Is it possible to make my cat less needy?
May 17, 2012 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Cat psychology filter: Is it possible to make my cat less needy?

I like cats because of their independence, playfulness and quiet nature - none of which apply to my cat, unfortunately. Is there any way at all to encourage her to be more...catlike? (This is my cat.)


-About 8 years old - I've had her since she was 3, from a shelter but no known abuse or neglect.
-She's always been very affectionate but she's been unbearably needy since my ex moved out almost a year ago. I think she got spoiled with 2 people around and she still hasn't adjusted to having just me around.


-Never plays with any toy (various balls, mice, fishing toys, etc) other than reluctantly a laser pointer, until she gets bored after a few seconds. Constantly staring at me. If I try to play with her, she just keeps staring at me. No sign of interest in anything except humans.

-Will. not. stop. enthusiastically rubbing her face/body/butt against any part of me. If I let her, she'll literally keep doing it for at least 15 minutes (probably much longer, but that's about my limit). If I'm sleeping, it's my face which is especially annoying. Petting doesn't seem to change this for better or worse since she does it constantly either way.

-if I'm in the bathroom, she sits at the door howling and scratching at the door. If I leave my room to talk to someone, she'll sit at the door howling, even if the door is open. But she's totally fine when I'm not in the house or even away for a week, according to my roommates. It's just when she knows I'm there. If I'm home, she's right next to me, or unhappy that she's not.

-she insists on sleeping on my pillow, on my head, and will return no matter how many times I remove her.

-just overall constantly demanding attention. She's the cat equivalent of a boyfriend who doesn't have any interests other than staring lovingly into your eyes 24/7. Nauseating, right? Even my dog was better!


-she has hated every cat she's ever met. The best she's done was hatefully tolerating a tiny kitten (growling, hissing and avoiding but no actual fights). So getting another cat is not really a solution. Also disliked dogs and ferrets but very friendly and never aggressive towards people.

-she's terrified of everything, despite loving people. She won't really leave my room to find the other people in the house, or if she does she'll dash back inside if anyone looks at her. She's in heaven if anyone comes in my room to pet her. She seems to be completely comfortable in my room though, as long as no other animals are there.

Any suggestions to reduce the neediness?? Is that even possible? It's starting to annoy me enough that I'm giving her less attention, even though I know that's counterproductive. I know it's mostly personality but she's been so much worse this past year! I've even thought of rehoming her since it's driving me crazy and I'm starting to resent her, but with her age that's unlikely.
posted by randomnity to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Indoor cat initiative. Lots of good information there.
posted by biscotti at 7:54 AM on May 17, 2012

She sounds super stressed out. Feliway and talking to your vet about ways to reduce anxiety - including medication.

Pets can be just like humans and have anxiety disorders. Maybe since your ex disappeared, she's afraid you'll disappear too.
posted by royalsong at 7:54 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

How long have you given her to get to know other cats? Most cats hate stranger cats on sight but will adjust over a period of days or weeks. That is the most obvious solution to get her to leave you alone, even though it could be difficult through the adjustment period.
posted by something something at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2012

Our adult cat hated our new kitten so much that I actually thought there would be a murder situation. But we used Feliway and within a couple of weeks she was madly in love with the newcomer, and they've been best friends now for years.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:59 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sounds like the last 3 cats I've had... including my current one I adopted in March.. At first, he was independent and afraid of everything... then we bought feliway to help his stress of moving. Well, now he just constantly stares at me and follows me around. Sometimes it can be annoying, but this is most cats are.
posted by KogeLiz at 8:15 AM on May 17, 2012

This sounds like my boyfriend's cat. I don't know if any of this helps, but if anything, I totally feel you and it's crazymaking at times.

We've started shutting the door to his room at night to keep kitty out, or else kitty is in our faces 24/7, including when we're trying to have sexytime. Not good. Kitty will then bang on the door and howl, but gives up after a good solid 20 minutes.

If we're watching tv together, kitty is in our faces, similar to yours - rubbing, butt in the face, etc. etc. we will indulge him for a little bit and then kick him off our laps when we can't take it anymore.

I think his cat has an issue with boundaries, actually. My BF has totally spoiled that cat to the point where the cat rules the house and goes anywhere he pleases. We've started using a spray bottle for counters, etc. but I have to be careful not to leave certain items out in the open or else kitty will chew/scratch/destroy because he just does what he wants. I think the point is to just not give into his constant needyness.
posted by floweredfish at 8:25 AM on May 17, 2012

Some cats just don't like other cats.

Have you tried taking her out of your room for attention? She might be calmer since she is with you so she feels safe, and then she can get attention from other people with you there, and then she will perhaps be willing to go out of your room on her own later.
posted by jeather at 8:29 AM on May 17, 2012

My cat was like this during the year we lived alone, so when I moved out of my roommate-with-cat situation to my own condo, I got her a kitten. She loathed it. They still, six years later, cordially dislike one another, but you know what? She's not needy at all. Now, it's possible that she just grew out of it, but I like to think that having an extra being around to hassle and interact with has helped her out - and I have a strong suspicion that when I'm gone for a day or three, they're actually friendlier to one another. (They have this tendency to slip up and, like, cuddle for a second when I get home and then look horrified and hiss and smack one another when they notice me.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:40 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

My cat was like this until I got him a friend. They definitely did not get a long for the first few months, but they eventually got used to the situation and kept each other company. I wouldn't say they are best friends or anything, but they are quiet companions.

