Here’s some food for thought: you’re walking around your house and you have your little cat friend following you around, almost making you trip down the stairs while you’re holding your laundry basket, or maybe crying outside of your closed bedroom door whilst you’re trying to get your beauty sleep. If any of these sound like scenarios you’ve experienced, your cat might be a tiny bit clingy.
To some owners, these behaviours may seem adorable, but when do we actually say enough is enough? It’s important to understand that in time these demeanours may even affect the relationship and bond you and your cat share. That’s why in this article I’ll discuss the causes and consequences of such behaviours, and I’ll even reveal some methods in which you could help change them.
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Why are Such Behaviours Dangerous?
Many people say that when a kitten feels safe and protected from its earliest days it will not develop dependent behaviours. As mentioned before, over-dependence can rub you the wrong way, but could also be potentially dangerous for your pet.
According to extensive research dating from as early as the 90s, depression is not an emotion experienced solely by humans. Cats and kittens can also become depressed for a variety of reasons (e.g. separation anxiety, changes in environment), and this can also trigger illnesses. In some extreme cases, due to sadness, cats may also refuse to eat until their favourite human is near. Talk about making a statement!
So why does your cat always need you around?
8 Reasons Why Your Cat Won’t Leave You Alone
There is little to no scientific evidence suggesting there is a link between gender or breed and the inclination of a cat being dependent on its owner. This lack of evidence may be due to the fact that each cat is different, unique in its behaviour, thus handling a situation or another in its own way.
Generally speaking though, here are some reasons for which your furry little friend might be needy:
- They’re apprehensive or anxious. Your cat or kitten might have the tendency to feel dependent on you because they otherwise feel defenceless, and so they might view you as the one needed to keep them safe. This may also relate to domestication, and your cat seeing you as the comfort, safety and food provider.
- They’re uncertain or insecure. As I’ve mentioned earlier, cats rarely react the same, and you might find yourself being the proud owner of more than one cat. So when only one of them is actually clingy, what are you doing wrong? It’s important to understand that any change in environment (e.g. moving house, buying new furniture, moving furniture around) can cause distress and can intimidate your cat. Just be patient and let your cat adapt to the visual and olfactory cues!
- They’re a new addition to your family. In a very similar way as above, if your cat is new to your environment, they may feel attached to you because you are a strong and confident ally! Until your cat gets used to the new surroundings, it might feel insecure without you.
- They have mommy issues. Since humans experience similar feelings, it should come as no surprise that your adorable fluffy cat might be suffering from this. The cruel reality is that many kittens are separated from their mothers far too early, and this can create fear of loss or separation anxiety. Remember, in their eyes, you are the new mommy!
- They were rescued. Rescued cats might develop clingy behaviours for obvious reasons: as they might have lived difficult and trying times in the past, they might be fearful that they will be abandoned or even abused once more. Patience, love and guidance are key!
- They have underlying health issues. In certain cases a sudden change in behaviour (e.g. dependence) could be triggered by a medical problem, and since you are the best judge of your cat’s usual behaviour, tell your veterinarian of any issues which worry you.
- Unintended reinforcements. Although it may be hard to hear, you might have reinforced certain needy behaviours (e.g. meowing, demanding food or attention) by actually petting or cuddling your cat. Moreover, if the reinforcement has happened often, your cat might view this as normal behaviour which will get it attention and rewards, for example treats.
- Lack of prior guidance and training. At the opposite end of the stick, you might have adopted a cat which is already an adult, so certain behaviours are already engrained. If you’re thinking that’s you, don’t worry, as there are certain techniques which you will be able to enforce. You are the new mommy after all.
How to Train Your Cat or Kitten
The first step in remedying the problem is actually admitting there is a problem. Since you’re reading this, you’re probably already on the right track to making a positive change both in your life and your cat’s. That’s something to really feel proud about!
But how can you actually change these behaviours? On the one hand, when leaving the house (e.g. work, shopping) try to not make a big fuss about it. If you’re constantly cuddling and kissing your cat before leaving, always being hesitant, you are just encouraging and reinforcing those negative behaviours I’ve talked about. On the other hand, try rewarding attitudes you’re trying to strengthen. Remember, this won’t happen overnight, so be gentle, both with yourself and your cat.
Another situation I’ve heard about is when trying to type on your computer. If this sounds like a daily concern for you, take a couple of minutes and watch your cat as it approaches your laptop. As it gets close to jumping on you or the space where you’re working on, stop it by stomping your foot. Subsequently your cat will think twice before proceeding, giving you enough time to say “good” or “well done”, then giving it a nice treat.
To sum up, it’s important to understand that your kitten or cat does not follow the rules society has gotten humans used to, and will surely not understand that you need your own space, or that you actually need to work in order to provide for yourself. Patience is key, but sometimes even when following the advice listed above, your cat might still persist in its dependent behaviour. In that situation, you may be forced to consult your veterinarian so as to potentially choose an anti-anxiety medication, however this must always be a last resort!