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?

 

Pin it!

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

37 comments on “How To Get Your Cat To Stop Liking You So Much”

  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

  11. Jeeves’ mom says:

    I have Jeeves, a little Tuxedo with a bit of clingy-ness to him. He mostly clings to the dog when he’s upset, the dog tolerates this growling under his breath with his eyes narrowed until he can’t stand it and just gets up and goes to the other room. Jeeves usually gets the hint and leaves at that point. If I’m ever in the bed, Jeeves has to cuddle under my chin and has always burrowed up under my arm since he was tiny. He’s about 6 or 7 months old now and still suckles on the blankets. I don’t know how to stop this behavior. I think he was only about 4 weeks old when I got him. He was found in a box on the side of the road with two litters inside. One litter had barely just opened their eyes. Jeeves is one of the older ones. I’ve broken him of getting in the way of me and whatever screen I’m looking at but he still wakes me up to let him outside in the morning as he refuses to use the litter box.

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Hi Jeeve’s mom! Sorry to hear about your clingy cat. Kittens separated from their moms too early are definitey a handful. I would try easing him into using a litterbox by placing a large pan of litter (the larger the better) just outside the door where you normally let him out. Is there a way you can pen the area in with some chicken wire? That way, technically he’ll still be outside, but his only option for relieving himself will be the pan of litter. Gradually decrease the size of the pan until you’re using your indoor litterbox. Then, bring the box inside. This is roughly the same process used to transition cats to a new food, or even to train one to use the toilet: Incremental baby steps! You can make the process even more gradual (and effective) by filling the pan with his preferred outdoor “litter,” (like soil, sand, or whatever he typically relieves himself in), and gradually adding your own litter.

      Also, remember to reward the behavior you want–don’t just discourage the behavior you don’t want. It will be doubly effective. Good luck.

  12. Edy says:

    Hey, thank you so much for this amazing article!
    I’ve just adopted a 7 months old cat 3 days ago, and I was about to go crazy… he is soooo needy, is on me, with me, under me, is every place I want to sit, walk, go… Actually I stay at home all day these days because I have chronic illness, and I feel the little cutie is draining all my enrgies… I got a bit reassured reading your article, but I’ve had cats before and they were never so overwhelming! I sure hope eveything will calm down. 🐈🐾

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      You’re welcome!
      3 days is not much time at all for a new cat to settle in to his new environment. Give it at least two months before expecting his behavior to “normalize.” Cats take EVERYTHING slowly and deliberately–getting to know a new home and new parent is absolutely no different! Steady, consistent, unwavering patience and reassurance is key during this phase. Good luck!

  13. Natalia says:

    Me and my husband recently got a kitten. She is about 4 months. We got her fro a shelter where she was with her sister. I am working in an office and have home based business. So when I am working with a client at home she would climb on me, on my table or on a cliet and try to interact with us.She is not that clingy but she follow us everywhere in the house. Even she is sleeping.. and one of us leaves the room she gets up and start followig. She love to be pet or get picked up unless she is in playful mood, then she prefers to run around :)) We playing with her, and she has toys and we have separate bedroom. She is very sweet.. but there is time when I cannot be bothered. I really need an advice!!! 🙂

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Kittens are best in pairs! This is very typical behavior for a solitary kitten. Cats, especially while young, are extremely social, playful, and high-energy. It sounds like your kitten is craving companionship. I know it sounds like a huge ordeal (but it really isn’t–I promise), but the BEST thing you can do for your kitten is to adopt a kitten companion for her. Two cats are actually much easier to care for than one, since they have each other for companionship and are generally healthier, happier, and less destructive, ie: not bored and bothering you constantly!

      Please consider it. If you can’t, that’s understandable. But rest assured that your high-energy kitten WILL mellow out over time–my first kitten settled down after about a year and a half. :]

  14. Marilyn Swanson says:

    my cat does all this, except he attacks my legs and bites. i cannot put up with this much longer, am afraid to walk past him. am thinking of returning him, but i love him, HELP!!!

  15. Marilyn Swanson says:

    my cat is 2 and all the time ive had him, he has bitten me in the leg a lot. he needs a lot of attention, too much.

