There are so many reasons to consider a cat if you’re seeking an animal companion. Felines are amusing, loyal, affectionate – and fiercely independent. Many people think that cats can be left to their own devices 24/7. Just like any pet, cats require affection and attentiveness from their owners.
At the bare minimum, you should spend twenty minutes playing with your cat. Dedicate your full, undivided attention to them during this playtime, too. The quality of the time you spend together is just as crucial as the quantity of time.
The more time you spend interacting with your cat, the stronger your relationship will become. That doesn’t just mean playing with toys. Talk to your cat throughout the day, and pet them occasionally. This will help build a strong bond between human and feline.
How Much Human Interaction Do Cats Need?
Domesticated housecats have a complicated relationship with humans. Cats consider themselves to be our equals. This means that it takes a little more work to bond with a feline friend.
One of the misconceptions surrounding cats is that they are low-maintenance. Some believe that feeding cats and changing their water and litter is sufficient pet parenting. Cats need attention and can become withdrawn and depressed without it.
Every cat has different needs from their human companions. It all depends on how much external stimulation they enjoy on a typical day.
If your cat roams outdoors, for example, they’ll seek less attention at home. Outdoors, cats can exercise their natural hunting instinct and treat their senses to different scents and sounds.
If your cat stays home, they’ll have fewer opportunities to indulge these instincts. That will be where you come in. Playtime can replicate the wild experience for your pet.
Cats need at least twenty minutes of human interaction a day. This is the bare minimum, however. Some cats are needier than others, and can become very anxious if left alone.
Some breeds of cats are more keen on interaction than others. The age of the pet cat will also play a part. Let’s take a closer look at the three core life stages of feline development.
How Much Attention Do Kittens Need?
There is no such thing as too much attention for a young kitten. For the first seven weeks of your pet’s life, their brain is like a sponge.
Expose your kitten to as many new experiences as possible – and as many people as you can. These earliest days of a kitten’s life are critical for socialization. Plenty of attention will help your kitten grow into a contented adult cat.
Kittens have a lot of energy. They will want to bounce, run, climb, scratch and play fight during every waking moment. If you’re busy and want to remain interrupted for hours, a kitten isn’t for you.
You’ll need to continually stop what you’re doing and engage with your pet. Failure to do so could lead to frustration, and a lot of damaged furniture.
One way around this could be to get two kittens, ideally siblings. This way, young cats can play together to burn off their energy. On the flip side, however, you’ll have two adult cats that require attention within a year.
You’ll also still need to separate the kittens periodically and spend one-on-one time with them. If two kittens do everything together, they’ll grow anxious about being separated during adulthood.
Kittens will want to play for longer than adult cats. This means that you should carve thirty-minute slots for playtime at least twice a day. More if you only have one kitten.
Young cats need to be continuously supervised. Curious kittens will get into all kinds of places they shouldn’t be. This goes double if they are not getting attention. If a kitten has nothing to do, they’ll look to change this. As a result, kittens require substantial amounts of attention every day.
How Much Attention Do Adult Cats Need?
When a cat reaches adulthood – generally at around twelve months – they’ll start to calm down. This means that your pet will not have to be watched at all hours. Provided your cat’s home has enough stimulation, including scratching posts, they will be less destructive.
Never fall into the trap of thinking that an adult cat is indifferent to human interaction. Your cat will crave your attention, and will grow quite anxious and distressed if denied it. It becomes increasingly important that you establish a routine at this stage, though.
Cats live for schedule. If they are not fed at the same time, they’ll grow confused and stressed. If they are not played with at the same time each day, they’ll quickly become attention-seekers. This could mean that your cat wakes you in the middle of the night – remember, cats are nocturnal.
Spend twenty minutes a day playing with your cat, always at the same time. This will settle your pet’s fears, and they’ll know that their needs will be met.
Also, offer your cat quality time first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. Human bedtime can be very dull for cats. Many owners find that their cat wakes them up at night.
They will typically be awake, and wondering why they’re being ignored. Teaching your pet to expect attention at set times minimizes the risk of nibbled toes overnight.
How Much Attention Do Senior Cats Need?
Attention for an older cat – aged seven or over – requires a more delicate balancing act. If you have lived with your pet for a while, you’ll have settled into a routine.
As your cat grows older, they’ll also be a little more sedentary. This doesn’t mean that you can take grow complacent, however.
You can’t let your senior cat grow too lazy. This will be a fast track to weight gain. Obesity is dangerous in cats, especially older felines. As years take a toll on their body, your cat’s kidneys will struggle to cope. Excess weight will place more strain on your pet’s heart.
You should still carve out at least twenty minutes to play with your senior cat daily. They may need a little more encouragement by this stage. This is all part of your role as a pet owner, though.
Senior cats need exercise, whether they want it or not. Find stimulation that your cat enjoys, and ensure that it remains in their routine.
What Cat Breeds Require the Most Attention?
Some cat breeds are more interested in human attention than others. If you bring one of the following felines into your family, schedule your time accordingly. These breeds will expect to be interacted with considerably more than the average housecat:
- Cornish or Devon Rex
- Egyptian Mau
Of course, there are also cat breeds that are perfectly content to amuse themselves. This doesn’t mean that these cats require no attention.
They’ll still need the standard twenty minutes or playtime, minimum. However, the following breeds will typically cope with being left alone for longer:
- Russian Blue
- British Shorthair
- Norwegian Forest Cat
- Scottish Fold
Choosing the ideal breed of cat to suit your lifestyle – and available time – is important. This breed finder from Vet Street could be an invaluable tool to help with this. Do your research before committing to a cat, and ensure that you’re ready for the responsibility.
