Don’t criticise the needy, clingy cat

A lot has been said about needy, clingy cats and all of it is critical. It seems that cat caregivers don’t want their cat to be needy but (1) we should welcome it and (2) we create the conditions under which a cat might become needy.

We want our cats to need us, don't we?
We want our cats to need us, don’t we? Image: MikeB
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Welcome or predicable

We should welcome the fact that our cat is clingy. They want to be with us; close to us. We look after cats for companionship. Needy cats provide lots of companionship. They instigate the interaction which is good as these sorts of interactions last longer. Most people like to be needed. Know of anyone who does not want to be needed?

Yes, I understand that cats can simply get in the way when they are needy but we created this form of cat behaviour.

You might raise a kitten to adulthood so that he or she relates to you are their surrogate feline mother and being kept in that kitten-like state they constantly stick to their mom; normal and to be expected. And they see us as the provider anyway. The trend will be towards clingy.

I don’t think you really want to try and ‘rectify’ this form of feline behaviour. Your cat won’t understand why their ‘mom’ is pushing them away.

A shy or timid cat is more likely perhaps to be clingy as they seek the protection of their ‘mother’. The more confident cat probably does not seek that feeling of reassurance so much and is less clingy.

But the background or underlying conditions created by people is the cause of a cat being clingy. We should not criticise the cat accordingly.

I am not sure that I see the problem. A clingy cat is more likely to sit on your lap – great. That’s one of their duties 😻.

One possible problem with the clingy cat is that they follow their owner around the house or if allowed outside, into the backyard. I see this is a welcome attribute. You just have to watch out when they are at your feet to avoid stepping on them and avoid a trip up.

I respect the thoughts of other cat caregivers but it always surprises me when cat caregivers insist on locking their cats out of the bedroom or doing various other things which distance themselves from their cat or which place a barrier between them and their cat.

We adopt cats for emotion support and we get that from companionship including close contact with our cat. If a clingy cat wants close contact and actual touching, it is a positive to be praised not a negative to be criticised. Cats naturally enjoy touching their co-specifics (friends, both feline and human).

If the home is the kind of place which might make a cat nervous, they might become clingier. I’m referring to noisy places with strangers. Make the home very calm, a sanctuary for a cat and their owner and arguably the cat is less likely to be clingy (some more thoughts below). Once again, I would argue that it is people who can indirectly create the clingy cat.

I think we have to do our best to give them confidence. It is interesting that the cat is criticised for being clingy and criticised for being stand-offish. They can’t win can they? We really would have a reason to criticise our cat if they consistently wanted to keep a distance and never approached or showed friendly tendencies.

I think people are being a little unreasonable on this topic and perhaps have expectation management issues.

We need to expect what cats are likely to deliver not what we want them to deliver. Cats act instinctively; we also act instinctively sometimes but we are in charge of the cat-to-human relationship and we can act rationally on this.

There needs to be more acceptance of cat behaviour. It is what we buy into when we adopt. You can train cats a little; mostly through routines rather than specific, positive reinforcement training. Setting up routines can mold a cat’s behaviour which might better suit the owner.

And if a cat is clingy to the point where they follow you around all the time there is a good argument which states that they are ideal candidates for leash training and going for walkies outside like a dog. This is using clinginess to the cat’s and owner’s advantage.

Leash training and outside walks are a great way to give an indoor cat a much better life. I know it is a bit daunting. And there are risks outside even for a cat on a leash but the positives arguably outweight the negatives.

Some more:

Are clingy cats bad?

This bit written by Gemini.

Not necessarily! A clingy cat, sometimes called a Velcro cat, can be a sign that your feline friend is very attached to you and enjoys your company. This can be quite endearing.

However, there are some situations where clingy behavior can be problematic. If your cat’s need for attention is constant and interferes with your daily routine, or if they become stressed or destructive when left alone, it might be cause for concern.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Severity of clinginess: A little shadowing is normal, but constant following, vocalization for attention, or destructive behavior when alone can be too much.
  • Sudden change: If your cat’s behavior changes abruptly, it could indicate an underlying health issue. A visit to the vet is recommended.

There are ways to manage clingy behavior in cats. Providing enrichment activities, like puzzle feeders or scratching posts, can help keep them occupied. It’s also important to establish healthy boundaries and provide attention on your terms, not just when your cat demands it.

If you’re concerned about your cat’s clinginess, a consult with your veterinarian or animal behaviorist can help you develop a plan to address it.

How do you establish ‘healthy boundaries’?

Here are some ways to establish healthy boundaries with your clingy cat:

Enrichment and Environment:

  • Cat Trees and Scratching Posts: Provide your cat with designated climbing areas and scratching posts to redirect unwanted scratching behavior on furniture.
  • Interactive Toys: Engage your cat in regular playtime with interactive toys like feather wands or laser pointers. This will help them expend energy and get some mental stimulation.
  • Puzzle Feeders and Food Dispensing Toys: Challenge your cat with puzzle feeders or food dispensing toys that make them work for their meals. This keeps them occupied and mentally stimulated.
  • Separate Spaces: Create designated “cat-free” zones where your cat isn’t allowed, like countertops or specific furniture. Use deterrents like double-sided tape or a scat mat (a mat that emits a harmless air puff when stepped on) to discourage access.

Attention and Interaction:

  • Scheduled Playtime: Dedicate specific times for playing with your cat. This allows them to get their energy out and receive dedicated attention, while also teaching them that playtime isn’t always on demand.
  • Ignore Unwanted Attention: If your cat tries to get your attention by meowing, pawing, or rubbing on you incessantly, don’t give in. This might reinforce the unwanted behavior. Instead, redirect them to a toy or scratching post.
  • Positive Reinforcement: When your cat exhibits desired behavior, like playing with a toy or relaxing in their own space, reward them with praise, petting, or a treat. This reinforces good behavior and helps them understand what gets them attention.

Consistency is Key:

  • Sticking to the Routine: Maintaining a consistent routine for feeding, playtime, and alone time helps your cat feel secure and understand expectations.
  • Everyone on Board: Make sure everyone in your household is following the same approach to boundaries. This will send a clear and consistent message to your cat.

Remember:

  • Be Patient: It takes time and consistency for cats to learn new behaviors. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately.
  • Respect Their Needs: While setting boundaries is important, it’s equally important to respect your cat’s natural needs for affection and interaction.

These are just some general tips, and the best approach might vary depending on your cat’s personality. If you’re having trouble managing your cat’s clinginess, consider consulting with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for personalized advice.

Here is one social media post on the topic from Reddit.com. This embedded post may cease to render over time please note.

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