While dogs are known as man's best friend, eager to learn tricks and constantly shadow their owners, cats are quite the opposite. They're notoriously independent and generally require significantly less attention than their canine counterparts. They often keep to themselves much of the time...at least until they decide otherwise.
Because we're used to this aloof nature, it can really stand out if a cat does become needy. Perhaps he or she is meowing at you more than normal or is more regularly underfoot (or on your keyboard). Maybe your sleep is being interrupted by your cat lately, who is making a habit of climbing onto your chest for late-night cuddle sessions. But what causes these behavior changes? There are a few potential explanations.
Is your cat adopted or are you fostering?
It's not surprising for cats to be clingy when they're first introduced to a new home or environment. Dependence is particularly common among rescue cats, who have experienced a variety of environments and minimal stability. Hopefully with a little time, your new pet will relax and feel less anxious; that said, older cats who have been newly rescued and show signs of neediness may be more set in their ways and less likely to chill out.
The best bet is to take your newly rescued kitty to the vet if he or she is showing signs of needy behavior. A professional can rule out medical issues (which could be the real cause), or help you come up with a plan for providing your cat with a comfortable, stress-free home.
Is your cat sick?
Similar to their human owners, cats can get whiny when they're feeling under the weather. It's a way of communicating. If you've noticed sudden behavioral changes in your cat, it's worth a trip to the vet to rule out a medical issue or illness. Even small problems can lead to noticeable differences in behavior.
During the vet appointment, be sure to bring up the changes you've witnessed and be prepared to give examples if necessary.
Is your cat bored?
This often becomes apparent after the sun goes down. Your cat has spent the greater part of the day napping and lounging around, and now he or she has some pent-up energy to release. Whether it's whipping around the house at full speed or meowing incessantly while you're trying to get your zzzs, cats can have sudden behavioral outbursts in an attempt to get your attention.
To help quell this (potentially) annoying behavior, give your cat some mental stimulation and attention while you're awake, as well as entertainment in the form of toys for those hours while you're fast asleep.
Is your cat simply demanding?
There's a big difference between needy and demanding; the former is a dependence issue and the latter is a form of manipulation. Like humans, cats learn what behaviors get them the results they want.
Do you jump up and let her out when your kitty meows a certain way? Does constant meowing drive you to dole out extra food, treats or more attention? Many pet owners pamper their cats, and rightfully so. But if you go above and beyond on a regular basis, your cat will likely get used to it and "ask" for it again should you stop. Instead, be cognizant of any negative reinforcement you may be inadvertently giving clingy actions. You don't want demanding behavior to become routine.
By Tara Hall
About the Author
Tara Hall is an animal-loving writer and editor based in Austin, Texas. Her portfolio runs the gamut from small business marketing content to travel writing, fashion editorial and national music coverage.