Welcome to our Peculiar Pet Facts series, where we investigate the oddities of our pets and explore the science behind them.
Valentine’s Day usually means lots of snuggles and ear scratches with your favorite canine or sweet kitty. But if they aren’t the only loved one in your life, Valentine’s Day may also bring with it snarls, hisses and potty “accidents” that seem pretty deliberate. We don’t know for sure whether some pets experience jealousy in the same way that people do, but their attention-seeking behaviors can certainly turn a red Valentine’s Day green with envy.
Signs of Jealousy-Type Behavior in Pets
You’re snuggled up on the couch with your four-legged BFF, and your human BFF sits beside you. Immediately there is a low growl coming from your other side. Sound familiar?
While some experts don’t believe the human emotion of jealousy is directly applicable to pets, there are certainly attention-seeking behaviors in some pets that resemble jealous behavior. Snapping, scratching, growling, hissing and pushing their way in between you and whatever it is they’re unhappy with, be it a person, pet or object, can all be signs that your pet is not happy with the attention you’re giving to someone (or something) else.
Your pet may also try to get your focus back on them by doing something naughty, going potty outside of the designated area (including marking their territory), vocalizing or any other attention-seeking behavior.
New Research: Dogs React to Social Interactions They Can’t See
The jealousy-type behaviors that some dogs display when their owner gives attention to other dogs may also occur when they just “imagine” their owner is petting another dog. A recent study observed how hard dogs pulled on their leash when a realistic fake dog was placed next to their owner and then a barrier used to block the view of the owner interacting with the fake dog.
Dogs pulled harder on the leash (trying to get to their owner) during the test with the fake dog than when a fleece cylinder was used in the same situation as a control. This video explains the study and the findings in more detail. The study supports evidence that dogs show jealous-type behaviors in certain situations, even when their owner’s interactions are out of sight.
How to Deal with a Jealous Pet
If your pet is showing signs of jealousy, it’s recommended that you try to ignore their attention-seeking behavior. Instead, try to distract them with their favorite toy or game and make sure you reinforce good behavior with rewards.
Attention-seeking behaviors could also be signs of other issues or medical conditions, so talk to your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about your pet’s behavior.