Thursday, December 27, 2012

Handling Jealousy and Favoritism in Multi Pet Homes

By Linda Cole

Pets can and do show signs of being jealous of another family member, including other pets in the home. I have wondered, at times, if my pets understand the concept of having a favorite one among them. I love and treat them all equally, but will admit, I do have my favorites. I think that's just human nature. However, our pets do have emotions, and there may be times when we have to contend with a dog or cat that may feel left out.

A jealous pet can make life difficult in a home with multiple pets, if you don't establish yourself as the leader. Even cats need to know who makes the rules in the home. Dogs and cats in households with more than one pet do compete with each other for their owner's attention. Being a multi pet home, I understand the need to make sure each pet receives attention throughout the day. And as individuals, some require more than others, which has nothing to do with jealousy.

Cats, by nature, are more reserved than most dogs. Some of my cats are more loving, and ask for more attention than others. Each one has their own personality and preference when it comes to whether or not they want to sit on my lap and cuddle. Some decide when I'm allowed to hold them, and for how long. Jabbers is a huge black cat who loves to sit and talk with me, but he's not one that wants to be held or cuddled, unless he makes that decision. Still, he is one of my favorites because of his personality.

Because I've brought many cats into my home over the years after rescuing them off the street, my four legged family members takes newcomers in stride, and treat them like they've always been part of their family. This makes socializing easier for a new arrival who is just waiting for their forever home. None of my cats are jealous because they know I love them, and understand what I expect from them.

Jealousy becomes a problem when a pet feels he's lost your love. The bond we share with a pet is as special and sacred as it gets, in their eyes. A strong bond requires trust, and when both are established, the pet will never break his end of the bargain. It's our job to nurture that bond every day by making sure we are the ones who set rules we expect pets to follow, and be fair and positive when disciplining, if it's needed.

I'm not ashamed to admit I have had favorite pets over the years, and still do. Kelly, my terrier mix, was the only dog I've ever had with a jealous streak, and she was one of my favorites despite her jealousy. As far as she was concerned, I belonged to her, and she believed her one and only job was to protect me from the other pets, and even friends who stopped over to visit. She would push in between me and another pet or person. If she was sitting beside me, she'd fly off the chair or couch snarling at her target.

To change her behavior, I first had to get over the fact she was a favorite. I needed to give her peace of mind she was still loved, but I couldn't allow her to continue lashing out at other pets or people, and I wanted to correct her in a fair and compassionate way she understood. I started sitting in a chair that wasn't big enough for both of us. She was allowed to lie beside the chair, but if she growled or tried to get in between me and another pet, I stood up and walked away from her. When she was calm, I gave her attention and played with her. It takes time to change a behavior, so don't expect overnight success.

My pets are as important to me as my family and friends. It can be debated whether a pet is even capable of recognizing favoritism or not. My dogs don't sit around counting their CANIDAE dog treats to make sure I've given each one the same amount. When I'm playing with one outside, the others come over to join in on the fun, and before long they're all running around enjoying a game of “catch me if you can.” Maintaining a healthy attitude in our relationship keeps jealousy at bay.

There's nothing wrong with having a favorite pet in a multi pet household. Some pets have a way of finding a deeper place in our hearts, but that doesn't mean you don't love each pet equally. Be your pets' leader, set the rules, stick with a routine and make sure each one knows how you expect them to behave. Pets want and need to know they're loved, just like us.

Photo by Sarah Jones

Read more articles by Linda Cole

1 comment:

  1. I don't think we have any jealousy here. We just have dominance. If someone comes in from outside, they will chase her or him right out of here. I do try to spread myself around as much as possible.


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