Is your cat needy? To help you answer this question, please allow me to ask you another one: Where is your cat right now?
For some of you, answers may range from dozing in the sun, to perched on a cat tree, to curled up in the dog's bed, to munching away at lunch, to many other possible alternatives.
For others, the answer is almost always the same: right here by my side or on my lap.
If this is you, you may have an overlyclingy cat. In this blog post I’ll help you identify a clingy cat while sharing 5 different ways to care for overly clingy cats.
As always, if you are looking for more cat behavior guides 📚, make sure not to miss the read further section at the bottom. I have written many many cat care guides. Or stop by my blog. Spoiler alert, it is packed with resources 😁.
Happy reading 📖 and hey, don't forget to spread the love 🤟 by sharing!
A clingy cat is one that exhibits extreme dependence on h/er pet parents. Some cats, we affectionately call "Velcro kitties" because of how tightly they seem to cling to us.
They drape themselves across our shoulders, curl up in our laps, and take personal offense any time you're paying attention to anything other than them.
Let’s be clear though, we’re not talking about the regular happy lap cat that spends some time with you, but also plenty of time on their own. We’re also not talking about a demanding cat, which may seem clingy.
A demanding cat tends to be quite secure and simply insists on you performing some action that they want. A clingy cat is more insecure and displays certain behaviors as a result.
While it might be cute at first, you might simply think of a clingy cat as a ball of fur full of love and what could be wrong with that?
Your fur baby may look adorable when they're curled up next to you, but what about when they're meowing loudly for hours when you're trying to sleep, crying from the other side of a closed door, or desperately clawing to get in.
It's cute when they bump your face while you're watching TV, but their behavior can be irritating if your kitty is licking and nibbling at you or crawling all over your keyboard when you have an approaching deadline.
A clingy kitty can also be dangerous. Cats love to hang out in awkward positions and trip you up, but constant weaving between your legs can make it hazardous to walk.
An overly dependent cat can also have health issues if you ever have to leave. What if you fall ill and have to stay in the hospital? Want to go on a vacation? Your cat can slip into a funk, grow depressed, or develop health issues without your constant presence.
"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." – Tufts Catnip.
This kind of extreme behavior is called clinginess, but it's also a psychological dependence. Your cat may have separation anxiety, and it can lead to many other health and behavioral issues.
You might be wondering, how do I know if my cat has separation anxiety? In the video below, cat behavior specialist Samantha Bell from the Best Friends Animal Society walks us through some symptoms every pet parent should look out for and what to do to help.
Does Your Cat Have Separation Anxiety?Watch this 4-min video to find out.
What Are the Signs of a Clingy Cat?
If you're not sure if your cat is too clingy, what should you look for?
The following list of behaviors indicates excess clinginess and the possible presence of an issue:
They follow you everywhere, no matter where you go in the house, including the bathroom or the bedroom at night.
They seek to be on you whenever you're still, including climbing onto your shoulders or sitting on your lap.
They're rarely perfectly quiet unless they're attached to you, and they constantly meow for attention if you're not paying attention to them.
They demand your attention when you're trying to focus on something else, like eating or working.
They refuse to eat (or even drink) if you're not there.
They refuse to use the litter box if you're not there.
They "act out" and are overly destructive, or urinate/defecate in places they shouldn't.
We’re talking about extremes here; one or two of these behaviors can be perfectly normal, but for others it may be a sign of mild anxiety.
On the other hand, more than a few of these on a regular basis can indicate something more concerning.
What Causes Clinginess in Cats?
A study in 2021 published in the Applied Animal Behavior Science, an international journal reporting on the application of ethology to animals managed by humans, found that cats displayed less frequent stress related behaviors when their pet parent was present.
“The Secure Base Effect (SBE) refers to a human or non-human animal’s ability to use the presence of a bonded caretaker, or other familiar stimulus, as a source of comfort that facilitates stress reduction and exploration in novel or stressful contexts.” – Applied Animal Behavior Science
This finding supports that cats use the presence of their caretaker as a source of comfort that ultimately reduces stress.
