear consensus on whether or not cats get jealous, one study found 66 percent of cat owners report jealousy in their pets.

Many cat owners report that their cats display behaviors that seem to indicate jealousy, such as meowing loudly, hissing or even attacking other pets or people that receive attention. While these behaviors could have other explanations, such as fear or territoriality, they do suggest that cats may experience some form of jealousy.


Factors That Contribute to Cat Jealousy

If cats do experience jealousy, what factors contribute to this behavior? There are several possible explanations.

Attachment: Cats may become attached to their owners and other pets and feel threatened when attention is given to another animal or person.

Territoriality: Cats are territorial animals and can become possessive over their territory, including their owners.

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Social Hierarchy: Cats are social animals that form hierarchies within their groups. If they perceive another animal or person as a threat to their position in the hierarchy, they may become jealous.

Past Experiences: Like humans, cats’ past experiences often shape their behavior. For example, if they were mistreated by a previous owner, they may be more prone to display jealous behaviors.


Jealous Behaviors Can Have Other Causes

It's important to note not all behaviors we interpret as jealousy are actually indicative of jealousy. Cats are complex creatures and their behavior is influenced by a multitude of factors. Some behaviors that may seem like jealousy, such as hissing or swatting, could be signs of fear, stress or even pain.

Therefore, it's important to observe our cats' behavior and try to understand the context in which it occurs. If we notice any concerning behaviors, such as excessive aggression or withdrawal, it's important to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.

One jealous cat looking at the other

In addition, it's important to create an environment that promotes positive interactions and minimizes stress for our cats. This can include providing plenty of resources, such as food, water, and litter boxes in separate areas for each cat, as well as offering plenty of playtime and attention to each cat individually.

It's also important to recognize and address any potential sources of conflict between cats in a multi-cat household. This can include providing separate feeding areas, offering vertical space for cats to climb and perch and ensuring that each cat has their own space to retreat to if needed.



While it's difficult to say for certain whether or not cats experience jealousy, there is evidence to suggest they do exhibit behaviors that are similar to jealousy.

Factors such as attachment, territoriality, social hierarchy and past experiences may all contribute to these behaviors.

As pet owners, it's important to be aware of our individual cat’s emotions and to take steps to prevent jealousy, such as providing plenty of attention and resources for all of our pets. By understanding our cats' emotions and behaviors, we can create a harmonious environment for our pets and ensure that they are happy and healthy.