Why Is My Cat So Clingy?
The cutest stalker.
Does it seem like every time you do chores around the house, you trip over something small and furry — your cat trailing behind you?
Cats follow their owners for a lot of reasons, and sometimes it can get to be stalker-level.
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Sabrina Kong, a veterinarian at Lathrop Veterinary Center and veterinary writer, and Dorothea Hudson, a cat behavior expert with PetInsuranceU.com, to find out why your cat keeps following you around.
Why does my cat follow me around?
There are a number of reasons for why your cat’s always underfoot.
“A highly clingy cat can be a symptom of a variety of other issues,” Hudson told The Dodo. “To narrow down the source, you need to evaluate multiple factors, such as physical vs. emotional causes.”
He thinks of you as his mom
Your cat may follow you around the house the same way a kitten follows his mother. Kittens are dependent on their moms, and similarly, your cat’s dependent on you for food, shelter and toys. So as his owner, you take on the role of your cat’s mom (or dad).
He wants to hang out with you
Your cat might just want to spend time with you. You’re his BFF, after all. This might be especially true if your cat’s the only pet in the house and you’re his usual buddy.
“Some cats are naturally clingy and affectionate, and they just want companionship,” Dr. Kong told The Dodo.
He wants food
If your cat’s following you around dinner time, he’s probably waiting for you to feed him.
“Other times cats can follow us because they have an agenda — to lead us to their food bowl, for instance,” Dr. Kong said.
Your cat might just be curious about what you’re doing. If there are certain areas of your house that are off limits to your cat, like your bedroom or bathroom, your cat might want to know what you’re doing when you disappear into those secret rooms.
“Another reason why cats might be following their owners is that they’re curious about what they do or want access to rooms in the house that are usually unavailable to them,” Dr. Kong said.
He wants attention
Your cat could be following you because he wants to get your attention. He may want to play with you or might want some petting after being home alone for a while.
“Cats might be clingy because they just want attention from their fellow humans,” Dr. Kong said.
If your cat’s following you and meowing, he’s probably trying to get your attention (unless it’s around mealtime — then he’s probably hungry).
Your cat might follow you because he’s bored, which is why it’s important to make sure your cat has lots of ways to entertain himself.
“If you are the main source of stimulation for your cat, he may become dependent on you for all interaction,” Hudson said. “Your cat may just need an exciting outlet to play and explore.”
Cat trees are a great way for your cat to get exercise and to practice his hunting skills, like pouncing and climbing.
“Consider buying toys, scratching posts, cat beds or even a cat tree with lots of elevated nooks and crannies for your cat to indulge in,” Hudson said.
You can get the Amazon Basics cat tree from Amazon for $80.99.
Interactive toys are also a good way to keep your cat occupied when you can’t play with him yourself.
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Your cat may be following you constantly if he has separation anxiety.
“Cats can experience separation anxiety,” Dr. Kong said. “What’s more, studies suggest that cats develop similar attachment styles as babies and dogs.” (Which means that cats aren’t as standoffish as you might think!)
Cats can develop separation anxiety for a variety of reasons.
“Cats might get separation anxiety when their routine changes, but it can also be in cases where they were not weaned properly, if they are [the] only pets at home and if they’re constantly staying indoors,” Dr. Kong said.
Your cat may start to follow you around more if she’s pregnant.
“If your cat is [an unspayed] female, she may be pregnant and looking for extra attention and support,” Hudson said.
Some other signs to look for include increased appetite, weight gain, more affectionate behavior, nesting and swollen abdomen.
(It’s important to get your cat spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted litters in the first place.)
Older cats may follow their owners more often.
“In old age, some cats feel more vulnerable and skittish, and they begin to only trust their owners,” Hudson said.
Cats will sometimes follow their owners when they’re sick. This usually happens because your cat wants you to protect him or because he feels dependent on you for his safety (like for his food, for example).
“It should be noted that if your cat is becoming withdrawn from others and dependent on you, this could be a sign of more severe sickness,” Hudson said. “Cats have evolved to hide when they feel sick as a safety mechanism to reduce their vulnerability.”
Why does my cat follow me everywhere and no one else?
If your cat only follows you around, you can take that as a compliment. It’s because he likes you best! Your cat likely feels more comfortable around you than he does around visitors or other members of your household (the same reason why your cat may knead you but not someone else).
Why is my cat suddenly clingy?
If your cat suddenly becomes super clingy, there could be a couple of reasons, including:
- Anxiety — Cats like routine, and they can develop anxiety when there are sudden or major changes to their routines, such as moving or a new baby in the family, which could make them want to be close to their owners to feel safe.
- Separation anxiety — If you start spending more time away from the house or return from a trip and your cat suddenly is following you everywhere, he could have separation anxiety.
- Medical illness — Sudden changes in cats’ behavior can often be due to illness, so you should check to see if your cat has any other symptoms.
If you ever notice any sudden changes in behavior in your cat, you should contact your vet because it could be a medical issue.
How can you tell if your cat has separation anxiety?
If your cat is overly attached to you and becomes distressed whenever you leave him alone, he could have separation anxiety.
Some cats may be more prone to separation anxiety.
“A cat weaned too young from its mother’s milk has a higher likelihood of separation anxiety later in life,” Hudson said. “Likewise, if the cat was removed from its littermates before 8 weeks, this could cause separation anxiety too.”
Cats who were abandoned or who have had multiple owners in the past might also be more likely to develop separation anxiety.
“Some of the signs of separation anxiety in cats include defecating outside of the litter box, meowing too much, excessive grooming and being too clingy to their owner,” Dr. Kong said.
Common signs of separation anxiety in cats include:
- Going to the bathroom outside of a litter box
- Crying and meowing when you’re gone
- Not eating while you’re gone
- Excessive grooming
- Being clingy
- Destructive behavior
- Trying to escape
Keep in mind that symptoms of separation anxiety in cats can resemble symptoms of other conditions. So if you think your cat might have separation anxiety, it’s important to talk to your vet to make sure it’s not another illness.
If your cat is diagnosed with separation anxiety, your vet might recommend anxiety medications or calming products to help, like a pheromone diffuser or an anxiety vest.
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How to stop my cat from following me
If your cat’s constantly following you around the house, there are some things you can do to try to get some alone time. Here are some tips:
- Don’t make leaving the house a big deal. For example, don’t announce when you’re leaving or when you arrive back home.
- Provide activities for your cat so he doesn’t get bored and can play on his own.
- “Talk to your veterinarian and get a complete physical examination to rule out physical variables,” Hudson said.
- If your cat has separation anxiety, talk to your vet about how to treat it. “If you suspect separation anxiety, you can buy medications for severe anxieties, and you can even hire, yes, a cat therapist,” Hudson said.
So if your cat follows you a lot, it might just be because you’re his favorite person. But if he suddenly starts doing it, seems way too clingy or if you notice other signs that he’s sick, you should see your vet to make sure there isn’t something else going on.
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