Some people say that cats don’t have the capacity to feel a complex emotion such as jealousy. Through personal experience cat owners would disagree. Although this is a tricky subject because cat owners can project their thoughts onto their cats.
However, fundamentally all that the emotion of jealousy requires is that a cat sees that another cat is getting more of something that he/she should get. It isn’t essential that one cat knows what another cat is thinking. In fact, there is little evidence that cats know what other cats are thinking or indeed what we are thinking but this is not an obstacle to being jealous.
Note: the subject of domestic cats understanding what we or other cats are thinking is an interesting one. Like many cat owners I speak to my cat a lot. I have the impression that he does not understand me but he understands that the sounds I make (the words I say) accompany certain actions. Therefore he does understand me to a limited extent.
Dr Bradshaw believes that cats are almost certainly capable of feeling jealousy as are dogs. Also, a lot of owners say that their cats show signs of jealousy when they are stroking one of their other cats because the jealous cat intervenes.
Jealousy is considered one of the more complex emotions and the argument is that in order for a cat to feel jealous he or she has to have some understanding of what another cat is thinking. Psychologists refer to emotions such as jealousy as “rational emotions”. As there is not much evidence to indicate that domestic cats have sufficient brainpower to feel jealous the argument is that they can’t experience this emotion.
However, as mentioned above, cats don’t need brainpower to feel jealous. The cat simply needs to recognise another cat as a cat and see what they’re doing. The conclusion is that cats can become jealous on occasions in households where there is more than one companion animal.
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