What to do when your pet gets jealous

Teddy, our 7-year-old black Lab, isn’t too happy when he sees one of his human family members playing or snuggling with Pip, his 2-year-old cat brother.

It doesn’t matter if we first play with Teddy or give him a tasty treat to munch on while we play with Pip. As soon as we bring out the cat’s wand, for example, the pooch tries to insert himself into the game by pushing Pip out of the way and trying to grab the toy for himself.

I had known from reading the current research on the subject that dogs generally don’t get jealous or at least not in the ways humans do. So I wondered what was going on in the head of my normally go-with-the-flow dog. One article, “Signs Your Pet is Jealous (and How To Stop It),” by Nicole Pajer for petmd.com addressed many of my concerns.

According to Katenna Jones, an associate applied animal behaviorist speaking with Pajer, pets don’t experience jealousy “in the true sense of the word.”

She would say that when Teddy pushes Pip out of the way the pooch is enforcing the social hierarchy in my family or a higher‑ranking pet displaces another pet.

When Teddy joined our family, our cat, Abby, was still alive. During those years, the two developed a warm relationship. Often, you would find them sitting or lying next to each other.

From the beginning, the pooch knew who was running the show and it wasn’t him. Teddy always deferred to her wishes. If Abby was sitting on the sofa and she hissed when he jumped on, he quickly turned and jumped off.

Now, in the present, Abby has passed and Teddy is running the show. Pip bows to him.

In the same vein, another applied animal behaviorist, Suzanne Hetts, also speaking with Pajer, said, “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.”

Since a pup, Teddy has always been a little needy. The pooch would and still does search out one of the three humans in the family for a belly rub, treat or round of tug-of-war.

When Pip is sitting in my lap and I’m stroking his back or scratching his ears, Teddy will start licking my knees or nudging my arm. He’ll bring me one of his toys to try and engage me to play with him.

Clearly, the pooch is trying to turn my attention to him. If Pip gets annoyed by his big brother’s antics and jumps off, Teddy elevates his persuasion tactics. His rump wiggles and his tail rotates like a helicopter blade. It’s as if he is saying, “Let’s have some fun. Just you and me, Mom.”

Pajer says this type of pet behavior may suggest Teddy wants me to focus just on him. No splitting my time between him and Pip, at least for the moment.

A number of my friends and family whose households include multiple pets use the same “even Steven” philosophy.

Teddy and Pip both have toys. We feed them at the same time but in different locations. Each has his own bed. Teddy and Pip both get walks and treats. Most importantly, we try to give them both equal amounts of attention.

Does it work? Well, neither furry child has asked their respective rescue organizations for parent swaps — yet.


1. New family member

2. Loss of attention

3. Poor socialization

4. Change in routine

5. Lack of personal space

SOURCE: www.hepper.com/reasons‑cats‑get‑jealous

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