Jealousy in Cats
While many people donít believe that animals have feelings like us, and therefore cannot show jealousy, it is clear that on the introduction of someone new into their territory cats will act in a possessive manner that if seen in a human we would most certainly call jealousy. So regardless of whether you believe that cats have emotions and express them as we do or not, it doesnít really matter. Faced with this sort of change many cats will act out and some may well make themselves unwell doing so.
For quite a few cat owners the first sign of their cat acting in this way may occur at what is supposed to be one of the happiest moments of their life, that of bringing a new baby home. To help to prevent this sort of jealousy occurring, I always suggest that cat owners do as I did when introducing my own new born son to my old cats; bring the baby into the house, put them down safely and in plain sight of your cats and then take the time to fuss your cats the same as you have always done. This helps to reassure your cat that they are still just as important as ever to you and that this new family member has not just invaded their established territory. After all cats of all sizes are territorial, even if they are the most placid of house cats. If you donít reassure your cat from day one, you may well find that the babyís room soon becomes your catís favourite place to spray urine in and generally act up!
Exactly the same goes for introducing a new kitten, cat or dog into the household. Any change that affects your existing cat's privileges, attention and their daily life can lead to even the most laid back of cats being jealous and territorial. This is especially true if the new addition starts taking over their favourite sleeping spot or starts playing with one of their toys!
It is also true that many cats will act out when your family unit suffers a bereavement, loss or simply someone leaving home, in fact any major change or upheaval can cause this sort of behaviour.
Indications of Jealously
Since cats canít tell you in so many words that they are feeling unloved, unwanted and generally pushed out by the new arrival, cats show jealousy through a change in their normal behaviour. The cat may hiss, growl, or swat at the new arrival, equally they may hide or stop eating. Some cats even go as far as to run away from home when the household dynamic they have grown used to changes on the arrival of someone new! Your cat may also seem overly needy, and attention seeking or they may mark their territory by spraying urine over every surface they can find Ė which is extremely unpleasant to say the least! If this happens clean the sprayed areas with Petzyme or some other similar enzyme cleaner that kills the bacteria and smell as well as removing the stain. If you donít clean urine up properly like this you may well find your cat also starts to urinate in inappropriate places...
It is always vitally important to check whether changes in your catís behaviour is only due to their emotional state, and not as a result of a health issue, such as FLUTD. Check their urine for signs of blood in it, if found, your cat needs to be seen by your vet straight away. Also if your cat is not eating, or is hiding, or acting odd in any way, a trip to the vets is advisable. It may be that the stress of your new arrival has caused an underlying problem to be exasperated and therefore show. After all stress can cause a number of issues that are serious if not treated straight away.
Dealing with Jealously
To me itís always seemed best to act on the understanding something may well happen, rather than to wait for it to occur and have to react to the situation without a good deal of forethought. As I have mentioned already if you deal with things straight away and constantly monitor your existing catís behaviour as well as that of your new arrival, things should go well and not cause any real problems.
A gradual introduction is also an important factor and I have gone into that in detail on my ďAdopting a CatĒ page. Place the new kitten in a room by itself, with food, water, and a litter box. This saves the kitten being overwhelmed and spending the first few days hidden under some item of furniture, while giving the existing cat a chance to get used to its smell and the fact that itís in the house too. Donít allow the resident cat to enter the room; to hiss or growl at the new arrival from outside the door. This will allow your existing cat to build up a real dislike of the new kitten without even the chance of having met it. If it starts, just encourage your existing cat to leave the door and come and play with you or do something it likes doing. After a while it will just start to sniff at the door and before long they will be starting to initiate play under the door. Once this is the case you can start to let them meet face to face while supervised for short burst of time, until you are happy that they are settled and content.
Donít allow the new cat to take over the old cat's favourite things, make sure you have new toys and beds as needed. Though if your cats are like ours, your most dominant cat may well take over the new items and happily give the new comer their old ones!
Mostly donít let changes like this come as a shock to your existing cat. Let them get used to the smell of the new kitten by letting them sniff a blanket itís been using. Introduce the sound of kittens in the house (there are a good number of .mp3 files of kittens crying online, the same goes with dogs barking and babies crying). The smell of baby can be introduced over many months with the introduction of baby products such as baby lotion or similar. Place silver foil in the babyís cot and let the cat have the run of the nursery for a while before your baby is due. Cats really donít like the sound and feel of silver foil when they land on it looking for a warm place to nap! Once they have done this a few times and learnt that it isnít a suitable nap place, they are highly unlikely to try it again when you bring the baby home. If you think and plan ahead like this for all major household changes, and remember to always show your cat(s) the love and attention they crave, you will have happy lives together and best of all be jealousy free!
©Lovelynx Abyssinians 2007-13