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Basic emotions come from the limbic system. And we share that with many animals: reptiles and other mammals. Also, birds, like chickens, have something similar to a limbic system that’s said to have evolved from a common ancestor. So, with that information, do pets experience emotions? Or, for that matter, do pets get jealous of other pets?
Do Pets Get Jealous of Other Pets
Well, the answer should be obvious that, yes, pets can and do get jealous of other pets. And they can also get jealous of other people, particularly babies, boyfriends, or girlfriends. Or really anyone or thing that’s taking attention away from them. That’s because the limbic system, which I already mentioned, is linked to emotions.
Signs of Pet Jealousy
According to the emotion wheel, jealousy or envy is a combination of anger and sadness. But what are some other signs your pet is jealous?
If your pet is jealous, they might be aggressive. For instance, they might bite or nibble the person, or pet, getting the attention they’re in competition with.
- Acting out
Since our pets can’t talk the way we do, sometimes they’ll act out. For example, when we first got Meow Meow, she was the only indoor pet we had, other than our dog, Moses. However, as time went on, we collected 2 more cats, 2 bunnies, and another dog. The bunnies are no longer with us, and Moses died of old age. Now these changes happened over a period of years. But Meow Meow didn’t care. She metaphorically put her paw down and started acting out. By peeing on the kitchen counters. Therefore, Meow Meow moved out to the garage with Cake, so she wouldn’t be alone.
**Because using the bathroom outside of the litter box, or having accidents in the house, can be a sign of a health issue, always check with your veterinarian.
If your pet is clingy, which you might interpret as cuddly, they want your attention. Imagine your pet is in your face, extra close, and licking your face and hands. That’s clinginess.
This type of behavior reminds me of our dog, Sophie, when my husband and I hug or kiss each other. Sophie will come right in between us, demanding attention.
Listen to the sounds your pets make when they interact. Do they hiss and growl at each other? Watch their body language, and you’ll know if they’re fighting.
- Scaring Visitors
Some pets may fiercely bark, hiss, or growl when visitors come over. In addition, other pets might be just as aggressive if there’s a knock on the door or the doorbell rings.
- Smother you
Cats are notorious for getting on their owner’s level when they want attention. For instance, when my calico cat, Poppy, is ready for me to play fuzzball with her, she’ll walk on the kitchen table where I’m working. And a lot of times she’ll just walk across my computer keyboard.
This is another behavior typical in cats, where they will rub against their owners, purr, and meow prodigiously. And these are all in the attempt to get their owner’s attention.
Pets can get mad just like people. And if you don’t pay attention to your pet, they might just walk out of the room and withdraw. Poppy did this last night. She pulled away from me while I was busy with something else. But the next time I spotted her, she was playing with one of her fuzzballs. So I made it up to her and started playing with her.
Finally, the last sign of pet jealousy is competition. Pets who are jealous of other pets might compete with each other for attention. However the competition doesn’t necessarily have to be aggressive.
Both Poppy and Sophie are jealous of each other. When one of them is getting attention, the other is watching and waiting. If Sophie gets to go outside, Poppy will meow, yowl, and cry to go out too. And Sophie’s playtime with her ball prompted Poppy to learn how to play fetch. Additionally, Poppy doesn’t like to play fuzzball with me when Sophie is in the room with us. She wants me all to herself.
Warning. Graphic image of animal injury below.
What about birds? Do they get jealous? If you follow my blog, it’s possible you’ve read my article on the chicken pecking order. Which is all basically based on the leader of the flock running a tight ship. However birds that aren’t on the top will display jealous behavior.
Take, for example, my 2 roosters, father and son. Baby Nay is jealous of his dad, because Megatron bosses him around, essentially telling him when he can mate, who he can mate with, when he can eat, and etc. And so he attacked his dad to change his position in the hierarchy.
Possible Reasons for Jealousy
There are several reasons why pets will get jealous of other pets, including boredom, lack of space and exercise, and stress or conflict. Furthermore, genetic disposition, upbringing and level of socialization, insecurity, and interaction with a pet parent all contribute to pet jealousy.
Interaction with a pet parent can also be interpreted as lack of enough bonding time. If your pet feels like it’s not getting enough quality time with you, it can act out aggressively toward another pet.
Insecurity can come from abandonment issues, like our dog, Sophie, has. Animals have memories of both good and bad events. Thus, their jealousy could stem from being abandoned by previous owners. Or possibly even from past abuse.
Pets without enough social interaction with people or animals can easily experience jealousy. So when they’re confronted with a social encounter, that pet might act out due to a lack of instruction and experience. Because, essentially, they’ve never been taught better.
Tips to Stop Jealousy in Pets
- Observe and note the times and conditions that cause the jealousy and/or aggression. This way you can discuss the issues with your veterinarian to help manage them.
- Give your pets equal time and attention.
- Make sure your pets each have their own safe space, like a crate for a dog, and a room for a cat.
- Feed your pets separately during meals. And give them an equal amount of treats.
- When you get home, don’t pay more attention to one pet over another.
- Leash dogs when walking two at a time.
- When petting your pets, make sure to include all of them.
- Make sure each pet has its own bed and toys.
- And don’t forget to reward your pets when they’re good and don’t act jealous!
Jealousy is a complex emotion. And it’s obvious that, since all animals have some sort of limbic system, your pets have emotions like you, including the ability to get jealous of other pets. In addition, just like with people, jealousy in pets can present in similar ways.
But there are things you can do to mitigate issues with your pets. And they primarily involve giving each pet the same amount of attention, food, supplies, and toys. However, this doesn’t always work with chickens, like with my 2 roosters.
They each have their own harem of hens. And they have plenty of space, healthy food, and clean, fresh water. But after letting Megatron back with his flock, both father and son wanted to annihilate each other, to the exclusion of all else. Therefore, if you still have issues with your pets, definitely reach out to your veterinarian for suggestions.
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