Apr 21, 2023 | Dr. Fiona Lee, DVM
Cats have a reputation for being independent. But some cats are actually quite the opposite—they're affectionate, following you from room to room and wanting to cuddle at every chance they get. A clingy cat can be very cute!
But sometimes, clinginess becomes unhealthy and might even be a sign of an underlying issue, especially if the behavior is new. Underlying problems like separation anxiety or illness can sometimes manifest as clinginess. Discovering exactly why a cat is so clingy requires a little detective work and some help from yourveterinarian.
Cats can be clingy for emotional or physical reasons
How can you tell the difference between a cat who wants to cuddle and a cat who is too clingy? A cat may be too clingy if he acts extra upset when you're not around, refuses to eat or meows excessively.1If your cat has asudden personality change—such as always being independent and suddenly becoming clingy—see a veterinarian, as this can be a subtle sign that something is wrong.2
There are many reasons why cats may become clingy anddemanding, ranging from separation anxiety tohealth issues, changes in the environment and more. Here's a look at the top reasons why this may happen and what you can do about each of them.
Separation anxiety can cause clinginess
Separation anxiety in cats often leads to clingy behavior.1You may notice other signs of destructive behavior while you're gone, like excessive meowing, destroying things in the home, excessive grooming or peeing or pooping outside the litter box. And once you get home, your cat may be extra attached to you.
Even a previously independent cat may develop separation anxiety if your schedule changes and you start being away from home more often.1A cat separated from her littermates too early might also have anxiety issues.
Here are some tips for managing separation anxiety in cats:3
- Enrich her environment by hiding treats for your cat to hunt while you're gone or leaving her in puzzle feeders.
- Set out interactive toys.
- Make the window entertaining. Set up a bird feeder outside a window or put a comfy window perch at a prime viewing spot.
- Change up your cues when leaving (such as gathering your keys earlier). Make a quiet departure so it's not a big deal.
- Leave a radio on for background noise or leave on a TV channel designed for cats.
- Try a calming diffuser made especially for cats.
- Train your kitty with short departures that gradually get longer.
- Talk to a professional. Your veterinarian may recommend anxiety medication.4A pet therapist could even help.
- Give your kitty plenty of playtime when you're home, which can help build confidence.
Changes in the environment can cause clinginess
Just as a change in your work schedule might trigger separation anxiety, any change in the environment—big or small—can trigger clinginess.1This is because cats find security in reliability. Changing that might be why your cat is obsessed with you.
To manage this, try to think about anything that has recently changed, such as:
- A feeding schedule that's not consistent or a missed mealtime.1
- A guest at home or a new pet.1
- Changing weather.1
- Construction or something else unpredictable outside.2
Creating predictable routines can help, such as using an automated feeder that dispenses food at the same time every day.1Set up traditions, like having playtime every day when you get home or snuggling when you first wake up. Try to keep these routines even if other big things are changing, so your cat still has things to rely on.
Aging or health issues can lead to clingy behavior
A cat who suddenly becomes clingy at night or during the day might be trying to tell you that he's sick or feeling vulnerable.1He knows you'll take care of him, so he's seeking your help. Watch for other signs of sickness, like vomiting; diarrhea; increased thirst; change in appetite or weight; lack of energy; not using the litter box; wheezing; eye, nose or ear discharge; excess meowing; trouble jumping; overgrooming; bad breath; or personality changes.5
If yourcat's getting older, your senior cat may become extra clingy.4An aging cat who feels more vulnerable may start relying on you more. As her senses decline and she isn't seeing or hearing as well, she may turn to you for help in understanding her world. Try doing activities to strengthen your bond, like gentle playtime or keeping her cat bed close to your bed.
If you ever suspect illness, it's time to visit the veterinarian.
