What if Your Cat Gets Jealous of Your Baby?
In homes with a cat and where a baby is about to arrive, many people could wonder about the cat’s reaction. And what if there is an accident? What if your cat gets jealous of your baby? It’s a reasonable question to ask, and one that you should find an answer to before deciding to bring a baby into the home.
However, talking about jealousy on this occasion can be a complex topic, as other factors can affect the cat, such as stress because of the changes. Keep reading as we open up this topic and provide some solutions to make the arrival of the newborn positive for all members of the family, human or not.
Can cats feel jealousy?
The primary emotions (joy, sadness, disgust, anger and fear) have been more than proven in animals. However, jealousy isn’t a primary emotion, but a secondary one, which is more difficult to characterize experimentally.
Still, this feeling has a purpose, like all others: to protect and retain a social relationship that the animals feels is important. One study conducted an experiment that proves this. The participating cats reacted more aversively to people or animals that their owner had previously pampered.
A cat that feels jealous of another individual gives clear signals: it snorts or attacks its rival, marks its territory more often or demands its human’s attention more insistently.
This is especially the case when the cat is a house cat and has a very close bond with its owner; jealousy could well be the explanation for aggressive or possessive behavior. However, as we will see below, this jealousy may not be the only reason for this.
Cats and stress in the face of change
If you’re wondering if your cat is jealous of the baby, it’s probably because they’re being aggressive towards them or possessive towards you. However, put yourself in the cat’s shoes and understand the huge change that the arrival of the baby has brought into its life. Many cats are very attached to their routine and breaking this can be a huge source of stress for them.
When this happens, the signs differ from jealousy in several ways. Let’s take a look at the clearest signs of stress in cats:
- They hide indoors or spend more time outside (if they can go out)
- They avoid contact with human family members
- Excessive grooming
- Their appetite undergoes changes, and anorexia and hyperphagia can even develop
- They don’t use their litter tray
- They’re more irritable than usual
- They vocalize more often
- Inappropriate behavior, such as aggressiveness or destroying things.
What do I do if my cat gets jealous of my baby?
The first thing to do is to find out if it’s jealousy or stress. To do so, you may need the help of a professional in feline ethology. Once you have characterized the problem, it’s time to implement solutions.
Strategies to follow when facing the stress of the baby’s arrival
If you know that your cat doesn’t handle the changes well, the best thing to do is to prevent rather than cure. So, make the transition as gradual as possible. Prepare the baby’s room and let them explore it at their own pace so that they can get used to every detail.
You can also carry out a progressive sensory habituation. Play sounds of baby cries, spread scents of lotions and soaps, and so on. Remember that cats’ senses are more developed than ours, so these stimuli will have more impact on their tranquility than we might think.
Finally, remember to respect the cat’s space and needs. Don’t deprive them of their favorite places or change their schedule if you don’t have to. If you have to make any changes in these factors (or in how you relate to them), remember to do it as gradually as possible.
What to do if your cat gets jealous of your baby
If the problem is jealousy, then the solution should be aimed at improving the socialization between the cat and the baby. While it’s true that the latter can do little to help, you can work on creating positive connections between the two:
- Never force the cat to investigate the baby’s room
- Always supervise their interactions
- Reward your cat for all positive interactions with the baby
- Don’t neglect socialization with your cat; they have emotional needs, too.
- Occasionally your cat may accompany you on baby-related tasks, so allow them to do so (e.g., let them snuggle next to you while you cradle the baby).
Ultimately, managing the situation when your cat is jealous of the baby is simple if you use prevention and socialization strategies. However, remember that you are responsible for both of them, so you should seek professional help if the safety or well-being of either is compromised.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Cat Scared of Strangers: How to Calm Anxious Cats. (s. f.). Best Friends Animal Society. https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/cat-scared-strangers-how-calm-anxious-cats
- Bucher, B., Arahori, M., Chijiwa, H., Takagi, S., & Fujita, K. (2020). Domestic cats’ reactions to their owner and an unknown individual petting a potential rival. Pet Behaviour Science, (9), 16-33.
- Takagi, S. (2021). Developments in Research on Cat Cognition and Personality. Comparative Cognition: Commonalities and Diversity, 287-303.