My cat Kirina gave birth to five kittens, among them two boys both with the Siamese seal-point color pattern. I named them Lestat and Louis from the two main characters in the novel Interview with the Vampire. I lovingly called them my Vampire Boys expecting them to grow up joined-at-the-hips best friends. It turned out they grew up to become polar opposites! Louis is the “typical” cat – aloof and prefers being alone. When I arrive, Louis would only glance over to me and go back to what he was doing which was usually sleeping. Lestat, on the other hand, is the so-called “Velcro” cat – my stalker cat who won’t leave me alone!
Clingy Kitty Just Loves You So Much…Or Is It Something Else?
People who do not live every day with one of these clingy, attention-craving cats would say “Awww, he is just showing you how much he loves you!” Yes, it can be cute and even flattering at times but it can also quickly become annoying. These clingy cats follow you around everywhere making you trip over them and when you’re sitting, they have to be in front or on top of you always. The question most often asked by the people who live with this kind of cat is “How do I make him stop and leave me alone?”
First off, if this clingy behavior just developed out of the blue, take your cat to the veterinarian for a check up to rule out any medical condition that may be causing your cat any physical discomfort or pain to trigger this sudden change in demeanor. If your cat is given a clean bill of health then the next thing to do is to identify if this being overly clingy is a manifestation of the cat being needy or is he being demanding? Although these two have common behavior, their root causes are different therefore the approach in solving them are also different.
Is Your Cat Needy or Demanding?
A needy cat follows you everywhere. You mean the whole world to him and he stares at you all the time. If you lock him out from the bedroom or the bathroom, he will cry mournfully until you let him in. An extreme manifestation of this neediness is when he will not eat when you are not around. A needy cat is an insecure cat with low self-confidence and very dependent on his human who he sees as his protector. This neediness may have stemmed from an emotionally rooted issue like being abandoned as a kitten or separated from its mother too early, or being the newest addition to the clowder and therefore a low position in the hierarchy. Being needy may also be a manifestation of anxiety due to any change within the household. A needy cat may also be telling you that he is bored so he needs you to be constantly around to keep him company.
A demanding cat is one who, aside from shadowing you everywhere, is constantly screaming at you at the top of his lungs. He is meowing at you for food, treats, and attention. He has learned and is very confident that when he acts this way, you, his human will yield to his every wish.
Needy Cat: Remove, Reward, Repeat
The strategy to solve the problem of a needy cat is to “remove and reward” repetitively until he gets the idea. When cat plants himself in front of you or on top of your work, pick him up and place him where you want him to stay and if he stays there without jumping back up, reward him. Repeat this over and over until he finally realizes that this good behavior gets him good things. I suggest placing a box beside your work area as most cats feel secure in a box. Address anxiety by establishing a routine in the household so your cat will feel safe. Set a playtime with him and stick to it. Address boredom by providing toys that can stimulate your cat both physically and mentally. Get him a cat tree or a cat tunnel or toys with catnip. If you have the space, build him a catio so his attention will be distracted by the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors.
Demanding Cat: Ignore, Reward
As long as you know that he is not hurt, he is fed, he is warm, do not give in to his manipulative attention-seeking behavior. Do not indulge him in his game and if needed, move him to another room. If he stops meowing and behaves, reward him with treats and petting. He will eventually learn that bad behavior will not get him what he wants, but instead being good will.
My Lestat is somewhere in between the needy and the demanding type. I may have inadvertently contributed to his clingy ways because when he was a kitten he hurt his foot and I let him stay in my office and babied him for weeks until he got well. In the office he would follow me everywhere and place himself on top of what I was writing or reading. To break his attachment to me, I removed him from my office and transferred him back home to the company of his brother Louis and their sisters. When I get home from work, I ignore him when he runs up to me to greet me. With this cold shoulder treatment, what Lestat would do is sit beside me in silence and I could see him throwing glances at me to see what I was doing. Then in my own appointed time I would call his name and he would immediately jump up on my lap and purr with happiness when I hug him to reward his good behavior. I swear that when Lestat is on my lap, I could see him giving the other cats that smug look on his face saying “See? I am mummy human’s favorite!”