My cat is my shadow

by Steph
(North Dakota)

My cat, Charlie, follows me everywhere, from the shower to bed he is always with me. I didn't mind it much at first but now it is getting quite annoying.

It's a long story but we have had him back in our house with us for almost a year now and nothing has changed. Wherever I go, there is Charlie.

Recently, when we leave for the weekend, when we get home he meows and cries and wants non stop "love" from me for at least the time we get back to overnight and into the next morning. It is very frustrating trying to sleep when you have a cat that sits on your nightstand meowing and he won't stop if you yell at him, spray him with water or give him a little slap on the nose.

I'm sure it has something to do with separation anxiety as he has other symptoms of being weened to early but like I said a lot of the things he does are very annoying. I love my kitty very much but some advice would be very appreciated.

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my annoying cat
by: Mrs. T

My cat patches goes everywhere in the house that I go, at night she sleeps in my room when I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night she stays in my room until I come back. In the morning when the alarm goes off she wakes up at the same time as me, waits in front of the bathroom door while I take a shower, after I have gotten ready for work she then meows for me to follow her.

I make sure she is fed when I'm in the kitchen she walks back and forth rubbing up against me that is so annoying to me. When I go to my room she follows me and sits on the floor starring at me while I'm watching tv, I really want to know why she is doing this, I've noticed since my dad passed away (10/30/12) she's been really under me as if she was my child, I'm puzzled as to why she is doing this because it is driving me crazy.

Editor's note: I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your father. Anytime a cat goes through a change in behavior, it's best to consult your veterinarian because certain diseases can cause behavior changes.

Assuming it's not a medical problem, I'll state the obvious and say that it sounds like your cat probably needs your attention and reassurance. From the many emails and stories I've received over the years, this is not all that uncommon.

Some cats are more clingy than others, and their level of neediness in this area can be different at different times in their lives.

There are a number of reasons for cats to become more clingy. Sometimes, it happens as a result of aging.

When cats suffer a loss, or some sort of trauma, they've been known to sometimes go through a re-bonding process and in some cases, a resulting change in behavior. Some cats become more aloof at this point, but others go just the opposite direction.

I would again state the obvious here and say that it's possible that your father's death triggered this in your cat.

Since your cat wants your attention, perhaps you can give her some of what she needs through play sessions with a toy like Da Bird or the Cat Dancer.

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Charlie
by: David

Not sure I can improve on anything Kurt has said, not without more information. With our first baby, Miss Jean-Luc Kitte`, we made the usual mistakes of giving her a lot of love and stroke 'ums whenever we'd leave, and she'd run from the doorway to the bedroom window where she'd just pine for us as we left and until we returned. (She was a feral kitten by the way) Our "solution" was to take in another feral kitten, Miss Chakotay. Chakotay soon became Miss JLK's personal punching bag, though they never actually fought. But it did stop the separation anxiety and gave her something else to focus on.

As our family of cats grew it became obvious Miss JLK would have preferred to be an "only child" but her motherly instincts kicked in a bit and she became the one-kitte` complaint committee. If they wanted food, clean water or a clean litter box, she would stand on my chest until I rectified the problem. Then she'd go to her post and all would be good for the night. Then, for years, she wouldn't even get on the bed to say "good night" which really bothered us.

In her final years, she returned to our bed while we watched tv before going to sleep, and she would then patrol the hallways. It all seemed like a "phase" she and the others would go through. After being "away" for a while, maybe Charlie is just trying to make up for lost time with you. I don't know Charlie or you enough to know if a companion would help or just exasperate the situation. Pets, like children, are a life time commitment which can span over twenty years if you are lucky.

Is there a room you can set up just for him, with food, water, litter box and a bed or "condo" that you can put him up for the night in? Hopefully you will keep us informed and maybe we can think of something else to help you both out.

