Q. My cat is driving me crazy. I love him, but he won’t leave me alone, even in the middle of the night. If I’m sitting, he’ll be in my lap, walking around it, kneading my legs, meowing. Sometimes, he’ll just meow wherever he is until I respond to him. My veterinarian said that he’s healthy, so I know it’s not a pain issue. I think he’s bored. Maybe lonely. What can I do to decrease this increasingly annoying behavior?
A. Demanding attention is one of the most frequent frustrations owners mention about cats (after urinating outside the litterbox and cat aggression). In addition to constant meowing, cats have a variety of effective methods for getting an owner’s attention:
- -Always being wherever their person is
- -Standing between the person and whatever is getting the attention
- -Rubbing on a person’s legs
- -Sitting on a book being read
- -Jumping up as soon as the owner sits
- -Nipping or patting arms for attention
- -Pacing or circling
First see if you can find out what is triggering the demanding behavior. Cats like routine, so if you’re late serving dinner, cleaning the litterbox, or going to bed, they will let you know. And, yes, they have an internal clock. They’re most active around sunrise and sunset.
Some cats feel vulnerable when they’re eating, because they can’t take their bowl to what they would consider a safe hiding spot. They want you to stay close during mealtime.
I’m glad you had your kitty checked by your veterinarian because health problems can cause insistent behavior. Hyperthyroidism, which is common in cats, can cause hyperactivity. An injury may be causing subtle pain. Any sudden change in behavior should trigger a checkup with your veterinarian.
If the cause isn’t physical, it comes down to training. You can try these steps:
Time Out. Consider putting your cat in a safe room. Cats can meow for a long time (it doesn’t take much effort). Be sure his nails are clipped and he has a spot for sleeping, food, and water.
Make Play Time. A five- or 10-minute daily play session can go a long way toward making your cat feel better. Use a laser pointer (never let it shine in his eyes), a feather wand toy, a catnip toy, or just crinkle paper up that you can toss down a hallway or stairs for your cat to play and hunt.
Stay in the Area When He Eats. Remember, cats feel vulnerable lowering their heads into their bowls to eat.
Feed the Nighttime Meal Later in the Evening. You don’t have to feed at 5 p.m. Go ahead and stretch it to 9 p.m. or put your cat’s food in an automatic feeder set to deliver food later in the evening.
Compromise a Bit. Put a cozy bed on your desk, so he doesn’t block your computer monitor. Some cats like cat trees, which would free up desk space.
The goal is to work with your cat, so he feels content, happy, and is near you. Remember, he enjoys company, just as you enjoy his. He also may like to have another pet in the house for company.
All my best,