Stuck on You

Needy or demanding, it's time to analyze your cat's clingy behavior. Learn how to change your pet's needy ways.

By Ron Bast | Posted: Tue Jun 28 00:00:00 PDT 2005

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Over-dependent behavior in cats could be being caused by a number of problems.It begins innocently enough. You can't walk without getting your feet tangled up in the feline version of a shoestring tackle. Then you notice difficulty breathing at night because your cat won't get off your neck. But when you start hand-feeding your cat because it won't eat any other way, you realize you have an over-dependent cat.

Or not.

Cats are some of the most independent creatures around. Most cat lovers acknowledge that if cats only had thumbs they wouldn't need humans at all. These creatures can entertain themselves without any visible means of support; can meditate comfortably in the midst of extreme chaos; can drag themselves back from near death and look good doing it their entire nine lives. Dependent? Hardly.

Even people who don't know cats assume that cats don't require much in the way of outside help. Words such as "aloof" and "indifferent" float around as handy, if inaccurate, descriptions of feline behavior. Not words you would ordinarily associate with dependence.

But what of this cloying, needy, insatiable behavior that resembles dependence? It shows up in cats at times, and you can't ignore it; the cat won't let you.

Most cat lovers love cuddly cats. They adore the idea of the family cat sleeping at their side, twining themselves about their feet and sharing the couch during afternoon naps. But cat people also like some personal space so they can get some work done. When that part of "cat-ness" goes away, it's time to start asking some hard questions.

Sick, or Something Else?
Cats that suddenly develop behavior patterns resembling extreme dependence need a quick trip to the veterinarian. Any radical behavior change can signal medical problems, so before you drag out the behavior books and try to psych out your cat, rule out the obvious.

If your dependent cat is a new household member, especially a rescued cat, it may simply need more time to adjust to the new home and routine. In either case, talk to your veterinarian.

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Reader Comments

Sarah    Ashland, OH

5/3/2014 8:07:13 PM

I just got two new kittens, bought them off of a friend of a friend. I was told they were MUCH older than they appear to be. I was told they were six weeks old. Getting them, and seeing them, they cannot be eight weeks old. They had to be five or six. I almost told her to give them back to their mommy, but they looked horrible. They were way too thin and one of them had his eyes crusted shut. I was afraid to let her take them back! I've had a lot of experience dealing with unweaned kittens, so I wasn't worried. When we first got them, the male was very independent. The female was a little shy, standoffish. Had them for three weeks. Now, they're much bigger--and even a little fat. However, my problem is that for the past three days, the two of them have been EXTRA clingy. Neither of them have ever been clingy before. They're not clingy to anyone else--just to me. I'm 32 weeks pregnant, and they have an obsession of snuggling or sleeping on my belly or my chest, and the male (his name is Shadow, because he's my Shadow,) is always either on my chest, stomach, or sleeping right next to me. The female (Shira, meaning "Song," because she meows a lot,) usually likes sleeping on my chest, too. She's also taken to trying to nurse from me, which she has never done before. I was wondering if it was possible that they're acting this way because of me being pregnant. Could they be thinking of me as more "mother" now because of my pregnancy, or could there be another issue in the making? Actually, they've been clingier for about a week--the same amount of time I've been getting more pelvic pain. I'm not sure if they're more clingy because they're associating me with mother, and milk, or if because they sense something is up.

Mindy    Salt Lake City, UT

4/12/2014 6:59:07 AM

I have a manx. She is about 6, we got her when she was about 4 months old. She was a farm kitten so did not get a lot of affection. She attached herself to me in an EXTREME way. When I am home she has to be near or on me. If I go in another room she stands outside and yowls. We don't allow her to sleep in our room so she does this all night. She has always doen this but has gotten worse since our dog died. I cannot get another cat or dog so I don't know what to do. Any advice.

Ana    International

11/24/2013 4:11:13 PM

I have 2 cats. 1 is 3 years old and one is 8 months, was caught on the street with like 4 days age, bottle fed by me until he could eat cat food. He's healthy(both of them have been fixed). The youngest cat however follows me around everywhere and doesn't like when we have visitors, constantly snorting at them. He has to be in the same division I am. When I'm not home, my mum says he drags my clothes out of my drawer and brings them to the division he wants to stay. Do you have any advise?

Cat Editor    Irvine, CA

12/26/2012 5:09:14 PM

Robin: Cats can be clingy and often are toward one person, to whom they become most attached. Show your Manx lots of affection and make sure she feels secure by establishing a routine that the family can stick to most of the time. Cats feel most secure when they can eat, sleep, play, give and receive affection, sun themselves and look out the window around the same times each day.

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