Cat owners love when their special friend comes to snuggle up, but what do we do when cuddling becomes constant? Personal space is necessary for us and our pets, so when cats are suddenly attached to our hips, should cat owners worry?
We asked Dr. Janet Cutler, a Certified Cat Behaviorist with a Ph.D. in animal behavior, to clue us in on why our normally serene felines are suddenly so lovey-dovey and when you should be concerned about it.
What does the normal level of feline affection look like?
Cats show affection many ways–from blinking their eyes to curving the tip of their tail! But what’s the normal level of feline affection? Cats are independent creatures that treasure their alone time and personal space, but they still want to show you a few times a day that they love you.
Great examples of normal feline affection involve a headbutt or two, slow blinking, wrapping their tail around you, and hanging out with you from a comfortable distance––neither clingy nor distant.
Your cat loves to say good morning and greet you when you come home from work. Cats love scheduled time together. For example, felines will enjoy the tender moment if there’s a tradition of sitting next to you in the evenings.
Does your cat constantly follow you around and rub up against you? Do you wake up in the middle of the night to find your cat near your face? Is your cat suddenly eliminating outside the litter box? Do you hear your cat getting vocal when you aren’t in the room? These can all be signs of cat clinginess and, sometimes, something more serious that may require medical attention.
Dealing with a Velcro cat? Here are some common health-related reasons
Dr. Cutler points out that any rapid changes in your cat’s behavior could be a sign of a potential medical problem. In fact, one of the telltale signs of your cat being uncomfortable is sudden, constant affection. It’s important to rule these out first with your veterinarian to be sure your cat isn’t sick or in pain.
Cats can often become more affectionate when they’re experiencing separation anxiety, and if your time away from home has changed recently, this may be the culprit. Imagine being in your cat’s “paws” for a moment––every time you leave the house, they feel there’s a chance you may not come back.
Dr. Cutler mentions some important telltale signs of separation anxiety. “There should be signs of destruction, urination or defecation, and vocalizations or excessive salivation,” she says. “Setting up a camera to check on your cat while you’re away to see what they’re doing can be a great introduction to getting help from a behavior professional.”
If your cat is a rescue, there’s also a chance they may have some past trauma in relation to being abandoned. They also may have been re-homed several times since coming to your home, which can make your cat feel extremely insecure.
To combat insecurity and make your cat feel more like they’re in their forever-home, establish a routine with your feline friend––this will build a strong sense of trust, and fears of being alone will eventually disappear.
A surprisingly simple reason for clinginess is boredom. Dr. Cutler chimes in that “sudden affection could be a sign that your cat needs a bit more mental stimulation. Spending a bit of extra time with your cat, like playing with them, providing puzzle toys or food balls, and other activities can help your cat conquer their boredom.”
Many situations can stress out your cat and therefore change their behavior. Have there been recent additions to the family? If you’ve got a new pet or have a long-term guest, for example, your cat could be anxious and choose to seek your comfort more often for affirmation.
Dr. Cutler recommends spending more quality time with your cat and choosing to do something they enjoy, like playing and petting. Giving your cat a new toy can also boost their positivity and encourage them to combat stress.
Hormonal changes and pregnancy
Intact female cats that are “going into heat or experiencing pregnancy can change their behavior,” Dr. Cutler says, noting that cats become incredibly affectionate and social during this time, as their goal is to alert nearby male cats that they’re seeking a mate.
It’s essential to be careful when your female cat is in heat––they love to use affection to leave the house with you or convince you to let them outside so they can find a male. If you want to avoid unplanned feline pregnancy and other potential issues, it’s best to keep your cat inside while she’s experiencing her heat.
Want to know an interesting fact? Some women have actually reported their cats becoming more affectionate when they’re expecting! This indicates that our felines can sense when their owners are going through hormonal changes.
In fact, cats can also sense a baby’s heartbeat in the last trimester and can identify your potential mood swings, temperature changes, and changes in body language and posture. This can make cats lovely companions during those nine months!
It’s vital to take your cat to the vet if they suddenly become clingy, as abrupt clinginess can often be a sign that something is medically wrong, or your cat is uncomfortable.
Cats can use affection to communicate, and when your usually aloof friend is crying and rubbing against you excessively, they may try to tell you something’s wrong.
For example, many cats with underlying kidney and urinary issues primarily become overly affectionate and eliminate outside of their litter box, while cats with undiagnosed diabetes or thyroid problems may be clingy and excessively thirsty (among other symptoms).
