Sudden changes in behavior are always worrying signs 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 a reason for this change in your feline’s personality.
A cat may be more affectionate than normal due to anxiety. For example, it may be afraid of a new arrival (pet, baby, or partner) in the home and feel insecure. A loud noise could have spooked your cat, or it may realize that it is unwell and feel afraid. Pregnant cats and cats in heat are clingy due to fluctuations in their hormones.
Perhaps your pet wants attention as cats know how to manipulate humans. Displaying affection can be a way to get a tasty treat or more petting. If your cat’s needy behavior continues, then you need to assess why.
My Cat Has Become Very Clingy
Cats have a reputation for being indifferent to their human owners, but this is just a myth. Cats forge complex bonds with humans, but they are less likely to display affection than us.
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.
You need to assess whether your cat is actually clingy. Some owners mistake 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 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 gentle headbutt from your cat is normal. If you have forgotten a meal or playtime, you will also be reminded.
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 bad as it may be afraid of you. Your cat 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 can be physically dangerous, as cats can get underfoot. Also, the cat may develop separation anxiety. This will see your cat damage your home in some way whenever you leave the house.
A normal, happy cat will be neither clingy nor aloof. The cat will seek attention on occasions when it 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 should be monitored.
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 and are too used to having things their own way. They consider themselves to be in control.
This is unlikely. There is usually an explanation for a cat suddenly becoming clingy. Cats become overtly affectionate because:
- It wants more attention than you are providing
- It is nervous and anxious and seeks reassurance
- It has an insecure attachment to you
- She is in heat or pregnant
- It is feeling unwell
You will be able to determine 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
A cat may become more affectionate because it lacks attention. Its needy behavior may be a plea for more attention and affection. Alternatively, it may feel threatened or sidelined. If you have recently added a new pet or person to the home, this is common. Aside from excess affection, signs that a cat is looking for attention include:
- Destructive behavior (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 certain behaviors get a response, it will repeat them. The only exception is if your cat is looking for attention for a specific reason. Have you forgotten to feed it?
Schedule some one-on-one time with your cat. Spend 20 minutes playing at least twice a day. If you keep this up, your cat will calm down. It will learn to expect those play sessions and wait for them to happen each day.
Nervous and Anxious Behavior
Your cat may follow your around because it is frightened. If this happens, something has clearly spooked your pet. Cats dislike showing fear, so your cat is seeking your attention because it 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 reassure your cat, it’ll be fine.
If the behavior continues, there is clearly a different cause. This could be anxiety caused by another pet, moving furniture, or a change in routine. If you have adopted a second cat, your existing pet may feel more anxious.
This is more likely if the new cat bullies or dominates your existing cat. Manage this dynamic carefully. Keep the cats separate until they understand each other. If you show more attention to one cat, the other will become jealous.
Some cats are naturally nervous, skittish, or anxious by nature. These cats will follow you around, always looking for reassurance.
Secure Attachment vs. Insecure Attachment
It has been proven that cats bond strongly with their human owners. If they didn’t, they would not live in our homes so contentedly. How a cat bonds with its owner is pivotal to the human-feline relationship.
According to Cell, cats are capable of bonding with their owners in a secure way. This is contrary to previous research by the Public Library of Science. PLoS claims that all cat bonds with humans are insecure attachments.
A cat with a secure attachment to its owner knows that it is loved. It trusts its owner to meet its needs. A cat with a secure attachment may seem aloof, but this is not the case. It does not feel the need to be clingy.
A cat with an insecure attachment is different. This cat has separation anxiety or a similar nervous disorder. It fears that every time its owner leaves its sight that it 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 deal with 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. It will eventually come to realize that you can be trusted. This, in turn, forges a more secure connection.
Estrus, Pregnancy, and Affection
When a cat is in heat (estrus), her hormones surge. This can result in uncharacteristic behaviors. The same also applies when a cat is pregnant.
If your cat is in estrus, she will want to be let outside. If crying and caterwauling fail to achieve 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 as they do not want anybody to see their vulnerability.
Exceptions to this rule do arise, though. Your cat may seek comfort from you. This is 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 with you.
Other changes in behavior will accompany sickness. If your cat matches neediness with lethargy with a sudden loss of appetite, take it to a vet.
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. Your cat will soon calm and down and return to normal. At that moment, it was seeking comfort from her owner. Consider this to be 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 precedent. Cats have no respect for human schedules and will be expected to provide attention at all hours.
You can train your cat out of needy behavior. When it 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 it or offer a treat. This approach will also help you cope with a jealous cat or an insecure attachment. Cats need to know that their time will come very soon. Once this has been established, your cat will relax.
If your cat is affectionate because she is in heat or pregnant, you can do little to help. She is responding to a change in her hormones. Make your cat as comfortable as you can. The neediness will fade before too long.