Sometimes our pets behave in a way that suggests they are jealous. When we bend down to pet another dog, our pup may shove his way in front of us, knocking our hand away from his canine companion. A cat may excessively meow when you’re not paying attention to him, or a dog may annoyingly whine when another pet in the house gets a treat and he doesn’t. But are these actually jealous behaviors? Experts disagree.
“Pets don’t experience jealousy in the true sense of the word,” says Katenna Jones, associate applied animal behaviorist, and owner of Jones Animal Behavior in Warwick, Rhode Island. “What you are most likely seeing your pet exhibit is assertive, pushy, or rude behavior—e.g., the pet that bulldozes other pets out of the way—or social hierarchy, where a higher-ranking pet displaces another pet.”
On the other hand, a recent study found that dogs “exhibited significantly more jealous behaviors (e.g., snapping, getting between the owner and object, pushing/touching the object/owner) when their owners displayed affectionate behaviors towards what appeared to be another dog. When a pet is determined to get your attention or his favorite dog toys back, “We have no idea whether a pet’s emotional state is equivalent to what people label as jealousy,” she explains. “In most cases, this is better described as a competitive situation where the pet is competing with another individual—human, dog, cat, or otherwise—for something it wants.”
Jealous-Like Behaviors in Pets
Regardless of what you call it, this type of behavior is often unwanted or unhealthy. Here are some jealous-like behaviors that pet parents should be on the lookout for:
- This can often be in the form of biting or nibbling of the animal or person getting attention over them.
- Going to the bathroom indoors. Our pets can’t express their thoughts and feelings in words, so instead, they sometimes express their feelings in actions, . If you see them peeing or pooping in places where they shouldn’t, they may be trying to tell you something.
- Paying extra attention to their owner. This can come across as a pet cuddling up extra close to you and suddenly licking your hand or face. This is a sign of affection and they are trying to get your attention.
- Pushy behavior. This often comes in the form of a pet inhibiting another person or animal from moving freely on a regular basis or pushing their way into a situation demanding the attention of their owner.
- Growling, hissing, or getting into a fight with another pet. This may especially be an issue in a multi-pet household where pets are competing for their owner’s attention and resources.
- Trying to scare off strangers. Pets may aggressively bark, hiss, or growl when owners are greeted or visitors arrive.
- Doing a trick. This is a sure fire sign that your pet is trying to get your attention.
- Crowding your space. Cats sometimes will lie down on your work table or sit on your computer keyboard to get attention or even start knocking things off the table. A dog may sit up and beg to try and get your attention or sit up on their hind legs.
- Leaving the room. Sometimes when our pets get mad, they may have a tendency to withdraw