Cats are notoriously labelled as independent and aloof creatures who need no one and take care of themselves. But as many of us cat owners know, although generally independent, cats are still loving creatures who very much need our love and affection. Many of us love an affectionate cat, but sometimes the dependency can be too much to handle. And don't get me wrong, not all affectionate cats are clingy. Knowing how to recognize an affectionate cat from a clingy one is the first step in knowing how to interact with your cat in the best way.
This guide will help you diagnose a clingy cat and outline steps to help your cat become more independent. Here, I write from my first hand experience with a very affectionate, yet needy Russian Blue kitten who started out glued to me 24 hours of the day.
Signs Your Cat is Too Clingy:
- Follows you throughout the house, from room to room (if you find your cat a constant tripping hazard, this is a sign)
Meows incessantly when you leave the room or close the door
- Claws walls and doors to get your attention when you leave or close the door
- Constantly rubs themselves against you
- Doesn't let you leave the house
- Demands to be pet at all hours of the day
- Sits on whatever you are using, or you (all the time)
- Will not eat or drink unless you are with them
- Scratches and kneads you constantly
Not to be confused with a demanding cat, a clingy cat is emotionally needy and lacks the confidence to be independent. On the other hand, a demanding cat will do anything to get your attention (meowing aggressively, purposely causing trouble, jumping on you...etc.) so they can get what they want. In other words, a manipulative cat who wants what they want, when they want it.
Common Reasons Why Your Cat Won't Leave You Alone:
Lack of Confidence
Confidence is the key to independence. A cat that isn't comfortable being alone and keeping themselves entertained for any length of time may spend much more time than necessary trying to be with you.
There can be many causes of anxiety or stress causing clingy behavior. You may find that your cat clings to you or hides by your side when they feel scared or uneasy. It could happen during thunderstorms, when unfamiliar people are around or when pets/people who frighten your cat are near. It could even be environment-related, if the environment is uncomfortable or unfamiliar. In any of these cases, your cat may be looking to you for safety in the face of insecurity. Taking note of when clingy behavior occurs can help you identify if there is a particular thing, person or pet causing the behavior.
New Family Members
Cats feel safe when their days go as expected, with routines and familiar faces. Introducing a new family member to the household, whether a human or pet, can throw your cat off. Such a change can be stressful for cats and will require some time for them to adjust to the changed environment.
Cats need mental stimulation and physical activity to keep their minds and bodies healthy. An under-stimulated cat may resort to destructive behavior or clinginess as a way of telling you he's bored. Remember, a healthy cat is a happy one.
An illness may be to blame when their is a sudden change in your cat's behavior. It is advised to get your cat checked by a vet when you notice something is wrong, whether behaviorally or physically. A good vet can diagnose the issue or point you in the right direction if it's a Cat Behaviorist you need.
If your cat experienced a traumatic experience early in life, this can have a large impact on their behavior. Abandonment or separation from the mother or littermates too early or abruptly can cause anxiety in cats, making it more difficult to adjust. Likewise, a rescue from an abusive home may display similar behavior.
How to Make Your Cat Less Clingy:
Don't give in...completely
Give affection but in moderation, only when your cat is well behaved. Be prepared to ignore your cat when their behaving in a way that needs correction (ie. clawing walls or meowing incessantly).
Practice physical distancing
If your cat is demanding attention all-day long even after you've provided it, you may need to practice some social distancing. This will help your cat learn that they will not always get your attention when they call. Over time and with consistency, your cat will become more independent.
Occasionally leaving your cat alone with some toys is a great way to encourage independence. Try to find toys that your cat enjoys playing with. Some interactive toys can be helpful in keeping your cat entertained when you are away or out of the room.
Take it slow
It is really important to gradually increase the distance. You need to ease your cat into their new independence. Change can be shocking and stressful so it's important that you take it slowly. Pay attention to your cat and their behavior.
Now this last one isn't for everyone but I personally used these techniques (out of pure necessity) and found they actually worked really well. When your cat is behaving badly in an effort to get your attention, doing extreme things like clawing walls, the following disciplinary measures can be effective. With consistency, your cat will learn not to continue the bad behavior.
- Compressed air (aimed away from the cat, always) or another loud alternative, can help deter your cat from repeating the bad behavior. Cats don't like loud noise (especially the unfamiliar) and will stop what they're doing. They will eventually associate the bad behavior with the disliked sound and avoid it altogether.
- Water in a spray bottle (if your cat doesn't like water)
- Using a loud tone of voice. I have a tone when I tell my cat to stop doing what he's doing...Somehow, he understands it and usually quits his bad behavior. But cat's are notorious for not doing as told so this one may not work everyone, but it's worth a shot!
Here is a photo of the damage my kitten did to the outside of my bedroom wall (and here I am trying to patch it). After some time of consistent use of the methods outlined herein, my needy cat became independent and to my delight, stopped clawing my walls.
Do you have a clingy cat? Share your experience in the comments below.