Boredom can cause attention-seeking behavior
If you're wondering why your cat is being so clingy and vocal, it might be because he's bored. Cats are smart and they need mental stimulation to keep them on their toes. If they're bored, they might start demanding attention from you.2
Finding ways to help your cat entertain herself, whether you're away orworking from home, can help. Here are some ideas:
- Have more playtime together. Try to tire him out when you play.2
- Provide cat trees, cat tunnels and scratching posts.4
- Look for interactive toys to help kitty entertain herself.6Fish toys that flop when your cat paws at them might be fun, andtoys with catnipare great. Switch out the toys periodically.
- Try clicker training—it's another great activity that's mentally stimulating and challenging for your feline.7
- Set up a cat tree or cat bed near a window where birds visit frequently.6
Cats may pick up on their owners' feelings
Clinginess may even result from your cat picking up on your own feelings. Cats may pick up on whentheir ownersare sick or upset and try to comfort them.8This is especially likely with female cats whose "mother" instincts may kick in, but it can happen with any empathetic kitty.
Watch out for negative reinforcement
Giving cats attention when they're doing something wrong—such as responding when they meow excessively—may inadvertently reinforce the behavior.6
When your cat behaves in a way you don't want, like meowing excessively, simply ignore the behavior.2Instead, give her treats and praise when she's being good and quiet.4
Are certain cats more likely to be clingy than others?
Certain cats are more likely to be clingy and affectionate than others. For example, some veterinarians believe that male cats tend to be more affectionate overall.8Of course, there are exceptions. Female cats can become extra clingy when they're in heat or pregnant.1And individual personalities play a big role, too.
Certain breeds are also more likely to be clingy. Ragdolls and Tonkinese, for example, were bred to be affectionate. Other affectionate breeds include the Maine Coon, Scottish Fold, Siamese, Persian, Bombay, Birman and American Shorthair. Sphynx don't have hair, so they'll be cuddling up to you for extra warmth.9
But you can find cuddly kitties in other breeds. If you're adopting an older cat, ask the rescue or shelter about the cat's personality.
The bottom line
While an affectionate cat can be a blessing, if a cat suddenly becomes too clingy, it might be a sign of another issue. Providing mentally stimulating entertainment, along with a stable routine and lots of bonding time, can help. Of course, visit your veterinarian if you notice any sudden personality changes.
From Pets Best
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1. Bundy, Brooke. (2023, January 19). Cat Suddenly Clingy? Here's 7 Possible Reasons Why. PetKeen.https://petkeen.com/cat-suddenly-clingy-why/
2. (2022, February 3). Understanding Feline Behavior: A Clingy Cat Could Need More Than Your Attention. Long Animal Hospital and Emergency Center.https://www.longanimal.com/blog/understanding-feline-behavior-a-clingy-cat-could-need-more-than-your-attention/
3. Sirois, Krista A. (2020, June 8). Can Cats Have Separation Anxiety? PetMD.https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/behavioral/can-cats-have-separation-anxiety
4. Taylor, Lauren. (2021, October 28). Why Is My Cat So Clingy? The Dodo.https://www.thedodo.com/dodowell/why-does-my-cat-follow-me-everywhere
5. Stregowski, Jenna. (2022, February 4). 18 Signs That Your Cat Is Sick. The Spruce Pets.https://www.thesprucepets.com/signs-your-cat-is-sick-4165142
6. Reimers, Rita and Rising, Hunter. (2022, November 17). How to Fix Clinginess in Cats. wikiHow.https://www.wikihow.com/Fix-Clinginess-in-Cats
7. (2021, September 20). The Cat-Human Bond. Cornell CatWatch.https://www.catwatchnewsletter.com/behavior/the-cat-human-bond/
8. (2022, April 4). How to Spot the Personality Differences Between Male and Female Cats. Viera East Veterinary Center.https://www.vieravet.com/services/cats/blog/how-spot-personality-differences-between-male-and-female-cats
9. Murphy, Lauren. (2022, September 21). 10 Cat Breeds That Are the Most Affectionate. The Spruce Pets.https://www.thesprucepets.com/affectionate-cat-breeds-4846595
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If you're wondering why your cat is being so clingy and vocal, it might be because he's bored. Cats are smart and they need mental stimulation to keep them on their toes. If they're bored, they might start demanding attention from you.Why is my cat so clingy and loving? ›
Your cat might be clingy simply because they aren't getting enough mental and physical stimulation, says Petbucket. Taking breaks to play with your cat and providing interactive toys to help keep them active and entertained throughout the day can help in these cases.How clingy is too clingy for a cat? ›
Signs Your Cat is Too Clingy:
Claws walls and doors to get your attention when you leave or close the door. Constantly rubs themselves against you. Doesn't let you leave the house. Demands to be pet at all hours of the day.
