Cat Over-dependence

It is said that cat over-dependence can lead to your cat becoming stressed when he encounters small changes. It can also lead to attention-seeking.

Cat over-dependence is caused by spoiling your cat and/or providing too much attention. This is what the experts say.

I can see the argument. I can’t see it happening an awful lot, though. The opposite would seem to be more common. Or do I have that wrong?

If, more people don’t provide enough attention compared to those that provide too much, I wonder if we are encouraging the wrong thing when we refer to ‘cat over-overdepence’. It may lead to cat owners being too tough on their cat.

This is because the cure for cat over-dependence is:

  1. Ignore your cat when he is demanding attention. Only give attention when he is calm.
  2. Don’t reward the behavior problem by reacting to it. Attention-seeking cats thrive on successfully getting attention on demand.
  3. Don’t spoil your cat:- (a) a cat can be given boundaries by making certain rooms off-limits and (b) not allowing him to have food from the table or I suppose any other ‘out of bounds’ area. Providing boundaries will make your cat ‘more balanced’.
  4. Distract your cat from ‘focusing on you’. If you live in a family, other members can get involved with him, it is suggested.
  5. Use a puzzle-feeder. It can be used to keep him busy.
  6. Giving him outside access should help as boredom can lead to over-dependence. This is because the owner becomes the major or sole source of interest for him.

There must be a fine difference between a close, loving relationship with lots of interaction and over-dependence, which is considered bad. I am not sure where the line should be drawn.

Personally, I don’t really like the suggestions in the list above. Perhaps I am too soft.

16 thoughts on “Cat Over-dependence”

  1. Perhaps the over-dependence issues are aimed at timid/shy indoor-only cats whose whole world revolves around just one or two people?

    Some cats do suffer separation anxiety when left alone and the general advice is to lessen their total dependence on their human(s). No doubt some people would see such dependence from their cat as a sign of how much they love them, but it’s not really in the best interests of the cat to feel so emotionally insecure when left alone for short periods of time.

  2. Unusual article.
    I don’t think that there is such a thing as over-dependence. Certainly, cats have an independent spirit, but they depend on us for all things that sustain their lives.
    I can’t even count how many health issues I would have missed had I ignored my cats’ demanding and attention-seeking behaviors.
    I want them to focus on me. That’s how we come to know each other and the way that I can tell if something is wrong. Problem behavior is most often cause by a health issue. Ofcourse, it shouldn’t go unrewarded. The reward is to get to the root of the problem.
    I’m not opposed to puzzle-feeders. There are cats that are overzealous and require more stimulation than others. But, they don’t replace the important things we learn from our own play with them.

  3. According to my interaction and experience with cats since 1995 i feel that they are similar to children.I call my cats my “Non-Human Children” as would many other cat owners.Without my two cats and my non-stop radio music my house would be as quiet as a sanatorium.This is one reason that people living alone or childless couples keep pets, either cats or dogs. Dogs can be easily disciplined but definitely not cats according to my personal experience .

  4. We all have different relationships with our cats and what one person sees as “demanding”, another will see as an opportunity to make their cat happy.

    I do agree with the theory of rewarding behaviours I wish to encourage and ignoring those I don’t. Cats are clever and they very quickly learn to adopt behaviours they know are guaranteed to get our attention.

    Puzzle feeders are a good way to keep a cat mentally challenged and are a great idea for those kept indoors all the time. Their environment changes so little that they need additional mental stimulation.

      • Puzzle feeders do appeal to some cats, but I haven’t quite figured out which ones yet (lol).

        Sophie was clever, but not food orientated and she took to the Smartykat Knockout treat dispenser straight away. I think she enjoyed the challenge and would play with it even when it was empty. She was very much a creature of habit and looked forward to her daily play session with it whilst I ate my evening meal. Not that Sophie was ever interested in my food, but puzzle feeders could help distract a cat who persistently begs when their owners are eating or preparing food.

        Charlie and Horace who both love their food, have never figured out how to get the treats out despite having seen Sophie do it countless times. I don’t think the problem was with the treats, because I used their favourites in each of the toys. Maybe it comes down to whether they like playing with toys or how patient/determined they are to get something they want?

        Used in addition to other toys, I think puzzle feeders can provide an interesting alternative activity for cats. They can also be used to help obese cats who need to reduce their food intake.

          • I tend to think a cat’s interest in play depends on their personality and kittenhood, more than it does their age.

            Sophie was 10 but still loved playing fetch or with her teaser toys. Charlie is only 2-3 but he’s shown no interest in toys – despite being offered a variety. I suspect this is because as an ex-stray he didn’t have the luxury of free time to play. Much of his time would have been spent looking for food and shelter. Maybe he didn’t have experience of playing with toys as a kitten or having hunted for real, sees them as a poor substitute for prey? When I think of it, all the ex-strays I’ve taken in have never been bothered about toys, regardless of their age.

          • Dee, I wasn’t smart enough to take the glass with me to the bathroom 😉

            Many years ago I used to take a glass of milk to drink whilst I was reading in bed at night. On more than a few occasions I thought the glass looked a little less full each time I returned from the bathroom. I thought it just my imagination until the night I caught my cat with her head in the glass, drinking away. I don’t know how long we’d been sharing a glass of milk at night, but it didn’t do either of us any harm 🙂

  5. I think this is BS. In my opinion, cats are like children, and giving them attention is an important part of the bond. They usually have a good reason to ask for attention, because mostly they’re independent creatures.

    I think No. 5 is the most dangerous suggestion. Would you put a child outside to cure boredom? It’s not safe in many places to do this. A window to watch outdoor life is much better. Also, a little bit of play time can go a long way. And, there are many free items that cats will entertain themselves with, such as boxes, paper bags, balled up paper, etc.

    I’m a 72 yr. old woman, and my cat is my roommate. I know what’s going on with her because we’re together most days. When she had health issues with itchy ears and constipation, I kept a record on the calendar, and noted when/what she ate, what/how often she eliminated, along with meds and her reactions.

    She had serious reactions to various drugs, and I found out later that one of them had been recalled. If you care about your cat, and you must if you’re here, it can be a deadly mistake to blindly trust any vet, not matter how nice they are. They are necessary in certain cases, but there are many things you can try to help with problems, before you to to the vet.

    I’ve gotten off the main topic here. But I just want to share that when I walk by my cat while she’s resting on a chair, I usually stop and touch her and say a few words, unless she’s sleeping. So, I guess I’m “cat dependent”.

    I can’t imagine anyone actually following those suggestions. If there’s a problem with a cat, I think it’s mostly how the human is reacting to it. Many people don’t know how easily cats can get stressed. But again, that’s another topic!

    • Brilliantly said, Sandra. I agree with you. I like to throw up discussion points that come from experts.

      The best experts are people who have a brain and who have lived with cats all their lives providing high quality cat guardianship.


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