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Try to reduce his stress Part 2
by: Kurt (Admin)

Continuing... :)

Does he respond to catnip? A catnip plant in a birdcage secured to a table, desk, scratching post, etc. can be a great attractor. Or use dried catnip on toys and scratching posts.

Are you making use of vertical space? Most cats feel secure up high. It gives them a better vantage point, yet not every cat owner makes good use of vertical space. A cat tree is an ideal product for this, but other cat owners have made use of regular furniture in their house as well.

A window seat is ideal and some people have used bird feeders outside to keep their cat occupied, but some cats are entertained by videos like "Video Catnip" too.

I'm assuming he's OK with your leaving the house for short-ish periods? I mentioned a number of ideas for gradually increasing your away time on my page on "cat anxiety." While it addresses a litter box problem, similar ideas may apply.

In addition to experimenting with longer and longer periods of separation, you can try Feliway to reduce anxiety. I understand there are also pheromone collars but I have not investigated those yet. Bach's Rescue Remedy may help as well and there are some homeopathic anti-anxiety treatments.

There's also drug therapy, but I would choose that last after exhausting all options.

The Pet Education site mentions some of what I've talked about, and has some more information on curbing separation anxiety in cats through longer and longer separation times.

Amy Shojai has an article on separation anxiety in cats as well and has some good advice about desensitizing your cat to the signals surrounding the routine of leaving him.

In my own experience with Teddie and her separation anxiety, which is not nearly as severe it seems as Charlie's, I worked hard to give her regular exercise and attention, and provide an attractive and secure environment for her. I also practiced desensitizing her to my exits, as the sound of keys was a trigger for her.

If you've tried any of these ideas unsuccessfully I'd be interested in knowing the details. If you have any questions on any of what I've said or need more information I'll try to answer or dig up more resources for you. Does that help at all?

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Try to reduce his stress Part 1
by: Kurt (Admin)

I'm sorry to hear about Charlie's troubles, Steph. Whenever a cat has a behavior "problem," I assume that's an expression of some need not being met. I figure that it's my responsibility to do what I can to create just the right environment so that my cat's needs are met.

I haven't always been successful at that and it usually takes some work and experimentation to get things worked out.

I have found, however, that when I go out of my way to determine what those needs are and provide solutions, that the behavior problem is often either eliminated, or toned down dramatically.

To quote Carole Wilbourn in her book, Cat Talk, "A cat is a creature of habit and is threatened by change."

Assuming Charlie is exhibiting attention seeking behavior due to separation anxiety, I doubt that giving your cat attention by yelling at him will work.

Mother cats will swat their kittens to keep them in line, but once a cat grows up, the only time an adult cat gets hit on the nose is during play or aggression. I'd be surprised if that works for behavior modification, at least not in the way we want here.

Spray bottles work on some cats, but often only the first couple of times. It usually only works if the cat doesn't know it's coming from you, which I found impossible to make happen!

IMHO, any of the above techniques will likely not help and may reinforce the behavior. Charlie pesters you and you respond, giving him the attention he craves.

Rewarding good behaviors and ignoring bad ones is the way to go. Of course "good" and "bad" don't really exist here, it's desired behavior versus undesired.

You say he's been back with you for almost a year, which indicates that he's had some upheaval in his life. Cats can get very attached to the people they live with and their surroundings and changes can certainly cause (or worsen) problems.

I'd make a plan to reduce stress and anxiety on him as much as possible, and work on getting him used to your not being by his side. Provide things for him to do while you're away. If someone can stay with him while you're gone, that may help.

Humans who don't exercise regularly tend to be overweight, more stressed, and at increased risk for depression. Cats too. I'd increase his exercise, playtime, and mental stimulation. Give him something else to think about. Schedule yourself to give him regular exercise sessions daily.

Create what I call a sanctuary area so that he has a place in the house to call his own where he can relax, play, sit up high, and scratch on a post. Make that environment really inviting. With some encouragement, he may start spending more time there and less time clinging to you.

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