So, let’s dive into the possible reasons why your cat is clingy. You’ll notice a common theme in many of the explanations – things that invoke anxiety or stress.
Changes in Environment
Did you just move to a new home? A drastic change in environment can cause a kitty an enormous amount of stress.
While you’re probably bringing all of your belongings with you, a new home means new smells and new noises. Some of those new smells might even be a prior pet that once ruled the house.
It’s not unexpected for a previously confident kitty to become clingy as they adjust to their new surroundings and become more comfortable.
Changes in Routine
Another common cause of clinginess is stress, particularly when something major changes about their routine.
Cats are creatures of habit, and they don't care much for major disruptions. Introducing a new family member (animal or human) or a change in work schedule can lead to clinginess.
Returning to work after a lengthy pandemic telework life, is a huge change, for you and your kitty. The reduced interactions during the day may lead to your kitty seeking extra attention in the hours that you’re home.
It notes that enrichment benefits indoor cats by reducing stress and abnormal behaviors. In more straight-forward terms it means your kitty isn’t being mentally stimulated and behavior changes may result.
If you’re away most of the day at work, your cat is likely spending a large portion of that time napping, saving up their energy for when you return. Once home your fur baby might constantly be under your feet or meowing for your attention.
If you’re their primary source of entertainment and stimulation your fur baby might become clingy. If your cat seems playful when they do, it may be a sign that they simply need more enrichment in their lives.
Providing enrichment for your cat is actually very simple and there are plenty of ways you can do it. From using every-day use household items to store bought items. Dr. Kennedy from Cats Only Veterinary Clinic provides a great rundown in this short video.
Cat Enrichment with Food Puzzles - 3.5 min video
If you fur baby has been clingy since the day they were adopted, it’s possible that they experienced some trauma in their past.
A neglected or abandoned cat, even a kitten taken from their mother can develop feelings of anxiety and insecurity.
"Kittens can develop separation anxiety from being weaned too early or from being taken from their mothers and littermates before they're ready," says Catspro.com.
When you demonstrate proper care for them, they’ll likely find safety in your presence. That's a wonderful thing, unless it becomes a dependency.
Cats obviously can't speak to express pain, and they are pros at hiding their pain. This is one reason why older cats seem to be fine one day and decline rapidly the next; they've been hiding their illness to avoid being seen as prey. It's a behavior that has been ingrained in them biologically.
Health issues that cause anxiety and pain may lead your cat to seek more attention from you because of your comforting presence – it can also lead to the complete opposite, so it’s important to be aware of drastic changes in social behavior.
Cats can also be clingy when their health changes for other reasons. Female cats, for example, when they become pregnant, may start to cling to you for more protection and security. Older cats, when they start to experience cognitive decline, may cling to you as they start losing vision, spatial awareness, or coordination.
Responding to your Actions or Emotions
If you’ve ever been sick, or hurt, or sad, you may have noticed your cat stayed by your side.
While we can’t be sure that the kitty is expressing empathy, a study published by mdpi.com on the national library of medicine, suggests that cats can understand human emotional signals. A clingy kitty might simply be a reflection of their pet parent’s emotional state.
It might be hard to swallow, but your kitty could be acting clingy because they are spoiled. Cats are smart and if you’re constantly giving attention or treats, your kitty will quickly learn that being near you or meowing at you will result in some sort of reward.
I’m not going to lie; I’m toeing the line with this issue myself.
Case in Point: My elderly dilute calico, Sosa has always been a scaredy cat, and I have always been her person. Since she’s become an only child, she now also gets all of the attention and she’s pretty much constantly by my side (she’s on my lap as I type). I cherish these clingy moments because she’s 18 and has a number of health issues. Had this started years ago, I would have had a big problem on my hands.
Ways to Care for a Clingy Cat
If your cat is clingy, your first order of business is to determine what might be causing the behavior or change in behavior.
Use the information we've provided above to help identify some possible causes for your clingy kitty. When you have an idea of the cause, reference the sections below for ways to help care for your Velcro kitty.
1: Take them to the vet.
