My cat is codependent

Codependent Cat
Codependent Cat
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This is not my cat but the cat in the video whose name is Bailey. Bailey follows his human companion around as if stuck to him like glue.

“My cat will not leave my side…ever! Everywhere I go, she follows…”

Two questions (1) what is ‘codependent’ (1) are cats codependent?

A codependent relation is said to be an addictive relationship.

Scott Wetzler PhD on the website describes it as a relationship where:

“One or both parties depend on their loved ones for fulfillment.”

Codependency is sometimes used to describe an alcoholic couple who are in a relationship. They feed each others addiction to alcohol.

I can see the connection between a cat who follows her human guardian around incessantly and codependency. A codependent relationship is said to be unhealthy. It can indicate low self-esteem. The person is unable to be a self-reliant, autonomous individual.

However, the concept of ‘codependency’ flies in the face of the classic domestic cat profile as a companion animal who is selfish, aloof and standoffish.

The truth is that most domestic cats depend on their human for almost everything especially when the cat is a full-time indoor cat.

Do we like a codependent domestic cat or do we prefer a single-minded more independent cat companion?

I do read complaints and moans on the internet about a cat being too clingy. I prefer a domestic cat who despite being wholly domesticated still has that glint of wild cat character in his eye. I like an independent cat who appreciates our relationship and who needs it but who retains a independent spirit which can on occasions be troublesome but nonetheless admirable.

If domestic cats can become codependent in their relationship with us, it is of our making. Dr Morris of Catwatching made the point years ago that we keep our cats in a kitten-like mental state. Their emotional development is frozen at the subabult stage when they would normally be leaving the maternal den to live independent lives, hunt prey and fend of themselves. Our cats are kept permanently in the den with mother. It is said to be arrested development.

Although Bailey’s human companion and caretaker is joking I sense that when he describes her as co-dependent, there is an element of truth in it. Is there difference between ‘clingy’ and ‘codependency’? Some cats are described as clingy.

If the domestic cat is in a codependent relationship with humans and if, as stated, such a relationship is unhealthy,  it is arguable that the community cat style of cat-to-human relationship is better.  This is where no one ‘owns’ cats but domestic cats live in the community. They are not feral. It is a style of relationship which you see more in the Mediterranean countries. It reflects the original cat/human relationship.

It could be said that the ‘ownership’ of cats is not good. Truthfully, we don’t own cats anyway. There is a natural follow on from a discussion on codependency in cats; are some people in codependent relationships with their cat or cats? Well, yes I think they are. What about cat hoarders? Isn’t that a sort of codependency condition. It is certainly unhealthy for both parties.

8 thoughts on “My cat is codependent”

  1. I can’t help but wonder if maybe these “clingy” cats were taken away from their mother too soon? I know that many people give them away as early as 5 weeks, maybe younger. Some even are bottle fed and never spend any time learning from their mothers. Growing up we had an adult cat who “nursed” on my mother’s sleeve. She was an orphan and bottle fed.

  2. Ofcourse my cats are codependent.

    Entirely my doing.

    I bow to their demands as much as possible.

    I nurtured it from day one with each, and it becomes my job to deal with what I have created.

    It’s not easy. But, those insane people who only feed their cats dry food criticize that we wet feeders should never have started that at all. They think that we are insane for ever allowing a cat to depend on wet cat food from us. They have no problem verbalizing that we are costly enablers. I think that these are the people who think of their cat(s) as merely cats.

    I don’t mind clingy, hovering, “wrap around my legs all day”, or cuddly cats. It would be against my principles to only allow that behavior on my terms, ie. when I feel like it. We are equal residents here. We all have the right to have our needs met.

  3. I agree that a codependent cat is of our own making. It says more about the human than the cat.

    Maybe “clingy” cat behavior is due to anxiety, separation anxiety, or boredom and lack of stimulation. Or it’s just the cat’s personality. Codependency is occurs when to the caretaker makes the cat the center of his life in an extreme way and reinforces clingy or negative behaviors. There would be a problem if the man in the video missed work or never went out with friends because Bailey might be sad. A codependent relationship is not healthy for anyone involved. Just my opinion of course.

    I used to describe Salem as clingy, but I recently had a change of heart as I continue to learn about him. I had to board him for a week while out of town. I usually leave him at home and have a friend drop in daily, but couldn’t do that this time. When I picked him up to go home, I noticed he had a patch of hair missing. No fleas or rash, just a bald patch. Apparently this is common when cats experience change or anxiety.

    On the way home, he stared at me from the carrier while loudly purring and kneading his blanket. His pupils were constricted and his eyes fluttered. I realized then how much he missed me. I really didn’t expect that. When we got home, he leaped out of the carrier and finally started meowing and sniffing and rubbing on everything. He seemed so happy to be home.

    Maybe cats aren’t as demonstrative as dogs, but if you pay attention, they really are quite expressive. I’m not the ” lovey dovey” type, so his demands for affection can be overwhelming sometimes. I’m finally realizing he’s not clingy at all, he’s showing his love and affection and wants me to do the same.

    Never thought I say this, but my cat makes me a better person.

  4. I think that this behavior must have something to do with the kitty’s history. So, the “following” behavior is only a small part of the story. I think this behavior could be curbed with a spray of water. It might take awhile, depending on how long the behavior has been going on. This is actually a dangerous habit for the human and the cat. I’ve never had a cat do this, but I have had a “lap” cat that always jumped up when I sat down. I even thought of buying a baby sling, so I could get up and down without disturbing her. That’s pretty “co-dependent” of me! I never did buy one, but I always resisted disturbing my cat from her sound and relaxing sleep state, as many cat guardians do.



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