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Why is My Cat so Clingy? A Guide to Overly Needy Cats

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:

  1. Follows you throughout the house, from room to room (if you find your cat a constant tripping hazard, this is a sign)
  2. Meows incessantly when you leave the room or close the door 
  3. Claws walls and doors to get your attention when you leave or close the door
  4. Constantly rubs themselves against you
  5. Doesn't let you leave the house
  6. Demands to be pet at all hours of the day
  7. Sits on whatever you are using, or you (all the time)
  8. Will not eat or drink unless you are with them
  9. 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 Your Cat is Clingy:

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.

Anxiety/Stress

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. 

Boredom

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. 

Illness

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. 

Early Trauma

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.

 

Why Is My Cat So Affectionate All Of a Sudden?

A sudden display of affection might be nice to the one receiving it, but any sudden behavior change in cats could indicate a problem and should be carefully observed. If your cat becomes more affectionate out of the blue, any of the above reasons could be the cause. Some additional reasons could be:

Lack of Attention

Affectionate or needy behavior could indicate a cat who is looking for more attention.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal fluctuations due to pregnancy or being in heat can impact how affectionate your cat may be towards you. 

Getting Older

Many cat owners report that their cats become more affectionate as they get older. It could be that they are settling down and becoming more relaxed, even less playful.

 

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. 

Encourage independence

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. 

Discipline

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. 

  1. 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.
  2. Water in a spray bottle (if your cat doesn't like water) 
  3. 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. 

Why is My Cat so Clingy? Cat Wall Scratches

Do you have a clingy cat? Share your experience in the comments below.

Comments (10)

  • Angharad on May 23, 2022

    I rescued Pippin & his liter mates from under my porch. I fed their feral mom well, insuring she would have enough milk, then fed the kittens high quality food, had them all sterilized and vaccinated & found them good homes. I kept Pippin. We have been together 10 years now. Pippin insists on sleeping ON me 24/7. I work from home & this is sometimes tooooo much, especially when it’s HOT! I do put him on a chair sometimes and as long as I’m in the room he’s OK, but tries to sneak back to my lap. After 10 years I doubt I can change his behavior. Sometimes it good to have a clingy cat.

  • rickie salazar on February 15, 2022

    my cat meows constantly and wants picked up he loves hanging over my shoulder and being patted on butt i love him and dont mind but he wants held constantly and doesnt give up

  • rickie salazar on February 04, 2022

    my cat meows constantly and wants picked up he loves hanging over my shoulder and being patted on butt i love him and dont mind but he wants held constantly and doesnt give up

  • Anthony on February 04, 2022

    I just got a beautiful little 4 month old Russian Blue looking cat called “Shadow”. Unsure if he has any actual Russian Blue blood in him, however he is long, slender, and has a shimmering grey, blue coat with green eyes so that pretty much fits the mark. He is very much like a dog and follows me around everywhere and always wants to be a part of what I’m doing. His foster parents were very nice and mentioned that he was paired with another kitten who they described as more outgoing than Shadow, who they described as “independent”. I am now wondering if Shadow was perhaps given less attention and the other cat got much more because of its more outgoing personality they described. I personally find Shadow to be such a sweetheart and I’m already attached to him and it’s only been 3 days. The last two nights he yowled quite a bit to go outside with the first night being the absolutely loudest and sleep depriving. I ignored his requests as much as I could and when he starts to beg for things I ignore him and just go about my business. I wonder if perhaps he is finally getting the attention he desired? He likes to jump on my computer desk and on day 3 I’ve been telling him “No” in a firm, but calm voice. He has been very stubborn about it and I grabbed him and moved him away perhaps 30 or 40 times. Since I’ve been off my computer he hasn’t jumped on it once from what I’ve seen! I must say he seems to be a very fast learner and has been such a great little kitty already. I am determined to teach him leash-training and get him to be more comfortable meeting new people. I don’t mind if he is a little needy, maybe he needs more affection than other cats because of his seemingly large intelligence. I love the challenge training kittens brings and Shadow has been such a joy. Let’s hope he stays off my computer desk, at least when I’m using it and I want to wish everyone good luck training your cats and getting them to follow your rules and be happy when they are on their own!

  • Dionna on December 20, 2021

    My Cat is 5! My first cat and her didn’t get along so my current cat mostly stayed in my room with me.. I had my first cat since I was 6 (im 21) she passed away and I started to over coddle my current cat… she follows me room to room I trip over consistently and so do guests when they come and I simply WALK if I leave her in the room and walk out she meows if I leave the door open and she doesn’t know where I am she meows if I’m not home she meows if I’m home and not right with her she meows. If I go to the bathroom she’ll use her paw to try to pry the door open or just stands guard and meows. Honestly I’m happy i found this because it’s becoming too much my family hates when she’s out because she constantly meows to come in my room but I feel like a hostage to her cat hair I can’t deal. Also I’ll leave my door open and she never leaves me room unless I leave, we have two bathrooms so I started putting her in one at night with her food and water but the meowing is still constant and god forbid I feed her during the day she’ll rush to eat and as soon as I leave will follow me… It makes me not want a cat again but I’m hoping it’ll be different once I move out so she has more space .. thanks for listening I needed this

  • Liz on December 20, 2021

    The girls I share an apartment with just starting fostering a new cat (1 yr old male). He instantly bonded with ONLY ME and it started off cute but got annoying really fast. I can’t leave the room or he will yowl outside the door for hours. He constantly follows me around and he’s really sweet but I don’t allow him in my room because he sprayed on all my sheets and towels. I don’t know what to do besides a feliway diffuser but they are extremely expensive and it’s not even my cat! The other girls just ignore him and he ignores them. But his obsessiveness is starting to get on my nerves.

  • Tierra on August 03, 2021

    I’m a new cat mom so I’m still learning, and she’s barely 8 weeks. She’s super clingy. I’ve literally tripped over her at least half dozen times. She’ll lay where ever I am ONLY. She falls asleep in the kitchen at my feet while I’m eating. The minute I move, she’s on the move. Once again tripping me up.😩 she also doesn’t let me sleep through the night (She likes to play 3-4 am) so I’ve gotten a kennel (really big and expensive LOL) just for her to sleep in at night with her litter water food and a few toys. Is that cruel? She’s out and moving about around 5:30am when I’m getting ready for work.

  • Lada on August 03, 2021

    My cat follows me everywhere and cannot be in a different room then me even when u leave the house he goes to the window and meow cries until I come back it is so sad
    I believe his previous owners abused and abandoned him since somebody gave him away to me

  • Lisa on August 03, 2021

    I noticed that my cat don’t eat when I’m not home. I get home from ok work, the bowl is still full and she runs to her food when I go to the kitchen . When she is napping, if she hear me move or make a sound she pops her head up and watches me. She follows me back and forth from room to room. When she is not sitting next to me she stares at me from across the room. She never takes her eyes iff me. She can barely sleep because of watching me. At night I have to put a high gate, cage at the end of the hallway so she can’t get to my bedroom door. She would scratch and meow at my door all night and I won’t get any sleep. I feel like I have to leave the house to get a break. It’s a little too much for me. I never had a cat this clingy.

  • Victoria on February 08, 2021

    My cat follows me to the bathroom and waits by the door. I kind of like it, except in the middle of the night when I can’t see him!

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