When illnesses and diseases are diagnosed early on, it can be lifesaving and can mean an easier process for your cat, which is less stress for both feline and owner. The sooner clinical signs are noticed, the sooner treatment can be initiated.
Your cat may also try to alert you to something irritating or itching them. Be sure to regularly check your cat for lumps, cysts, and other acne while also using a preventive parasite treatment that your vet approves.
Are you currently sick? Cats can become more affectionate when trying to bring comfort and make you feel better. Felines can even sense when you’re feeling ill and can express empathy.
Cats’ cravings for attention can change dramatically throughout the stages of life. If your cat is elderly, their senses may not be as sharp, and being near you makes them more confident and safer.
Since senior cats are more likely to have medical conditions, it’s very important that they regularly see their veterinarian, especially if there’s a sudden change in behavior.
More affection can also be a sign of your cat telling you they aren’t getting enough attention from you daily! If your cat becomes affectionate during feeding times, they’re telling you they’re hungry and ready to chow down!
My cat just turned a year old and has gotten more affectionate. What does this mean?
Feline emotions can change as they age, especially during the transition from kittenhood to adulthood. If your kitten was very independent, it’s possible he’ll want extra love and affection now that he’s an adult.
What does it mean when an ex-feral cat becomes overly affectionate?
An ex-feral cat may become more affectionate with you because it is settling into domestic life and is recognizing you as its human caregiver! You’ve likely put in a lot of love, effort, patience, and time into taming a feral cat––providing adequate food and shelter, medicine, and affection.
However, when can we tell if an ex-feral cat is becoming too clingy? Experts comment that ex-feral cats and domestic cats alike will not adore long-term petting or cuddling. It is normal for a cat to take a break after a few headbutts.
How do I stop my cat from being so needy and encourage independence?
If your veterinarian has given your cat a clean bill of health and medical issues have been ruled out, there are ways to tackle clingy behavior and encourage independence.
According to Dr. Cutler, playing with your cat and developing a routine will help your Velcro cat relieve boredom and anxiety, which are some of the most common reasons for increased affection.
Positive reinforcement can also help teach your cat what behaviors are desired and undesired. For example, if you notice your cat resting peacefully from a distance when you’re busy, approach them and give them a gentle pet (or a treat) and some praise. Over some time, your cat will discern which behaviors are preferred.
What are some common ways cats can show affection?
Cats have a universal set of actions they use to show affection. Some of their favorites include pawing or kneading near you, head-butting you gently, blinking or winking at you, licking or “grooming” you, and even rubbing and cuddling on you (being sure their cheeks touch you).
Wondering why cats rub on their favorite humans? This Cat-World article explains why your feline companion meows and loves to brush against you!
Why is my cat needy only at nighttime?
Since cats are nocturnal, they are more active at night. However, this can become a problem if you’re trying to get some shuteye!
Developing a routine with your cat and playing with them during the day will tucker them out in time for bed––then you’ll both get some well-deserved beauty sleep. A great time-efficient way to play with your cat is to give them a treat ball or supply them with a scratching post!
Many cats also love to cuddle with their favorite humans at night, which can be another common way cats show affection.
Why would my cat follow me around?
If your cat otherwise shows an average amount of affection, is healthy, but still follows you around, it could be because they’re asking for food or playtime, or they could be curious what you’re doing and want to increase their bond with you.
My cat ignores me too often! How can I encourage my cat to be more affectionate?
Spending more time with your cat is the best way to bond, but there are a few things to remember.
Cats love their personal space. If your cat is usually standoffish, this is especially true. Try presenting your cat with a toy or a treat and take a few steps back to show your cat that you respect their boundaries.
Experts also recommend giving your cat a gentle pet when they’re calm and letting them sniff you. Over time, your cat will become more comfortable with you, and your bond will strengthen. Next comes playtime and cuddles!
As cats aren’t usually fans of being picked up, it’s best to avoid this activity with your cat if they aren’t normally affectionate. A little goes a long way, and you’ll not only earn a cat’s respect, but their love and companionship as well!
I just got my cat spayed or neutered. Is it normal for cats to be more affectionate after surgery?
A spayed or neutered cat will become less hormonal and territorial due to no longer experiencing heat. They aren’t obsessed with finding a mate and will find new activities to do. The stress of trying to find a mate will be eliminated in some cats.
It is important to note that while cats can be more affectionate after surgeries; they are also in a healing process and should follow any post-op instructions given to you by your vet.