Burmese are often considered to be the most affectionate cat breed. They love being with people at all times and crave close physical contact, making them the ultimate companion cat for a devoted family. They will follow their owner from room to room and prefer to cuddle up on the sofa or sleep in bed with them.Why does my cat always have to be touching me? ›
It may be that they want us to play with them more, to make them feel safer, or to feed them more. If cats happen to be too clingy, we might need to think of ways for them to feel secure even if we're away during the day.Can cats get too attached to their owners? ›
Separation Anxiety in Cats
Additionally, extreme clingy behavior can erode your mutual bond — just when your cat is feeling most needy and insecure. The annoyance caused by the constant attention of an obsessively clingy cat can cause even the most loving owner to back away.
No, your cat doesn't actually think you're the mama cat that birthed it. But cats show us a level of affection and respect that is very similar to the way they treat their mama cat. And this sweet fact flies in the face of anyone who thinks cats' “aloof” personality means they don't care about us.Why does my cat follow me everywhere and sleeps with me? ›
Cats are often quite independent creatures but if they have a strong bond with you, they may simply follow you around because they want to be near to you and see what you're up to. Or perhaps they're waiting for you to sit down so they can jump on your lap for a snooze.Why won't my cat leave me alone? ›
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.Are male or female cats more clingy? ›
While a cat's gender doesn't seem to make a difference in terms of affection, Posluns notes that studies of cat personality also suggest it has little influence on the type of relationship with their owner. But in contrast, "an owner's gender has a much more significant impact on the cat-human bond," she says.
Male cats tend to be more social and affectionate with both humans and other cats. They commonly form strong bonds with other cats in the home, even when they are not from the same litter. Females, on the other hand, are often more standoffish. If you are looking for a cuddle bug, adopting a male may be your best bet.Do cats know you kiss them? ›
Conclusion. Most cats don't understand that kisses from humans are a sign of affection. A cat will surely let you know if they enjoy being kissed or not. The best ways to show your cat that you love them are to give them toys, treats, and plenty of one-on-one time.Do cats get sad when you leave? ›
The short answer is yes, cats do experience separation anxiety. However, there's more to learn about the way cats process separation and the symptoms they may display if they have separation anxiety, too. Read through the article below to find out more about cat separation anxiety and how it may be affecting your pet.Do cats recognize their owners face? ›
Cats cannot differentiate between human faces and do not care how you look like. Unlike dogs, they would not even try to differentiate human faces. In an experiment conducted by an American university, the kitties could recognize their handlers less than 50 percent of the time.
This could indicate emotional distress or physical illness. On the other hand, sometimes, as a cat gets older, they simply develop new emotional needs. Take stock of your cat and bring it to the vet if necessary. Though you might enjoy the sudden attention, it could indicate a problem.Why is my cat so cuddly and affectionate? ›
Diet: Your cat's overall health affects their behavior a lot. If your cat is on a diet, they may be more active, leading to increased affection. Hormones: Cats who are in heat or pregnant are dealing with rising hormone levels. They may want to rub up against you more than normal.Why does my cat always want to lay on me? ›
Yes, cats want to bond with their owners in their own unique way. One of their ways of showing their affection is to sleep with you. It's your cat's way to show how much they want to be near you. It also brings your cat a sense of comfort to hear the sound of your breathing or your beating heart.Do cats have their favorite person? ›
So, how exactly do cats go about choosing their person? Cats prefer to spend time with people who understand their body language and around whom they feel safe. This is often the person who makes the most effort or is frequently involved in day-to-day cat care.