Isn’t it nice to feel needed? Or, so the saying goes. Sometimes, others demand too much of our attention—like an overprotective mother or a needy child, or a clingy cat.
Yes, you may also know a demanding cat. Miles is our diva. When he’s awake Miles trills for near-constant attention. He’s plopped by me right now. Raising a hopeful paw that I’ll turn and shower him in ear-scratching attention (which I do every other time).
But sometimes clingy cat behavior is too much.
I’ve learned that it’s typically because Miles wants something. Since he doesn’t have vocal chords he has to communicate through whatever outlets he has available to him; often that’s plopping himself on my desk until I turn away from work and towards him.
Sometimes, all he really wants is a little love.
Cat Love is Oh So Sweet
Isn’t it sweet when you have a cat bubbling over with love? When they behave more like a small dog than they do a feline?
My answer is, “It can be.” What’s really important is to understand why your cat is constantly cooing for attention.
Maybe he’s clawing at your office chair because he’s bored as a five-year old on a car trip to grandma’s. What he craves is to be the universe: your universe.
Indoor cats may be especially prone to needy behaviors.
Make sure you play with your kitties! Cats, like any animal (including you) require stimulation. A tower track, cat tower, or even a rolled-up ball of yarn may introduce enough novelty to keep your cat occupied. They need things for cats, that includes toys!
How to Tell if you Have a Needy Cat
Okay it’s time to break out B.F. Skinner and fix your cat’s clingy behavior.
If your cat is needy you have to reward them for not being needy.
Let’s say your cat jumps up on the sink while you’re taking a shower. He’s pawing at the curtain, caterwauling until you take a peak, not becoming calm unless he sees you. The shower curtain is far too opaque.
These are cats that don’t have enough confidence. When they get up to bat they tend to strike out.
So, the key is to build up your cat’s confidence if they’re too needy. Following our example, plant him firmly on the floor (or outside the bathroom if you want to risk walking on the tiles). Then, give him a reward if he stays.
Pair the behavior enough times and your cat will quickly learn that if they want to be a “good boy” they have to stay on the floor—or outside of the bathroom.
If you work from home and have a needy cat
If you work from home, try placing a box next to your desk. You may already know that boxes are like cat-crack. They’ll snuggle up inside any box, Amazon or otherwise, and feel right at home.
Also, make sure to include toys wherever you’ll be hanging out.
You may also consider constructing a Catio if you have the supplies, tools, space, and know-how.
How to tell if you Have a Demanding Cat
Demanding cats sit directly in front of your face. They stare you down: locking eyes until one of you budges. Then they paw or mew when it’s time to eat. Their internal clock knows. And their mouth knows how to demand what they want: by dominating your space.
Demanding cats have to be dealt with like a child screaming in a toy store. Do not give in! Otherwise you’re teaching him that the behavior is an acceptable strategy to get what he wants. I know all that mewing can be difficult to put up with. Be strong!
Don’t reward bad behavior. Reward your cat when he’s behaving. And not until then. With enough repetition the lesson will stick.
What if my cat won’t leave me alone all of a sudden?
If your cat starts clinging to you like dryer lint one day on a whim I suggest taking them to the vet. No matter what species, a 180 in personality is typically a sign of an underlying problem.
So your cat may not be a master manipulator. Instead there may be genuine causes for your cats cloying.
- Anxiety / Insecurity
- They’re the new cat in town
- Mommy issues
- Health Issues
- Poor training/guidance
- Health Issues
Alrighty let’s break some of the above down and explain them away. Maybe you’ll discover that your cat fits one of the above.
Yup, cats can have anxiety. But don’t run out to put CBD in their bowls just yet.
Any changes in your cat’s environment may cause anxiety or insecurity (or a perfect storm featuring both). Persephone was freaked for a week when we moved apartments, even though the apartment was identical, besides being a mirror image of our last place.
She couldn’t get comfortable and seemed to be constantly worried. Leading her to need our attention not only from sunrise to sunset, but all night as well. We didn’t sleep much that first week.
When cats are anxious or nervous they latch onto you for protection, since you’re the one providing food and changing the litter box (basically god-like qualities).
In Related News: Newly Adopted Cats
Similarly, if you’ve just adopted a cat they may be experiencing anxiety. After all they’re in a completely different environment than what they’re used to. And for some time they likely had no idea if they were coming or going.
Just be patient.
Once some time has passed your cat will likely become comfortable enough to lounge in the sun.
Also related is cats who were rescued. Rescued cats growing up in foster homes may be overly clingy. They may have had difficult lives. Or, not received the attention they needed because of all the competition around them.
Those fears then translate into needing your lap for a nap at every given opportunity.
You Might be Sick
This one is a bit contentious. Perhaps your cat is clingy not because he’s sick, but because you’re sick. People have reported their cats cozying up to them, only to learn on their next trip to the doctor that they were ill.
It seems extraordinary to imagine that cats can sense a change in you but plenty of cases report such events, whether it be cancer, depression, low blood sugar, or an oncoming seizure.
But I know that my cats rarely show any change when I’m sick. If anything, once I smell nasally sickness, they tend to keep to themselves, as if watching out for their immune system.
Or, maybe you just changed jobs and are stressing all day long at home. Cats sense your worry, and may be magnetized to you as a cat-doctor remedy.
Paging Dr. Freud: Separation Anxiety
Cats separated from their mothers too young may also be experiencing anxiety. It’s an unfortunate circumstance.
Whoever raised your kitty may not have given them enough time to bond with their mother. Or some mishmash of variables prevented your cat from forming a proper relationship.
And now those feelings of attachment are projected onto you.
Are you Babying your Cat?
Clingy, demanding cats might be your fault. Sorry, but it’s true.
When we adopted Miles he had a wonky eye. A nasty-looking cut ran from his cranium to just under the eye, making him look like a kitty-Bond-villain. The eye leaked constantly (in hindsight we definitely should have invested in a cool eye patch).
Naturally, we coddled him. Of course a slightly injured cat would be treated like a Golden Age sultan. We couldn’t help ourselves. But that also fostered some bad behaviors. Miles learned what buttons to push to get what he wanted.
Eventually, we caught on, and stopped rewarding his Madonna-like behaviors. He still tries to get an extra treat from time-to-time. Except now he only gets them when he’s behaving himself.
Patience is a Virtue
Unfortunately, for humans, cats didn’t learn about personal bubbles in gym class. They have no idea what your alone time is. Even if it’s in the bathroom. The only alone time cats do understand is their own.
Whittling your cat off of dependent behavior, if necessary, isn’t too hard so long as your patient, both with yourself and your cat. (Baby cat has to fly on their own at some time.)
BUT, anytime your cat’s behavior changes dramatically it’s a sign that something is going on: either in the cat’s environment or with themselves. The trick with felines is to PAY ATTENTION. Make sure your cat is eating, drinking, pooping, and doing all the things that your cat normally does.
If their behavior deviates it’s time for a check-up to make sure your kitty is healthy.
Let us know if we’ve missed anything. Or, how you weaned your clingy cat!