Sudden changes in behavior are always worrying in cats. If your cat is suddenly clingy, you may not mind at first. It will likely be enjoyable to be showered with affection from your cat. However, there will be an underlying reason for this change in your feline’s personality.
Your cat is most likely anxious. She may be afraid of a new arrival in the home and feeling insecure. She could have been spooked by a loud noise. She may realize she is unwell and be frightened. Cats seek comfort from their owners in such instances. Pregnant cats and those in heat are also clingy due to drastic fluctuations in their hormones.
There is also a possibility that your cat just wants attention. Cats know how to manipulate humans. Displaying affection is a quick way to get a treat or petting. If the needy behavior continues, then you need to assess why.
My Cat Has Become Very Clingy
Cats have a reputation for being largely indifferent to their human owners. This has been proved to be a myth. Cats forge complex bonds with humans. They are just less overt about displaying affection than other species.
According to Behavioral Processes, cats often take behavioral cues from their owners. A neurotic, nervous owner will lead to a cat with a similar temperament. This should be a gradual process, though. Any sudden change in behavior is a source of concern.
You need to assess whether your cat is actually being clingy. Some owners mistake any form of affection from a feline for neediness. Your cat may just be demonstrating rare affection or gratitude. The signs of a clingy cat are:
- Following you around the house
- Sitting on your lap so you cannot move
- Grabbing clothing and digging in claws to maintain grip
- Constantly circling and rubbing against your legs
- Preventing you from completing basic tasks, such as lying on a computer keyboard
- Verbalizing and growing distressed when you do not immediately respond
- Crying, hissing, and behaving destructively when you leave the room
The occasional meow or headbutt from your cat is normal. If you have forgotten a meal or playtime, you will also be reminded. If the behavior becomes detrimental to the quality of life, action must be taken.
What Is a Normal Level of Feline Affection?
Some cats enjoy lavishing their owners with love. Others prefer not to show affection. They fear that it’ll weaken their claim to dominance or territory.
If your cat will never approach you, this is a bad thing. The cat is seemingly afraid of you. That is no way for a cat to live. Your pet will live in a constant state of anxiety. As Veterinary Clinics of North America explains, this can lead to health and behavioral problems.
A cat refusing to leave your side is equally problematic, though. It is physically dangerous, as cats can get underfoot. In addition, the cat will likely develop separation anxiety. This will see your pet damage your home whenever you leave the house.
A typical, happy cat will be neither clingy nor aloof. The cat will seek attention on occasion, when she wants it. Most often, this will be:
- First thing in the morning
- When you return home from work
- When a scheduled playtime arrives
If your cat is affectionate during these times, you have a healthy relationship. Anything more or less is worth monitoring.
Why is My Cat Being So Affectionate All of a Sudden?
Many people assume that clingy cats are just spoiled or demanding. They received too much attention as a kitten. They are too used to having things their own way. They consider themselves the leaders of the house.
This is possible, but unlikely. There is usually an explanation for a cat suddenly becoming clingy. Cats typically become overtly affectionate for one of the following reasons.
- The cat wants more attention than you are providing
- The cat is nervous and anxious and seeks reassurance
- The cat has an insecure attachment to you, her owner
- The cat is in heat or pregnant
- The cat is unwell
You will be able to diagnose the reason for your cat’s clinginess with observation. In most cases, you will also be able to correct it.
Attention-Seeking Behavior in Cats
Sometimes a cat will become overtly affectionate because she lacks attention. This may be a general plea for more attention. Alternatively, your cat may feel threatened or sidelined. If you have recently added a new pet or human to the home, this is common.
Aside from excess affection, signs that a cat is looking for attention include:
- Destructive behavior (i.e. knocking a glass from a table)
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Scratching furniture
- Waking you during the night
- Hiding your belongings and clothing
In the short-term, do not cave into an attention-seeking cat. If a cat learns that particular behaviors get a response, she will repeat them. The only exception is if your cat is looking for attention for a specific reason. Have you forgotten to feed her, for example?
It is important to get to the bottom of why the cat is looking for attention. If your pet feels you do not spend enough time with them, ask yourself a question. Is this a legitimate view, or is your cat spoiled?
Either way, you will need to manage the issue. The best way to do this is by scheduling one-on-one time with your cat. Spend twenty minutes playing at least twice a day. If you keep this up, your cat will calm down. She will learn to expect those playtimes and wait for them patiently.
Nervous and Anxious Behavior
Your cat may follow your around because she is frightened. If this happens, something must have spooked your pet. Cats dislike showing fear. Your cat is approaching you because she wants reassurance.
