How To Get Your Cat To Stop Liking You So Much

needy cat peeking

 

I know what you’re all thinking. I can feel you judging me, even as I sit here typing this.

“Why,” you ask, “would I want my cat to like me less? She barely likes me as it is.”

 

If you’re in that camp, feel free to migrate on over to the next post in this series: How To Get Your Cat To Like You More.

 

worried cat faceNot sure where you stand with kitty? Well, if your cat liked you a little too much, you’d definitely know it. You’d feel it. You’d be feeling it right now. That warm little fur ball, permanently glued to your lap (or your shoulder, or your face, or your shins as you’re trying to walk across a room).

Such a thing exists, people. Cats who like you too much. Ok, misleading language—cats who need you too much. They’re called needy cats, and they can be a problem.

 

 

Signs you have a needy cat

Verily, there are few things in this life sweeter than the affections of a doting cat. But when you find yourself more often annoyed than enraptured, you could have a needy cat on your hands. Here are a few telltale signs:

 

clingy cat clings

  • Kitty follows you everywhere. You have to be careful about making sharp turns because you might accidentally kick her in the face.
  • Kitty positions herself directly on top of, or in front of, whatever you happen to be using.
  • Kitty stares at you constantly. Usually from close proximity; sometimes from dark corners.
  • Kitty refuses to be left alone—attempting to spend a few solitary minutes in the bathroom leads to yowling and scratching at the door.
  • Kitty seizes any opportunity to rub against you or cling to your body.
  • Kitty may not eat unless you’re home.

 

This is not to be confused, however, with—

 

 

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Sita, our resident DAK (demanding-ass kitty)

Signs you have a demanding cat

  • Kitty yells at you when it’s lunch time.
  • Kitty yells at you when it’s dinner time.
  • Kitty yells at you to wake up in the morning.
  • Kitty meows incessantly until you pick her up.
  • For the most part, kitty is independent… until she needs something.
  • Kitty will climb right into your lap without being invited.

 

 

 

What’s the difference?

Big difference. A needy cat is usually suffering from a lack of self-confidence, while a demanding cat has too much of it. A needy cat’s behavior is generally a sign of underlying emotional trauma, while a demanding cat has effectively manipulated you into being her b$%#. Ehem.. I mean being at her beck and call.

 

 

 

This stops now!!!cat looking eagerly

How do you fix needy or demanding behavior? Since these two issues stem from completely different sources, we’ll tackle them one at a time. (The issues, not your cats. Don’t tackle your cats.)

 

A couple notes:

  • If the behavior developed out of the blue, there’s a chance it’s a medical issue. Much like kids, cats can become whiny and dependent when they’re feeling sick, so a trip to the vet is in order to rule out any major health concerns.
  • If kitty was recently adopted into the home, it’s normal for her to display either extremely skittish or extremely clingy behavior at first, while she settles in. Shelter cats aren’t used to having loving, stable homes and will need time to regain their confidence. Give her some time.
  • Cats who were separated from their mothers too early (any time before 2 months is generally too early) will usually have attachment issues. It’s entirely possible that she’s imprinted on you as her true “mother.”
  • If you’re fairly confident the behavior isn’t medical and wasn’t brought on by emotional trauma, your cat could very well be bored. If she’s your only cat, I highly recommend adopting a companion for her (while making sure to introduce them properly).

 

Nipping it in the bud

As much as we’d like to reassure our nervous cats, too much reassurance can be a bad thing. We’d only be reinforcing her dependent behavior, so much so that it could become her new “normal.” Reinforce the behavior you want, and (gently) ignore the rest.

 

kitty on laptopWhen she starts to rub against you excessively or positions herself on your laptop, gently pick her up and move her away. Repeat this as many times as necessary. When she stays away for more than a few moments (or walks away!), reward her. Clicker training is useful in this situation, since it delivers instant positive reinforcement without you having to go diving for the treat bag.

By the way, keeping up this regimen will get old, really, really fast, but stay firm—and never angry or aggressive. Repetition and consistency is your friend. Remember, she’s suffering a crisis of instability and insecurity—conditioning her out of that state should be subsequently calm, steadfast, and consistent.

In the meantime, it’s incredibly important to ensure her surroundings are enriching and comfortable, with plenty of toys, beds, and vertical space.

 

 

Dealing with a demanding cat is more straightforward and less delicate, and requires less action on your part. Pretty much zero action, in fact. The principles are exactly the same: Reinforce the behavior your want, and ignore the rest.