Should I Get a Cat if I Work Full-Time?
Does the independent nature of felines make them an ideal pet for busy people?
The truth is, cats will miss you while you are away. Don’t be fooled by their aloof nature. Your pet knows full well when you’re not home, and they are rarely happy about it. This can be worked around, though, if you’re prepared to deal with the outcome.
If you work full-time, a solo indoor cat can take over any time that you’re home. Your pet will demand attention the moment you walk through the door.
This may well continue throughout the evening. You have to see this from your pet’s perspective. They have been cooped up all day, unable to interact or embrace their instincts.
This will be enough to frustrate anybody, without even considering the emotional element. Yes, your cat does love you.
In addition to attention, your cat’s more basic needs will need to be met. This means grooming, as cats are meticulously clean. It means changing their litter, for the same reason.
This involves checking that your cat has been drinking enough water, and eating. You’ll also need to ensure that your cat understands your routine.
If you work erratic shift patterns, for example, this may cause your cat stress. They never know if you’ll be home or not. If you have a strict 9 – 5 pattern, however, your pet will adapt to this.
There are solutions to keeping your cat entertained while you’re away. The first is to allow them to roam outside. With the aid of a cat flap, your cat can come and go as they please.
This means that, should they grow bored, your pet can take themselves off for a stroll. What’s more, they can embrace their hunting instincts by stalking wild mice and birds. This will undoubtedly keep them amused, but comes with many risks.
Do you live close to busy traffic? Cats lack basic road sense. Are there other cats in your neighborhood? If they’re territorial, your pet may be bullied or attacked.
Even if they’re docile, other cats can carry fleas and other diseases. This is especially likely if your pet encounters stray or feral cats.
There is also the risk that your cat will find a ‘second home’ with a neighbor that feeds them. This could lead to your cat becoming obese, eating multiple meals a day.
Many cat experts would advise against allowing your pet to roam free. If you are going to do so, you should spay or neuter your cat.
This will curb their territorial instincts and aggression, and prevent unwanted pregnancy. Another alternative option, however, is to bring two indoor cats into your home.
The two felines will keep each other amused all day, and speak a common language. Littermates are best, as you’ll know that these cats get along.
It means two litter boxes to clean, two cats to groom, and two cats to entertain, though. Each pet will still need one-on-one time with you. While your cats will enjoy each other’s company, there is no substitute for human interaction.
How to Give a Cat Attention
Attention for cats does not just revolve around playtime. Just talking to your pet is enough to build your bond. Cats recognize their owners by our voices, not our faces. The more your cat hears you, the more they’ll feel included in your life.
Of course, petting and grooming is also a great way to provide a cat with attention. If you’re lucky, this behavior may become mutual. A lick from a cat is a mark of feline approval.
As cats love to groom, don’t be shy about brushing them when they jump into your lap. Look out for any signs that your pet has had enough. Cat skin is sensitive, and can become overstimulated.
Play, however, will always be the cornerstone of your cat’s attention. Your cat doesn’t just enjoy hunting – they need to do so to temper their instincts. Invest in laser pointers, fishing rod, and even balls to chase and fetch. Twenty minutes of playtime goes a long way to having a happy cat.
Common Attention Seeking Behavior in Cats
Cats are patient animals. They’ll typically wait for you to offer attention, especially if they are settled into a routine. However, if your pet feels they’re not receiving enough of your time, they’ll let you know. Common attention-seeking behaviors among cats include:
- Long, elongated meowing. A short, sharp meow is usually just a hello. A long, elongated meow, however, is designed to mimic a baby’s cry and attract your attention.
- Pawing at your face or hands, especially if your attention is dedicated to something else.
- Walking between your legs, almost tripping you up while you move around the house.
- Hiding your possessions, or knocking them off tables.
- Nipping at your toes, ankles or fingers.
- Leaping up on tables or other heightened surfaces to be at your eye level.
If your cat is looking for attention, you’ll have to handle it carefully. If you cave in and immediately start playing, your cat will think that they rule the roost.
This means that they may start demanding attention on a whim, at all hours. That will grow old quickly, especially when they wake you up at 3 am. On the other hand, ignoring them will cause stress and anxiety.
Wait for your cat to calm down, and engage in a short playtime with them. Offer reassurance, such as gentle stroking, if necessary. More importantly, however, get your pet into a routine. If your cat knows their needs will be met, they’re less likely to demand your focus.
All the same, sometimes cats are just feeling playful. There is nothing wrong with this. Part of the pleasure of owning a pet is to interact with them. If anything, it’s a compliment. Your cat wants to spend time with you.
My Cat Wants Attention All the Time
Cats that spend large amounts of time alone grow bored and frustrated.
If your free time is limited, it can feel like your cat is monopolizing all of it. Look at it from their perspective, though. Your cat has been alone and understimulated for 8 – 10 hours while you were at work. They’ve been waiting all day for you to get home and spend time with them.
If it seems that no amount of attention reduces your cat’s need, seek professional advice. Your pet may be anxious, or have another behavioral issue. Usually, however, routine and reassurance are key.
You may need to up the amount of time you spend one-on-one with your cat. Although the time that you could spend on other things, it pays off in the long-term. Once your cat is confident they are an essential part of your life, they’ll calm down.
If you don’t have twenty minutes spare each day, you don’t have time for a cat. This is the bare minimum amount of time that cats need focused attention from their owners. Of course, this also doesn’t factor in the time spent fixing meals and cleaning litter trays.
Cats are independent, but not so much that they don’t want or need you around. Feline family members are just that – family. This means that you’ll need to ensure that you can meet their needs. If your cat’s requirements and fulfilled, your time together will be effortless and joyful.