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What is Clingy?

Studies have shown that dogs are typically clingier than cats; however, recent research has shown that clingy cats, or cats that suffer from separation anxiety, is a genuine concern. Cats that are overly clingy with their owners are ones that want to be petted very often, groom themselves excessively, want to be held seemingly all the time, cry out when they do not receive attention, have the desire to “groom” their owners by licking them, and do not like to be left alone. These cats suffer from emotional instability, and some may have psychological issues. A feline that is overly clingy and suffers from separation anxiety can cause the owner to be at a loss on how to fulfill their cat’s needs. Suffering from separation anxiety can happen due to the following reasons:

  • They were orphaned or abandoned
  • They were weaned too early
  • They were removed from their littermates too early

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Why Clingy Occurs in Cats

Cats that are clingy and have separation anxiety have behavioral symptoms that are protective and reactive. They do not want to be left alone, and may cry often when they are. When their owners are present, they want to always be in their arms or lap in order to “protect” themselves from being alone. When left alone, they react with odd behaviors, such as urinating or defecating outside the litter box or hiding in a closet. They may excessively chew or scratch furniture or other household possessions. Reasons why these behaviors may occur are because:

Orphaned or Abandoned

Cats that have lost their mother right after birth do not have the opportunity to bond, making their very early days difficult to adjust. These cats often have clinginess or separation anxiety with their owners due to lack of early nurturing.

Weaned Too Early

Cats that were weaned to early from their mother’s milk may also develop anxiety, which can lead to clingy behavior and separation issues.

Removed From Littermates Too Early

Cats that were abruptly removed from their littermates (without any transition, or gradual weaning) before the age of 8 weeks may be susceptible to emotional issues as they grow up. Cats and their littermates have a very strong bond, and when they are removed too early, they may suffer from separation anxiety and clinginess.

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What to do if your Cat is Clingy

If your cat is showing signs of clinginess and separation anxiety, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Having a complete physical examination will rule out any other health conditions that may be causing some of his symptoms. Once these health conditions are ruled out, your veterinarian will base the diagnosis of separation anxiety on other factors.

Your veterinarian may want to take basic laboratory tests in order to check for health problems. Blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile will check your cat’s organ functions and overall health. The vet will also do a complete physical examination on your cat, and if he notices any signs of illness, he may need to run more tests to get to the root of the problem. You may find that your companion has external parasites, which is why he may be grooming more than normal, or he may have a urinary tract infection or some other illness which may be causing him to urinate outside the litter box, if he is doing so.

Your medical professional will also ask questions pertaining to his behavior. He may want to know how old your kitten was when you adopted him, how long he was being nurtured by his mother, and how long he spent with his littermates. These factors are very important in a cat’s emotional development. The veterinary doctor may also want to know if your cat has had more than one owner, because cats that have been shuffled from owner to owner may have a sense that they will lose you as their owner.

Once your veterinarian gathers more information, he will come to a conclusion about why your cat may have separation anxiety. There are ways to treat this condition. A behavioral therapist may help, or he may give you advice on what you can do to help your cat. For severe cases of clinginess and separation anxiety, there are medications that can be prescribed to help your cat.

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Prevention of Clingy

In terms of prevention, it is very important that kittens stay with their mother and littermates for as long as possible (at least 8 weeks) before being adopted. The bond kittens have with their mother and each other is very strong, and gradual weaning should be done, starting around six weeks. Weaning should be a very slow process.

There are ways to prevent odd behaviors exhibited by your cat in your absence. You can enrich his environment by including elevated areas, places he can hide, more toys and puzzles to occupy him, and scratching posts located throughout your home. When your cat is by himself, he may feel secure in a more comfortable environment. You may want to consider purchasing a cat tree, which is complete with carpeted areas, scratching posts, and a hideaway area. This may help him feel more at ease.

Discovering ways to praise him when he is acting the way you wish for him to act will help. When he is sitting away from you, you may want to give him a few treats and praise him. Simply rewarding him for appropriate behavior may help him realize what you desire as his owner, or “parent”.

If your cat has a severe case of separation anxiety, you may consider looking into a behavioral therapist. A therapist can come into your home, observe your cat’s behavior, and give you suggestions on ways to eliminate the unwanted actions that your cat is doing. Over time, this will help enhance the relationship between you and your companion.

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Cost of Clingy

If your cat has separation anxiety, there are ways to treat it. Treatment options for separation anxiety begin at approximately $500 for a cat therapist. This will depend on the amount of time your therapist will need to spend with him, as well as any prescribed medications.

