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How to Identify and Fix Jealous and Aggressive Behavior in Cats and Dogs

Dog barking

 

Does your dog quickly get between you and another pup when you start to show the other animal attention? Maybe your dog sprawls across your partner's side of the bed, or your cat meows disapprovingly when you hug your friend. Sometimes, this jealous behavior can turn aggressive, but what's the best way to deal with it?

Dogs and cats might not feel jealousy the same as humans, but they certainly compete with others for your attention. Jealous and aggressive behavior in cats and dogs can manifest in various ways, from urinating in the house to excessive growling to being extra clingy. You can reduce undesirable behaviors by giving your pets equal attention, providing them with individual spaces, and staying aware of potential triggers.

The best way to reduce and stop jealous and aggressive behavior in your pets is to understand the signs and why they happen. Pinpointing what sets your pet off can help you better understand how to stop their unpleasant behavior.

Cat hissing

6 Signs of Jealous Behavior in Dogs and Cats

Dogs and cats can undoubtedly desire all of your attention. Does your furry friend start acting weird when you show any of that attention to another animal or person? If so, they could be jealous, or the animal equivalent—competing for the most affection.

Here are a few signs that could mean your pet is jealous:

  1. Aggressive behavior toward the animal or person getting the attention. Your pet might nibble or try to snip them, or when it comes to another pet, start a fight. When a visitor arrives, does your pet start acting up? Your pet might even show some aggressive behavior (barking or growling) in hopes they’ll scare the competition away.
  2. Going potty in the house or not using their litter box. (After you’ve ruled out any other possibilities or health concerns.) 
  3. Your pet tries to get between you and the other animal or person. They might even attempt to push them away.
  4. Your cat or dog seems extra clingy, following you everywhere and licking you. They try to stop you if you try to do anything that doesn’t involve them. For example, does your cat sprawl across your book as you try to read?
  5. Does your pet start trying to show off? If your pal starts doing tricks for you, they're likely vying for your attention.
  6. Sometimes, when your pet is jealous, they might leave the room. To overlay a human emotion or action on it—it would be like a pouty toddler walking out of the room. Or, an upset person giving someone else the silent treatment.
cats fighting

10 Signs of Aggression in Dogs and Cats

If you’re worried your dog or cat is acting aggressively, there are a few key things to pay attention to. Sometimes, dogs and cats might attempt to scare off someone they see as competition with a growl or bark. But, in actuality, wouldn’t take it any further. 

Other times, your pet might want your full attention so much that they act out on their aggressive and jealous behavior. Pets can experience aggression for a variety of reasons, from fear to pain to jealousy. What you see as jealous aggression is likely related to dominance or territorial aggression. Your pet doesn’t want anyone else in their space or getting more attention than them.

Here are signs of aggression in cats and dogs:

  1. Restlessness
  2. A stiff posture
  3. Showing the whites of their eyes (called “whale eye”)
  4. Licking their lips
  5. Growling/hissing
  6. Lunging
  7. Biting
  8. Scratching/swatting with paws
  9. Your dog might avoid looking at you. Your cat might stare directly at you.
  10. Your cat may roll on their side to expose all of their claws and teeth.

Remember, when it comes to aggression, it can be for different reasons. Therefore, make sure to pay attention to what seems to trigger the behavior. Also, discuss any sudden behavioral changes with your vet. It could be a sign of an underlying health issue that is causing your pet discomfort.

What Causes Jealousy and Aggression in Pets?

Many things can spark jealous or aggressive behavior in pets. For example, in a multi-cat household, jealousy or aggression can stem from a lack of resources. Not having enough litter boxes or scratching posts to go around can make some cats testy and competitive.

If you have a cat and a dog living together or multiple pups, it could be that you’re unknowingly giving one pet more attention than the other. For some breeds, these behaviors might be more apparent than others, with genetics playing a large role.

It could also be that your pet is anxious, doesn’t get enough exercise or proper stimulation, or is bored. For aggression, pain can sometimes be the culprit, or your pet could be territorial and over-protective of their food. 

Your pets might also show jealous or aggressive behavior because they don't have enough personal space. (Something a lot of humans can probably relate to.)

The Best Way to Stop Your Pet's Jealous Behavior

The best thing to do to thwart jealous behavior is to ignore bad behavior or move to another space if your pet keeps interfering. 

  • If you have multiple pets, give each animal their own food dish, water dish, litter box, bed, etc. 
  • In situations where your pet might get nervous or tense, provide them with a positive distraction. An interactive treat puzzle or a lick mat is a great way to keep them busy and help them stay calm.
  • Try to keep track of the behaviors and triggers in case you need to call in a behavioral specialist. The more info you can provide, the better.
  • Avoid giving one pet more attention than the other.
  • Make sure to reward your pet’s good behavior.
  • Never purposely give one pet (or person) more attention to make your pet jealous (even if you’re just playing). Your pet doesn’t know that you’re just messing around.

The Best Way to Stop Your Pet's Aggressive Behavior

It’s important to know why your dog or cat is acting aggressively. When you can identify the triggers, you can try to avoid those situations while working on the problem. It's also important to recognize your pet’s cues so you can hopefully prevent an aggressive attack before it happens.

It can be helpful to keep a journal to track this information about your pet. You can use it to look for patterns and also give a clearer picture to your vet if and when you seek professional help.

Early intervention and early socialization are always the best way to try and prevent aggressive behavior. But if your pup or cat is starting to act aggressively toward others, you might need to seek the help of your vet. 

Your vet might also recommend working with a behavioral specialist to pinpoint the exact root of your pet’s aggression. Together, you can make a plan with a professional to help your cat or dog be happier and healthier.


For more helpful resources, check out the rest of our blog. Our goal is to give you a front-row seat to all the information you need to be a fantastic pet parent.

 

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