Cat lovers would be ecstatic if their cats loved them back just as much. Many cats do love back and they love back hard. In a human this kind of love might be characterized as obsession or unhealthy dependence. In a cat it is hardly normal or healthy – and there are many reasons why he might become so needy. Even though your cat’s perpetual presence might be cute and endearing, this kind of clinginess is also unhealthy for him.
Before you look at his behavior get confirmation from your vet that he is okay physically. Cats in some sort of pain or distress often exhibit needy behavior. If sickness is behind his clinginess, this surely means that he trusts you completely!
When a litter is orphaned the runt is the one to suffer the most. Basically, a premature baby, the runt will probably have physical or behavioral characteristics stemming from his early birth. If you’ve been kind enough to nurse orphaned kitties, you may notice that the runt will want to suckle your fingers. This has something to do with being taken away from his natural mother too soon.
While it’s not inherently bad for your kitten to suckle your fingers, allowing him to take over your life is not a good way to raise him. He is impressionable and how you respond to his overtures either prevent or encourage neediness.
A Sketchy Past
Dogs aren’t the only pets who grow increasingly fond of their rescuers. Cats feel this way too – for people who save them from dire circumstances and give them a proper home with meals included. They’re indeed smart enough to know who has taken them out of misery.
Because you’re his hero, your cat might worship you whenever you’re at home. Hero worship is okay if both of you can live normal lives when temporarily separated. For example, people with clingy pets will often find they can’t leave town. Their cats will cease taking care of his own basic needs – such as eating, drinking water, or even grooming himself. Only after you return to him will he resume his daily routine.
Bringing Out the Lion Heart
Possessive clinginess can’t be fun for you or your cat. Stopping this behavior will not be an overnight fix. You’ll need time and patience to wean him off you. First, don’t make a big fuss out of coming home or leaving home. Act the same as you would always – give your cat love and affection but keep the level of affection consistent. Leave the house for periods of time, gradually lengthening those periods. Take mini vacations close by so that you can come home should your cat stop eating again.
Try to switch the stimulus for eating. It’s very possible that he associates food with you. If you could transfer the stimulus to another substitute, you might at least be successful at getting him to eat in your absence. You’d win the entire match, not just a set.
Don’t punish him or put him in another room when he won’t leave you alone. This kind of reinforcement can backfire by making the behavior worse and more difficult to eradicate. With this type of behavior, ignoring it is more effective than acknowledging it.
By Gabrielle Allemeier
About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.