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Clingy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Ferguson

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Flame point siamese

dog-age-icon

6 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Wheezing, Sneezing, Clingy

Howdy! My cat Ferguson is my first pet. I’ve had him 3 months and we’ve had a great time, but I get worried that there might be some other issues going on. Lately, I can’t leave the room without him panicking and sprinting after me. And a time night he has to sleep near my head where he breathes hard enough to wheeze (I noticed it the night before last). I try to keep him well fed and watered and play with him when I am home from work. But something feels off. He’s also sneezing quite a bit

Aug. 20, 2018

Ferguson's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It is difficult to say what is causing Ferguson to be so clingy, but if he is under the weather he may be wanting more attention than usual; if you’re noticing symptoms including wheezing and sneezing you should pop into your Veterinarian for an examination to determine whether there is a simple respiratory tract infection or something more serious. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 20, 2018

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dog-name-icon

salem

dog-breed-icon

short hair

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Licking
Meowing
Climbing

one day, my sister came inside with a kitten and he had a clipped ear, missing teeth, and a raspy meow. i love cats, so i thought nothing of it, but it was clear that he loved being around humans. in the first days that he came, he slept on my chest, and would bite me softly if i didn't rub him throughout the night. it's been a year or two that i've had him and he hasn't changed except no more biting. he doesn't poop everywhere or mess up furniture. he makes noise when i leave the room but it's not that bad after a few minutes because he stops. i think he was hand raised by a human, for sure. he climbs all over my shoulders, and sleeps next to my head or on my back. but he also likes his own space sometimes, but not for too long. everyone wants an affectionate cat but it's a bitter sweet thing.

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Tux

dog-breed-icon

bicolor

dog-age-icon

4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Clingy

We have two stray cats who came with the house we bought almost 6 months ago. We believe they're brother (Tux) and sister (Pepper) and based on spay records for the girl, we know she is at least 4 years old and he's probably the same age. When we moved in, we started feeding them and set up beds for them on our back covered patio. Originally, the girl kitty was more affectionate and after about a month, started asking to be picked up by standing up with her arms outstretched. Fast forward to about a month ago when, after the boy kitty started running off and returning with serious scratches about the face, we began keeping them both in the garage every night. Tux became less skittish and started to enjoy being picked up and held. Two weeks ago, he was taken to the vet to get his wounds cleaned up and was neutered at the same time. Since then, he's been super clingy! I can't go out in the garage without him begging to be picked up and when I do, he hugs my neck while nuzzling my face, and he doesn't want to be put down. More recently, he's started climbing on top of my shoulder and is so eager to be picked up, he'll jump on my back. I love him dearly and his affection but it's too much now. It's hard for me to show attention to his sister, who no longer asks to be picked up, and because he's an outdoor kitty with long, sharp claws, he scratches me every time he jumps on me. I want him to be affectionate but too much of a good thing can be bad. Not sure if he's just stir crazy from being locked up in the garage or what. Would appreciate some advice before taking him back to the vet. Both cats have their own beds and food bowls, and there are toys for them to play with as well as a small scratching post. I am about to buy them a large cat tree, too.

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Ollie

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Not sure

dog-age-icon

6 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Clingy
Meowing
Cry
Overly Grooming

Ollie was found on as an orphan at only three weeks. His mother and the rest of the litter was found dead, hit by a car. He is around six months old and very tiny still. Whenever I leave the room, he begins to cry and meow. He follows wherever I go and constantly crawls up to my face and chest and snuggles with me. He licks my face and hands all the time and never wants to be alone. He is also aggressive with people he hasn’t met and it takes awhile for him to warm up to people.

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Lucas

dog-breed-icon

Domestic shorthair

dog-age-icon

13 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Clingy
Excessive Crying
Overactive Grooming

I've had Lucas since he was 3 weeks old. I found him by the side of the road with no mother or littermates. Little guy was half dead. After the trip to the vet, and learning all about what I would need to do for him, We went home. I bottle fed him, taught him to use a litter box, how to do everything. As he has gotten older he has become more and more clingy. He literally will not leave my lap ever. Even if I am eating or at the computer he will stuff himself into the small place between me and the table. I am out of ideas on how to help him, short of seeing a behavior specialist that can cost 500 dollars, which if it doesn't even work, I'm out a lot of money. Can anyone offer any help?

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Matilde

dog-breed-icon

European Shorthair

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Constant Meowing
Physical Contact

My 2 years old cat always asked for attention. She would never be in a room alone, being always with me or my sister, but she be always in her little spot. I'm a 5th year university student so she was always used to me leaving for the week and only being home during the weekend. My sister, being younger, she was still leaving with my parents and always home, however she got into uni this year and since its quite far she comes home only once a month. Ever since, my cat is constantly asking for attention, she meows all the time, she used to sleep at my feet and now she needs to sleep next to my face, she's always asking for belly rubs....literaly if im not giving her attention shes always meowing. The only time she's ok is when she is on my lap. Its quite adorable but sometimes it can be a little frustating because i have work to do and a cat needing attention.

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