Since the most dangerous reason for clinginess is health problems, it's never a bad idea to take your furry friend to the vet if they're exhibiting any symptoms. If this is a new behavior and they won't stop meowing, they could be trying to tell you that something is wrong.
We mentioned earlier that ailments can appear to come on quickly just due to how well your cat hides their pain, so getting them diagnosed early can help a lot.
Nobody likes to see their fur babies suffering, so being proactive and reaching out to your vet and can help you address any health issues in a timely manner.
If the vet gives you the all-clear from a physical standpoint but believes the issue might be related to anxiety, they may recommend trying a prescription. If you’d rather a more natural route, you might consider CBD for cats.
CBD is commonly used in humans to help with anxiety and calm the mind, and there's some evidence to suggest it may help with the same issues in cats.
If you're making a major change in your living situation and it's stressing out your cat, one thing you can do is give them some secure place where they can feel safe and familiar.
Cats tend to like hidey-holes, so something as simple as a cat bed in an isolated, out-of-the-way area can be enough to give them a place to retreat.
This is particularly relevant if you're moving. Setup a safe space, ideally in one room where they can begin to adjust.
Case in point: When we moved a few years back I placed several of my kitty’s items, toys, blankets with their scent, a litterbox (with some older litter from their current box), etc. All of this to transfer their scents into their new space. I also used feline pheromones to help reduce stress. I can tell you from having not done these things in a previous move that it made things so much easier! The difference in their behavior was clear that they had more confidence in their new space.
3: Schedule more playtime and invest in solo toys.
Cats need a surprising amount of mental stimulation for an animal that has a reputation for sleeping all the time. If they're being clingy, it's possible that you need to insert some excitement into their day!
A few tips include:
Scheduling playtime each day to give them enrichment and tucker them out.
Buy solo toys, so they have something to play with on their own and don't need to demand your attention. Even puzzle feeders are great for enrichment.
Set up some kind of entertainment, like a bird feeder outside a window where they can sit in and watch the birds.
4: Set boundaries and don't give in to every demand.
Your cat may sound distressed and sad when pawing at the door and demanding entry into the bathroom, but that doesn't always mean you should give in and let them in.
Setting firm boundaries helps them learn that they can be okay without you. Those boundaries can help reduce future neediness, as they'll learn that crying out throughout the day won't result in you immediately running to them.
The key here is to be consistent and start early. Implementing a new boundary after a behavior has become an issue isn’t easy. I like to give the example of our “no cats in our bedroom boundary.”
Case in point: When I was single the kitties slept with me every night, all four of them. When Pawpi joined the picture, his asthma and allergy to cats caused things to change. Needless to say setting that boundary never went without trouble.
5: Consider another cat!
If your cat is a solo fur baby, they may benefit from companionship. This can be especially relevant if your cat has become clingy since the loss of another pet or family member.
I don’t recommend jumping to this option as your first solution. Many kitties just need time to adjust to big changes. If you have an older cat, adopting a kitten isn’t usually a good idea as they are likely to be more of an annoyance rather than a companion.
You have to be careful, if you bring in another cat and they don't get along, you might be trading one problem for another. It's common for male cats to be "frenemies"; best friends one minute and hissing at each other the next.
If you’re considering adopting your kitty a companion, a great option is to foster a kitty first. Think of it as a trial period. It takes time for kitties to adjust to one another, but if that day never comes, you’re not in the position of having to re-home a kitty.
Is your cat clingy? Do you have experience with a clingy kitty? Have you had to peel them off your shoulders just to take a shower or go to bed?
Tell us your story! I always love hearing about your furry children. Additionally, if you have any questions about how to take care of your clingy companion, please feel free to leave those as well! I'd be more than happy to answer any of those questions! We hope our 5 ways to care for overly clingy cats will help you help your Velcro kitty.
One more thing, if you are feeling like getting a little special something 🎁 for your fur 😺 baby that is unique, made right here in the USA, 100% pup and cat safe, USDA certified organic and brought to you by a US company, check out Toe Beans online pet supplies store! Happy shopping 😁
K Marie Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 50K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-). Read more