Jealousy in Cats or the “Green Eyed Monster”
Do you live in a multi-cat household? If so, you have probably wondered if your feline friends experience jealousy.
Imagine lying peacefully in bed one morning, half-dozing, with one of your two kitties curled up beside you. Imagine your second kitty attempting to join in the “cuddle” only to have your first kitty reach up and smack her hard several times on the head. The implied message: you are HERS at the moment, and she has no intention of sharing you.
We as humans would certainly interpret this as jealousy. But do cats get jealous in the same way? According to many animal behaviorists, what WE consider jealousy is known in the feline world as rivalry.
Why? Cats are creatures of habit, of predictability, preferring a stable environment with a minimum of changes and challenges. They lay claim to certain places, spaces and toys in their home, and they lay claim to Y-O-U: to your time, your attention and your affection. Short of splitting yourself in two (or three or more equal parts), the result can be kitty cat rivalry.
In nature, cats are driven to rival one another for such scarce and highly prized resources as food and clean water. Males will run off other males to keep their resources, including their females and shelter, to themselves. Females keep their domain even smaller while they raise their kittens, and intruders in that space are less than welcome. This isn’t jealousy; it’s a competition for finite resources.
While our indoor cats face no such challenges, their instinct to protect their “resources” is deeply ingrained in them and informs how they ultimately behave. Despite their access to a seemingly endless supply of food, water and safe, cozy places to sleep, some cats still find sharing them with others impaws-ible.
The easiest way to handle cat-on-cat rivalry in your home is by ensuring there are enough of the essentials to go around, starting with food and fresh water, clean litter boxes and cozy cat beds. If you live in a small apartment with a limited amount of room, add cat trees and shelving to give your kitties more vertical space to roam, along with several snug nooks or cubbies to curl up in.
Since you probably top their essential “resources” list, it’s essential that you give each of your cats some quality one-on-one time with you and encourage them to engage in group playtime with one another. Fulfilling their need for attention can be as simple as sitting on the sofa with a cat (or two) on either side of you, petting them, scratching their heads and kissing them – equally!
Whether its name is “jealousy” or “rivalry”, understanding what motivates your cats to behave as they do and what triggers these feelings allows you to hopefully keep them at bay. Avoiding situations that bring out the competitor in them is key to achieving lasting harmony in your multi-cat household – no matter how many possessive pussy cats you have.