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Hi Marilyn, I’m sorry to hear about what you’re going through! It sounds like your cat has a lot of pent-up energy. Make sure he gets a lot of interactive playtime with you. If you don’t already have one, get yourself a wand “fishing” toy, and play with him for at least 10 minutes every day, making sure he’s running and you’re getting his heart rate up. If he attacks your legs, redirect his attention away with the toy. Does he have an enriching, interactive environment at home? Lots of climbing trees and vertical territory? Cover those bases, ensure you’re giving him plenty of physical playtime, and you should see his behavior improve.
      Also, bear in mind that at age 2, cats are typically at their most active/playful. Many cats benefit from having a cat friend, if you think you’re mentally/financially equipped to take on another cat. When properly introduced (slowly and gradually), cats make excellent lifelong companions and playmates for each other, taking much of burden (and physical ambushes) off of you.

      1. Marilyn Swanson says:

        thanks, I try to play with him but sometimes when I stop he attacks my legs. it is very cold out and he is an inside cat. he runs around and plays with his toys but most of the time his attention is on me. he follows me everywhere. i cannot handle this, i walk around with a spray bottle hoping he’ll not attack. i thought about another cat but i’m 80 and don’t think i want to take the chance of having it not work out. just am in a quandry.

  16. Marilyn Swanson says:

    thanks, I try to play with him but sometimes when I stop he attacks my legs. it is very cold out and he is an inside cat. he runs around and plays with his toys but most of the time his attention is on me. he follows me everywhere. i cannot handle this, i walk around with a spray bottle hoping he’ll not attack. i thought about another cat but i’m 80 and don’t think i want to take the chance of having it not work out. just am in a quandry.

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Hm… that’s certainly a tough pickle. It really does sound like he’s hankering for a high-energy playmate. I think you’re absolutely right to keep him indoors–he’ll live longer and healthier this way. The key is to make his home environment as enriching as it would be if he were outdoors. That means plenty of hideaways, vertical space, toys, etc. Try getting him a puzzle feeder (I’ve linked a few I like on this site, you can use the search bar to find them) and automated toys. Hide treats around the house for him to “hunt.” Invest in a towering jungle gym (if you can swing it). If all this sounds like a bit much, it may be wise to rehome him to a family who can adopt another companion for him.
      If you’re interested in “cat personalities,” try to make sure your next cat is a “beta” or “gamma.” Take a read here: http://www.wayofcats.com/blog/cat-types
      Best of luck. I really hope it works out!

  17. Marilyn Swanson says:

    thanks so much for your suggestions, ive been thinking about a younger home for him. it surely will break his heart, mine too.

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      I’m so sorry. :/ It’s never easy to make choices like this, but if you’re selective and careful about rehoming him, I promise you’ll both be much happier in the long run. Don’t lose hope and don’t feel guilty–you’re doing what’s best.

  18. Mike says:

    My Roxxi lost her human to cancer a year and a half ago. When I went back to school last September she became very needy. She will usually meow these loud and sad meows while trying to look behind all the doors. Then I yell at her to stop and she runs up and hops in my lap.

    She will do this all the time, many times a day. I am convinced that she is still mourning her lost human.

    Any further advice for a kitty in mourning?

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      I’m so sorry for your kitty’s loss. :/

      Firstly, be patient with her! Cats are creatures of habit, and maintaning a comfortable routine for her is key. Try (if you can) to make her days as predictable as possible, at least until she feels more stable. Avoid going on long vacations or staying out too late past the time you normally come home. If you normally play with her or cuddle with her at a certain time each day, make a point to do it consistently.
      That said, do your best to enhance her daily routine with fun/engaging distractions, like bringing out new toys, adding a new piece of climbing furniture, or creating more welcoming kitty hideouts around the house. Something as simple as a cat hammock on a window or a plush bed with a view can do worlds to cheer up your cat and keep her mind occupied on simple, happy things.

      With cats going through loss, it’s important that your own demeanor is as patient, constant, and calm as possible. With a bit of time and devotion, you should see her perk up soon. I hope she feels better!

      1. Mike says:

        Thank you!

        I will try to do these things as best I can. 🙂

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