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Why is My Cat Suddenly So Clingy?

Cats tend to be aloof and independent, so it can be confusing when your cat suddenly becomes clingy and needy.

While you may just brush off this behavior as your cat going through a phase, it could be an important indicator that something is wrong.

If your normally distant cat suddenly becomes clingy, you should be safe and take them to the vet to get a full check-up. The vet can then rule out any other health issues and can address if your cat has separation anxieties. Your vet may suggest that blood work, a urinalysis, and a full physical exam be done.

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Signs That Your Cat is Clingy

What are some signs to look out for to tell if your cat is being clingy?

  • Refusing to eat or drink unless you are nearby
  • Following you around everywhere
  • Meowing loudly if they are unable to follow you
  • Rubbing against you constantly
  • Wanting to be petted all the time
  • Laying on books or laptops you are using
  • Over-grooming themselves

What Causes Clinginess in Cats

While you should still be safe and take your cat to the vet if they suddenly become clingy, here are some common reasons why your cat may suddenly have become clingy.

Orphaned or Weaned Too Early

Cats who are taken away from their mothers or littermates too early will often show signs of clinginess. Due to the lack of nurturing they should have received in early life, they are prone to being clingy. It is incredibly important to a cat’s development that they spend adequate time with both their mother and their littermates.

a tabby cat lying on a woman's chest
Image Credit: Alek B, Pixabay

Not Getting Enough Attention

In our busy world, people are working more and more hours every day. This allows for less time to be spent at home interacting with our pets. Cats that receive an inadequate amount of attention can develop separation anxiety and display many of the symptoms of clinginess listed above.

Being Bored

In the wild, a cat will spend most of its day hunting for food. If a cat is completely indoors, they lose this mental stimulation. It is important to replace this loss with other activities to stimulate your cat.

You can have cat trees or shelves for them to climb, cat scratchers, toys for them to interact with, a puzzle feeder, or even play bird noises or cat tv for them on your tv. If they do not have any mental stimulation, their only stimulation will become you, causing them to become overly clingy and dependent upon you.

kitten training_Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

Early Pregnancy

When a cat becomes pregnant, they begin to undergo both physical and behavioral changes. They may become more maternal towards you, being more affectionate and seeking out attention. Your cat may also purr more often.

Cat Stress

Cats are especially susceptible to stressful situations that we consider simple things such as rearranging your furniture or having people over to visit. Watch your cat closely in these situations to see how they react. Are they trustful of strangers? Or do they hover closely to you or hide whenever people are over to visit. You can help combat their fear by keeping your volume down and allowing the cat to approach new people on their own time instead of approaching the cat outright.

man is sleeping with a cat on a bed
Image Credit: NancyP5, Shutterstock

Underlying Medical Problems

The CATalyst Council cites that your previously aloof cat suddenly acting more clingy can be a subtle sign of illness. Cats will often mask signs of pain or weakness, so more subtle signs such as clinginess need to be watched out for.

The different signs of clinginess can point to different illnesses. Remember that over-grooming, meowing loudly, and refusing to eat are all signs of clinginess.

Over-grooming in cats can result from pain in that particular area or a skin infection or flea infestation. Refusing to eat could be a result of anything from dental disease to kidney disease and even cancer. Meowing loudly could be a sign of illness as well. Early treatment of illnesses in cats is vital, so if your cat has a sudden change in behavior don’t wait to take them to the vet.

Separation Anxiety

If your vet rules out any other underlying medical issues, your cat may be diagnosed with separation anxiety. Separation anxiety occurs when your cat does not like being alone and is very distressed whenever you leave them. Cats are highly social and form strong bonds with those people they interact with on a daily basis. The exact cause of separation anxiety is thought to be a mix of genetic and environmental factors.

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Treatment for Cat Clinginess

After ruling out underlying medical issues, what do you do with your clingy cat? There are different things you can do to help your cat become less dependent and clingy towards you.

  • Provide adequate stimulation. A cat who has nothing to do is a cat who will exhibit problems. You can help provide stimulation to your cats through a cat perch or catio so they can observe the outside realm safely. You can also provide cat trees and shelves for them to climb, giving them exercise and also enlarging the space they have to live in. Puzzle feeders can also provide stimulation in giving your cat their food.
  • Refrain from dramatic entrances and exits. If your cat has separation anxiety and becomes distraught when you leave and overly affectionate when you return, begin to make your entrances and exits less of a big deal for them. Do not announce when you are leaving or returning. Avoid playing with your cat right before you leave and when you are returning avoid giving too much attention. Wait until you have settled in, then show your cat the love and affection they deserve. This will help them see your coming and goings as no big deal.
  • Reinforce positive behaviors. If your cat is engaging in non-clingy behaviors, such as calmy sitting away from you, reinforce these behaviors by providing treats or praise.
  • Retain a cat behavioral therapist. If your cat’s clingy behavior persists or if they have been diagnosed by your vet as having separation anxiety, you may want to employ the help of a cat behavioral therapist. The cat therapist can come to your home, observe your cat, and help provide ways to help your cat return to their normal behavior.

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Final Thoughts: Why Is My Cat Suddenly Clingy

While you may enjoy the sudden increase in affection from your overly clingy cat, remember that this may be a sign of distress in your cat. Always take your cat to the vet if there is a sudden change in behavior and make changes around your home to help encourage your cat to return to normal behavior.

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Featured Image Credit: Yuriy Seleznev, Shutterstock

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