It will usually be a loud noise that causes this behavior. Fireworks, thunderstorms, roadworks, car horns and alarms are some of the noises that scare cats. If you provide your cat with brief reassurance, she will typically be fine.
If the behavior continues, there is clearly a more long-term cause. This could be anxiety caused by another pet, or a change in routine. If you have recently adopted a second cat, your existing pet may become anxious.
This especially likely the new cat bullies or dominates your existing cat. Manage this dynamic carefully. Keep the cats separate until they understand each other. If you keep making a fuss of one cat, the other will become jealous. This will only drive a further wedge between the animals.
Some cats are nervous or anxious by nature. These cats will follow you around, always looking for reassurance.
Secure Attachment vs. Insecure Attachment
It has been proved that cats bond strongly with their human owners. Cats love their humans. If they didn’t, they would not live in our homes. We have many habits that cats find infuriating and inexplicable.
How a cat bonds with her owner is pivotal. As discussed in Cell, cats are capable of bonding with their owners in a secure way. This contradicts previous suggestions made by the Public Library of Science. PLoS claims that all cat bonds with humans are insecure attachments.
A cat with a secure attachment to her owner knows that she is loved. She trusts her owner to meet her needs. A cat with a secure attachment may seem aloof. This is not the case. She just does not feel the need to be clingy.
A cat with an insecure attachment is different. These cats live with separation anxiety and similar nervous disorders. They fear that every time their owner leaves their sight, they may not return. As a result, cats with insecure attachments stick to their owners like glue.
Common reasons for insecure attachment in a cat include:
- Lack of daily routine
- Past trauma (especially surrounding abandonment)
- Multiple rehoming and adoptions
- Limited attention
As is often the case, the most effective way to combat this is routine. Build a schedule that helps to gain your cat’s trust. Feed and play with your cat at the same time every day. She will eventually come to realize that you can be trusted. This, in turn, forges a secure connection.
Estrus, Pregnancy, and Affection
When a cat is in heat (aka estrus), her hormones surge. This can result in uncharacteristic behaviors. The same also applies when a cat is pregnant.
Be mindful of this uptake in affection. Cats experience wild mood swings during this time. Your cat may be affectionate one moment and aggressive the next. She may also attack other pets, moments after approaching them.
This affection may also have an ulterior motive. Pregnant cats need to eat more. Your cat may be asking to be fed. If she is in estrus, she will be desperately keen to be let outside. If crying and caterwauling are not achieving this aim, she may appeal to you through affection.
You may also find that a cat is affectionate after giving birth. Your cat will be exhausted at feeding and caring for her young. She will look to you for comfort and reassurance that she is doing a good job.
Sickness and Affection
Sickness is arguably the least probable explanation for a cat to be clingy. The opposite is likelier. When cats are unwell, they prefer to hide. They do not want anybody to see their vulnerability.
Exceptions to this rule do arise. Your cat may seek comfort from you. This is especially possible if your cat has a short, temporary sickness. Vomiting, diarrhea or a UTI leading to incontinence are examples of this. Your cat wants to know that she is not in trouble.
Sickness will typically be accompanied by other changes in behavior. If your cat matches neediness with lethargy and a loss of appetite, see a vet. Do not panic. These are extremely broad symptoms that could mean anything. Routine tests will diagnose the problem.
How to Stop a Cat from Being Needy
Resolving clinginess in cats requires a bespoke approach. It depends on the cause of needy behavior.
If your cat is startled or frightened, offer reassurance. She will soon calm and down and return to normal. At that moment, she was seeking comfort from her caregiver. Consider this a compliment. Cats only demonstrate such vulnerability if they unequivocally trust you.
If your cat is attention-seeking, you’ll need a tough-love approach. If you respond every time your cat demonstrates affection, you’ll set a dangerous precedent. Cats have no respect for human schedules. You will be expected to provide attention at all hours.
Do not respond to a cat’s pleas for attention. Instead, get her into a routine. Schedule playtimes twice a day. Your cat will come to learn that this is her dedicated one-on-one time. This will keep her content.
You can also train your cat out of needy behavior. When she begins a routine of attention-seeking, try one of the following:
- Stamp your foot
- Clap your hands
- Turn your back
When your cat ceases behaving inappropriately, praise her. This approach will also help you cope with a jealous cat, or one with an insecure attachment. Cats need to know that their time will come. Once this has been established, your cat will relax.
If your cat is being affectionate because she is in heat or pregnant, there is little you can do. She is responding to a change in her hormones. Make your cat as comfortable as you can. The neediness will fade before long.