British Shorthair kitten meowing in front of white background

Kitty yowls at you for attention? Ignore her completely. Don’t even look at the little gremlin. Don’t shout, either—that still constitutes attention and she’ll take what she can get. When she climbs into your lap demanding kitty cuddles, calmly move her away from you and continue to ignore her.

If this all sounds like a whole lot of unnecessary cold-shouldering, don’t worry—you should also be rewarding the behavior you want. Whenever she’s calm, quiet, and not in your face, give her snugs. Pet her and coo in that voice you reserve for talking to your fur children. If she jumps up and starts yowling again, immediately revert to full affection lockdown.

What do you mean, “Move, you have bills to pay..?”

 

With time (and consistency!), you’ll see her progress from demanding (MREOAWW), to demanding and frustrated (..MREAAAAWW!!), to tentatively demanding (MR..MREAW..?), to normal, non-annoying kitty (mreow).

Cats quickly learn what works and what doesn’t, so in this way they’re quite easy to “train.”

 

 

The Diagnosis

Now that you know how to keep kitty’s behavior in check, let’s get at the root of the issue. A cat who clings to your side for dear life, constantly requiring comfort and reassurance, is definitely feeling insecure.

 

timid kittyThink back to when the behavior started. Did something happen? The departure of a loved one? Was she, or someone else in the family, recently adopted in? If there’s been a new family member, have they been properly introduced? Have you thrown out a piece of furniture that she loved, or conversely, added one with a heavy, foreign smell? Depending on your cat’s personality and what constitutes a “major” change in her life, something must have triggered this new feeling of insecurity.

Understanding kitty’s sudden existential crisis can help you tailor your response accordingly, whether it means building up her confidence or just giving her a little extra time.

 

 

 

Looking to go even more XTREME? Try my final post in this series, How To Get Your Cat To Stop Liking You Entirely. (Which is really just a how-to in reverse, and should be ignored completely by everyone.)

Also, ensure you’re doing all you can to help your cats coexist peacefully with each other.

Go further down the rabbit hole and solve one of life’s big mysteries: Why do cats love boxes?

 

Have a needy kitty? What are your tips for dealing?

 

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how-to-deal-with-a-needy-cat

 

 

(New content goes up about once a month!)

 

20 comments

  1. Owner of Toulouse says:

    So if I completely ignore my demanding cat…are you sure he will still know that I love him?? Love these articles! Totally coming to you for cat advice haha!

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Thanks!! And yes, don’t worry. Demanding cats have thick skin – they’ve just been (unintentionally) conditioned into manipulating you for attention. You’re just re-conditioning them to try a more appropriate tack.

      Definitely still give Toulouse affection – but only when he’s being calm and quiet!

      1. Scott says:

        Thank you for writing this article. It has really opened my eyes more on how to get space from my cat.

  2. Ellen Pilch says:

    I wish mine were a little needy 🙂

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Haha! :] It’s definitely nice to feel wanted. Non-needy cats are healthy/happy cats though!

  3. Diane Ricciardi Stewart says:

    I have had cats in my life for 50+ years — currently owned by 12 — all adopted/rescued. Mine have all been on the relaxed/calm side — maybe because I don’t have a *stressed out* personality myself. We are usually *chillin’ like a villain*. Mine do follow me everywhere, and generally want to be where Mom is. In 50+ years, I have NEVER had any of them wake me to eat. They have always let Mom get her rest, and been patient waiting for me to wake to feed them. I’ve never had any climb curtains. Mine have been pretty well behaved over the years. I do have one polydactyl (Vegeta) who is a little ornery boy, and likes to knock things over — specifically cups! He likes to pull down the paper towels off the roll also. He has been my only truly ornery cat in all my years.But he is learning to chill out and be more calm as he gets older(he is 4). I love my *kids* and wouldn’t trade them for ANYTHING in the world. They are most definitely in their forever home with me. I am also (along with my son) a nerdy gamer, and would rather be at home with my cats when I am not at work, just relaxing, gaming, and loving my kitties. . . ♥♥♥

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Vegeta sounds like both my cats. 😀
      How I wish they were calmer! But yes, they’re both still quite young so they’ll probably mellow out with age…fingers crossed.

      Video games with a cat in my lap (and maybe a glass of wine) is my absolute ideal night in as well. Except when my legs cramp up and I can’t move them so as not to disturb kitty. Good to know a fellow gamer/kitty fanatic. :]

  4. Barbara says:

    I cried laughing at these articles! Came on here in a bad mood, as my cat is so clingy – I am typing this through fur and one-handed as my left arm has a cat on it! – but I now see she’s bored and a bit insecure (recently moved home). Hahaha, thank you for making me laugh so much! 😀

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Hi Barbara, thanks so much for the note! I’m glad I could help – and I definitely know the feeling. My cat used to climb onto my chest uninvited and start howling with desperation inches away from my face. So you’re not alone!! :]

  5. Harlow Jade says:

    My male cat is a needy demanding cat. Because he does everything on both lists save for “might not eat when I’m not home”.