One note if you decide getting a kitten is worth trying, in my experience female cats don't like other female cats unless they were raised together. I would recommend definitely getting a kitten (animals tend to tolerate babies better in general) and getting a boy. Keep claws trimmed and let your current cat express boundaries with the kitten--only intercede if there's a chance the kitten will be physically hurt.
posted by Kimberly at 9:02 AM on May 17, 2012

Response by poster: re: other cats - I've thought about it, especially since she somewhat tolerated the kitten before. She's had pretty sustained but casual interaction with 2 cats (separately) who've lived in the house over the years - the last one was a jumpy young male neutered cat who mostly stayed out of her space, but she'd hiss and swipe at him if he came close (even after living in the house for years)

The current one is a super laid-back 4-year old male neutered cat who is mostly outdoors but likes to come hang out in my room when he's inside, every few days. They've improved to the point where they can sometimes be in the same room if they pretend the other doesn't exist. He's fairly friendly and non-aggressive with her but pushes boundaries; she ignores him if he's far away and hides/hisses/growls when he comes close - he'll end up cornering her or running after her and she'll either run or swipe at him, then they get in fights. He's been living in the house for a couple years now and she's definitely still stressed out by him. Same thing with a past dog.

Would it really be different with a kitten? When we had a tiny kitten with us for a few weeks she mostly ignored it but would still hiss when it came near her. Would that improve with time.

Feliway is something I haven't tried - I don't know if anxiety is the problem since she seems totally relaxed in my room (without the other cat there). It's only when she's outside that she freaks out. The thought of combining it with a new cat is interesting, though - I'd be a bit worried though in case it didn't work out and made her more stressed.
posted by randomnity at 10:02 AM on May 17, 2012

Response by poster: Oh and I don't let the other cat in my room unsupervised since that seems like a recipe for disaster (he belongs to a roommate). So the door to my room is closed during the day and open when I'm home. My cat has lots of space to hang out, though (it's more of a bachelor apt than a pure bedroom).
posted by randomnity at 10:07 AM on May 17, 2012

Can you foster a kitten from the shelter? There may be a situation where you can keep the kitten for several weeks to see if your current cat's behavior improves. Because honestly, your cat sounds bored and anxious, which is a great recipe for bugging you all the time. Even if she's not interested in toys, a rambunctious kitten will probably initiate plenty of pouncing and games that could alternately distract, annoy or please the adult cat. I think the worst possible scenario is restless_nomad's, where your cat calms down a bit just because she's not the only animal in the house, even though she may not necessarily like the other feline.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:13 AM on May 17, 2012

Does your cat have any areas where she can get up above everyone? like kitty shelves? or a path to the top of bookcases? Some cats aren't comfortable if they can't survey the area before interacting with other people, which is why they run and hide when people come into their area.

My kitty didn't like playing with anything until I got him this ball for feeding. Well, I got it to help him lose weight, but it awakened his hunting instinct and he started playing a lot more. Might be worth a try.
posted by patheral at 10:38 AM on May 17, 2012

It sounds like your cat is very super duper protective of her territory (which is your bedroom and you). If there is another cat in the house, that is his territory (to her) which is why she probably doesn't leave your room. If you want her to leave your room, pick her up and carry her around the house with you while you do some mundane thing like talk to a roommate. Start with just a minute or two, but build it up until she appears to be more comfortable with the house. Don't force her to explore, just carry her like you would a baby when you go to another bedroom. Make sure you always bring her back to your room...don't let her run in fear back.

I have a 10 year old cat that is pretty attached to me, and will stay with me while I'm at home (exception is when I go upstairs...I think she's getting tired of running up and down the steps). I've somehow trained her to lay on a bath towel and that's become her favorite thing. Put down a bath towel on the couch and it is instantly hers. She still does the rubbing thing against me, but 90% of the time she will rub for a minute or two and then plop down on the towel. She also will sleep with me on the bed, but if there's a towel there she's usually on that instead of on me.

Toby is 2 and runs like a wild banshee anytime I go somewhere in the apartment (unless he's sleeping). He even peeks in on me while I'm in the shower. I think he's just that damn curious and young. He likes to rub my nose, but I will let him get one rub in then push him away and pet him with my hand. When I introduced Toby to Little Feet there was lots of this going on but now they love each other. (sorry....had to share!)

They rub on you in order to share scents. If you smell like them, they know that you belong to them (and vice versa). She may be very scent oriented, which could be why she's constantly rubbing on you and where some Feliway would help.
posted by MultiFaceted at 11:26 AM on May 17, 2012

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