You are walking around the house, your cat is weaving figure eights around your legs. You are trying to take a nap, your cat is laying across your neck purring away. When you close the bedroom door at night to get some sleep, your cat claws at the door. Your cat is always between you and whatever you are reading or eating.
To many cat owners, extreme displays of feline affection can be cute. Sometimes however, this can be over done. Over-dependence can be a bit annoying, a little obnoxious, and potentially hazardous. There are emotional and psychological dangers for the clingy cat. A cat that becomes overly dependent on its owner’s constant presence can be at risk for serious depression and even illness. If the owner has to be away for any length of time, some cats may refuse to eat unless their favorite human is there.
Extremely clingy behavior can affect the bond you have with your cat. The annoyance caused by the constant attention of an obsessively clingy cat can cause even the most loving owner to back away.
There is no scientific evidence that cats of any particular breed or gender have a greater tendency to be clingy. Every cat handles stress, major life changes, and the ups and downs of daily life differently. Differences in temperament, sensitivity, tolerance, and tendency towards anxiety can predispose any cat to neediness.
A cat that feels safe, secure, and loved from its earliest days will most likely never feel the need to engage in obsessively clingy behavior. While monitoring your cat’s behavior to discourage bad habits, you should allow your kitten to enjoy as much contact with you as he/she wants. Encourage closeness through daily interactive play, while showing healthy independence by providing a selection of toys.
Pushing your cat away, yelling, locking your cat away from you and the rest of your family, or punishing your cat can make an unfortunate situation worse. Many times a short, intense burst of interaction will satisfy your cat’s immediate need for reassurance. So, rather than pushing your cat away, stop what you’re doing and give him/her your full attention for a few minutes. Here are some other ways to help your cat:
- Don’t make a big fuss when you leave the house. Keep departures and arrivals low key
- Ignore behaviors that you want to discourage and reward behaviors you want to encourage. Be consistent, this may take a lot of patience.
- Always be patient and gentle with your cat. No matter how busy you are or how persistently he/she annoys you, try not to yell.
- Instead of trying to stop a particular behavior, be ready with an enticing distraction.
- Make your cat’s living space to provide the closeness to you that he/she craves. For example, put your cat’s bed next to your bed.
Even with plenty of extra attention and an enriched environment, some cats will still persist in extreme clingy behavior. For these cats, a course of anti-anxiety medications may help. It’s important to understand that these medications may have side-effects and they are not a “cure-all” but tools to help a cat’s anxiety and insecurity while he/she is learning new patterns of behavior. Your veterinarian can determine the best strategy and medication for your cat.
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