    But I think he’s like this because he was separated from his mom. His mom’s owners “claimed” he was 9 weeks old, but I’ll bet money he was 4-6 weeks old max.

    I wasn’t able to take him to the vet (I had lost my job shortly after adopting him & was unemployed for awhile) until about 2-3 months after I got him, so I have no way of knowing how old he was when I got him for sure.

    He’s currently 18 months old, been neutered for one year, & his favorite place to be is within 3 feet of his mommy at all times.

    Yet he hates being held. What?

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Sounds like he was definitely separated from mom a bit too early. My cat Sita is similar–when she’s feeling insecure (like after a move), she’ll cling to me and follow me around the house yowling, but will shy away from being held.

      It’s actually quite common for insecure cats to be comforted by your presence, but find being held too suffocating/unsettling an experience. Being picked up requires an enormous amount of trust and self-assuredness on the cat’s part. How many adult humans do you know would be comfortable getting randomly scooped up by a (benevolent, granted) giant? Not many (Probably. I’ve never asked). Different strokes for different kitties, as they say.

      Keep doing what you’re doing, respect his boundaries, and speak to him in a soothing, calm, low, even voice. Works wonders, I promise! :]

  6. Kris Aaron says:

    I am the new owner of an extremely clingy & loud/demanding (depends on situation) former feral cat who was semi tamed by an unstable alcoholic woman before I got her (long story). I will try positive reinforcement with “Smoke”, and hope for the best. (It works with humans, I’ve found). thanks

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Reinforcement is awesome, as long as it’s calm and consistent! Cats can detect the difference between an irritated/aggravated tone (and will usually mirror that back at you), and calm, collected energy. Even if you’re delivering negative reinforcement (like “No!”), your calm, even tone serves to correct and reassure them at the same time. Strange? Perhaps. But it works!

  7. Priscilla Connell says:

    lol, Cleo is more the silent demanding cat. hates it when Im working, were I am she is just a few feet away, watching every move I make,lol not joking!as soon as I sit, she starts with rubbing up against me, if this doesn’t get me to make room on my lap, she will jump, climb her way up. not making a sound, just staring at me daring me to deny her.( have I mention she is an alha cat, also part bengal) when she gets there, if it was an easy way to get to my chest, she will curl up go asleep, if she had to work at, im still trying to read etc, she will try washing my upper body( the boys get a good grooming from her )till I pat her fav spot, than curl up and go alseep. If Im lucky it will only be 1/2 nap and she will move up behind me sleep on the chair back.
    from there she will await her chance to jump the boys when they are not looking(hubby & son)lol

    have learnt a quick hug will chase her off quickly , she likes it her way only !lol
    she is a character, my poor Romaneo, had his freedom taken when she arrived, she decided when , what , he did, but always gave a a good wash.a little OCD on the grooming.

    will have try your tips.

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Ha! I love this! Sounds exactly like Sita, and your “quick hug” remedy is spot on! Sometimes when I’m not in the mood to patienty scoot her away, I’ll scoop her up and give her a big, smothering kiss. She stalks right off. You’re right–only wants affection on her terms!! 😀

  8. Zamira says:

    I have 5 cats but only two have these problems. One is a very needy and demanding; while the other is clingy and gentle. The needy one is always fighting with the clingy one if she tries to play with her. Could that be the reason my clingy cat is craving for my attention?

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Sounds like your clingy cat feels insecure about her surroundings, so she looks to you for reassurance and comfort. Make sure your cats have enough vertical space, which will increase their confidence levels and decrease tension & squabbling. Also, it might be worth checking out my post, “How to help your cats get along.” Best of luck!

  9. Cinde says:

    THANK YOU! You may have saved my newly adopted cat from being returned! I would have hated to do it, but he is just about the most obnoxious animal I’ve ever had! May this be a long and healthy friendship!

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      I’m glad! Yes, newly adopted cats (especially adults) need lots of time and patience to adjust to foreign surroundings.

      He may have been abandoned several times throughout his life, so feelings of insecurity and erratic behaviors are more or less expected. The antidote to which is a calm, steadfast demeanor, consistent routine and a stimulating home environment. Calming pheromones (Feliway) may help too. Best of luck to you!

  10. california queen says:

    sometimes they get a bit more clingy as they become seniors (13+). happened with mine. not too annoying; just a bit more “into me” than usual, lol

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