Cats are known for being very independent, so if they develop clingy behavior out of nowhere, you might be wondering what has triggered this sudden wave of affection.
Whilst it’s normal for many cats to be affectionate (cats can develop very strong bonds with their owners!), it could be cause for concern if they’re acting abnormally clingy. This is particularly true if the affection comes as a very sudden change of behavior!
The occasional head-butt or leg rub is often used as a form of communication, and it’s also very normal for cats to come cuddle with you occasionally throughout the day. But, if your cat won’t leave you alone or their clingy behavior seems to be a result of anxiety, it’s worth further assessing the situation to make sure they are healthy.
Here’s what you need to know about clinginess in cats and how to handle it.
Friendly, needy, or demanding – what’s the difference?
Clingy behavior in cats can be the result of different personality types. For instance, some cats are just naturally friendly and affectionate. These types of cats will enjoy coming to cuddle with you and love to be petted. However, they will still be able to spend time alone without experiencing stress.
Needy Cat Behavior
A needy cat feels constantly insecure and wants you to be with them all the time. They will follow you everywhere you go throughout the house – if you head to the bathroom, they head to the bathroom too.
These cats will try to be in contact with you as much as possible, jumping on your lap whenever you sit down and always remaining underfoot.
Needy cats will also try to distract you from anything else you are doing, so you can pay attention to them. For example, they may sit on your computer keyboard or try to knock your cell phone out of your hand. In some extreme scenarios, they may only be willing to eat their food when you are home to supervise.
Demanding Cat Behavior
Demanding cats can also have very clingy behaviors, but for very different reasons. These cats think of themselves as the head of the household and always want to be your first priority. These cats are often very loud and will start meowing at every meal time.
Demanding cats are able to function without you- they just don’t want to! Instead, they will be very demanding for you to get up in the morning, and may also demand that you pay them attention or to be picked up and pet throughout the day.
What are the causes of needy behavior in cats?
There are a number of reasons why your cat may be acting clingy. Uncovering the reason behind your cat’s clingy behavior can help you solve the problem. Here are a few of the most common reasons why cats act clingy.
Is your cat bored?
It’s possible that your cat is acting needy because they are bored, particularly if they’re home alone for several hours when you’re at work. They may not have enough toys, access to windows, and other forms of enrichment to keep them stimulated, which is why they’re relying on you so heavily throughout the day.
This reason for clinginess is more common in young cats, who generally need extra stimulation. Sorting out their enrichment needs or paying somebody to come and sit with them at lunch time may help.
Was your kitten orphaned?
When this happens, cats can develop a dependence on their owners, seeing them as their mothers. While this is very sweet and may feel good for you, it can come with some annoying needy side effects. Cats learn a lot of social skills from their mother, and it’s possible you’ll have to take over the role of teaching these, as well as setting up some clear boundaries for your cat.
Have there been changes at home?
You’ve recently moved to a new space, adopted a new pet, or made another major change to your environment. These changes can cause anxiety in your cat, which can lead them to be much more needy. Sometimes, the changes won’t even seem major- such as a new sofa- or may not be under your control- like a new neighbour. If your cat suffers from clinginess related to anxiety about their environment, there are things you can do to help them relax and feel more at home.
Is your cat ill?
Some medical problems can cause increased anxiety and clinginess, so this is a key factor to watch out for if your cat is normally independent and starts acting clingy out of nowhere. Hyperthyroidism, dementia, and high blood pressure are common in older cats and can cause behavior changes. If you think your cat’s behavioral changes are sudden and unexplained, you should take your cat to the vet for a check-up to rule out any underlying health issues. The sooner you catch a health issue in your cat, the easier it is to treat.
Could your cat be pregnant?
Clinginess is often a symptom of hormonal fluctuations in cats that could be related to pregnancy or being in season. Be sure to spay and neuter your cats to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Am I reinforcing my cat’s needy behavior?
As a pet owner, you need to be aware of how your actions affect your cat. You may be inadvertently encouraging your cat’s needy behavior in your routines.
If you let your cat jump all over you and sit on your things whenever they want, they’re likely going to continue their needy behavior, since they have no incentive to stop.
If you consistently give your cat treats and cuddle sessions whenever they want, this is further reinforcing their clinginess, as they’re being actively rewarded for it. You’ll need to assess your own actions and make changes accordingly to help your cat be more independent.
How can I get my cat to stop acting so clingy?
There are a number of small changes you can make to your routine to help your cat be more independent. You’ll need to build their confidence and offer plenty of enrichment activities to help your cat be more comfortable on their own.
Ignore your cat when they’re being demanding
For example, if they start yowling, scratching on doors, or getting into your personal space without permission, just ignore them. This can be very difficult to do at first – you love your pet and want to give them attention! Any attention- even negative attention like telling them off- will reinforce the behavior, so ignoring it is best. Over time, they’ll start to calm down.
Reward good behaviour with cuddles and treats
Make sure you aren’t accidently rewarding the clingy behavior by cuddling them in response. Try to give rewards on your terms, for displaying the right behaviour (such as sitting calmly), rather than because your cat demands it.
Check out their environment
Whether your cat is bored or stressed, their environment can make a big difference to how they’re feeling. First, tackle any boredom- make sure they have plenty of toys and other things to do during the day when you’re at work. Interactive toys can allow you to leave your cats to play alone, and remote toys and treat dispensers can allow you to play with them in your lunch break.
You should also look to your cat’s environment as a possible source of stress. Ensure your cat has plenty of hiding places, high-up places to explore, and warm beds within easy reach to help them to relax.
Prevent access to your legs
In other words, don’t allow your pet to spend as much time in contact with you. Whilst you don’t want to upset them, it’s important they learn some independence so they don’t pine when you aren’t around. You may have to do this several times if they keep coming back. If they are able to spend a significant amount of time on their own after you move them away, reward them with a treat.
Clingy behavior in your cat can be very annoying. Once a vet has ruled out medical issues, you’ll need to make changes to your routine to ensure that you aren’t reinforcing it. Over time, you can find a balance of affection and independence with your cat.