Have you experienced attention-seeking behavior from your cat? You might not have recognized it. Cat behaviorists do, however, refer to it.
A cat may exhibit attention-seeking behavior when she/he does not receive an adequate amount of stimulation. This would mean the home might lack what experts call “environmental enrichment”. For example, no vertical spaces for a cat to climb up on and/or the cat is an only cat.
A cat may depend on the owner for stimulus. If the owner engages in lots of play with her cat but the cat does not play by herself with solo-activity cat toys, she may rely on her human companion for playtime opportunities.
Typically, cat attention-seeking behavior may include:
- following her human caretaker around the home
- pawing at owner
- jumping onto higher surfaces to engage with owner
- running between owner’s legs
- meowing at her owner a lot
- biting owner (non aggressive)
These are the types of behaviors described by cat behaviorists as “attention-seeking”. To be honest, you might describe this behavior as a cat wishing to interact with her human companion, which a lot of people would love. It clearly depends on how a person interprets cat behavior.
“Treatment” as advised by cat behaviorists is to ignore the cat. No response is the way to stop it. The cat learns that her actions do not receive the desired response and so she stops. In support of the nil-response strategy, the owner should reward her cat when her cat is quiet. This is positive reinforcement – a reward for doing things the owner likes.
Physical punishment is never the answer. In this instance it is not only inhumane but it is a response (of sorts) and it is agreed that no response is the “treatment”.
Personally, I’m not convinced the word “treatment” is correct. Also, as stated I wonder if this type of cat behavior is always “attention-seeking”. It seems to me to be about a cat wishing to engage in activities with her human caretaker because, perhaps, the person has been away for the day and the cat has been left alone.
Anyway, this sort of cat behavior may be irritating to some people. I don’t believe it should necessarily be irritating for a caring cat owner. A person adopts a cat as a companion. Interactions initiated by the cat should be welcome. I would have thought that the majority of cat owners do not recognize the idea of cat attention-seeking.
Also, might it be fair to argue that if a person responds to attention-seeking by playing with her cat, the cat will be satisfied. Her demands will stop for the moment and simultaneously the person has had some fun with her cat.
I am sure that cat attention-seeking is not the same as a child attention-seeking. If we “treat” cat attention-seeking using similar methods to the way we treat child attention-seeking we may be mistaken.
Attention-seeking is a type of demand, a request in actions rather than through vocalization. A cat making a demand for attention means she lacks it. The treatment should or could be to provide it and enjoy the experience. You make up your mind on that.