Nothing can be more exciting than coming home after a long trip. Finally, you can cuddle with your furry best friend and spend some time playing your favorite laser point game together.
But then you notice that your cat’s behavior has suddenly changed. After your return, he will not stop following you. He sleeps on your bed, rubs against your feet, interrupts you on your computer, and goes with you to the toilet – he simply will not give you any privacy.
You might start to wonder whether this sudden shift in behavior is normal, or due to some underlying issues that need to be addressed.
Why your cat becomes clingy
Cats are generally known for being independent and aloof, with the exception of certain breeds like Siamese. Unlike dogs, felines can groom and keep themselves safe without a lot of help from their human companions.
Despite their independent nature, however, cats can also be emotionally attached to their owners, even if they do not often show it. Normally, they will just chill on their own without a care in the world, but at times they can suddenly become clingy and demanding, especially after your long absence from home.
For some fur parents, this clingy behavior can be cute – but be aware that it can also be unhealthy to some degree!
Here are some reasons your cat might suddenly become excessively attached to you:
1. Separation anxiety
Sensitive cats who are often left alone by their owners are likely to develop full-blown separation anxiety. Depending on your cat’s personality, this might manifest through any of the following:
- Pooping or urinating outside his litter box
- Excessing meowing, crying or yowling
- Destructive behavior
- Not eating or drinking when you are not around
- Eating too fast
- Grooming excessively
- Too much excitement whenever you return home
- Vomiting hairballs
- Trying to escape
As a fur parent, these behaviors can be a bit frustrating, especially if your cat relieves himself in inappropriate places – it could be on your bed, carpet, clothing, or shoes. If you have been leaving your cat regularly due to travel or work, then know that he is not being spiteful. He is just missing you a lot and does not want you to leave again.
With that in mind, your fur-buddy is trying to mix his scent with yours through your belongings so that you can find your way home.
A routine-driven life helps your furry companion feel safe and confident. For humans, this may seem boring, but for cats, it is survival. Since felines are territorial animals, it is only normal for them to hate spontaneous things. Anything that disrupts their regular schedules and routines can cause stress. That includes your long absence due to work or vacations.
Cats become clingy to their human companions because they feel lonely, afraid, or threatened. Keep in mind that our whiskered friends rely on their owners’ presence for protection, so if you have been away for a long time, expect your kitty to follow you wherever you go – and be ready to wave goodbye to your privacy!
Clinginess can also be an obvious sign of boredom. Without your presence, your cat will miss your playtimes and cuddles. Moreover, due to their predatory instincts, cats need constant mental stimulation to prevent boredom. Aside from clinginess, leaving them alone at home with nothing to do will eventually trigger other inappropriate behaviors such as excessive licking and chewing at their skin.
How to manage your cat’s clingy behavior
Many of us fall in love with cats for their endearing qualities, one of which is their independent nature. These solitary hunters can generally handle being on their own, unlike dogs who are more affected by separation anxiety.
Thus, a sudden shift in behavior, such as following you wherever you go or yowling incessantly, is often a signal that something is not right. Your feline may start showing up on your keyboard, planting himself on your chest, sleeping on your bed, or displaying other needy behaviors. It may sound cute or adorable at first, but eventually, it will lead to annoyance and serious concern.
When you return home after a long trip and notice your cat’s sudden change of behavior, do not worry – often it has nothing to do with illness or pain. Here are some tips to deal with a needy cat after your vacation:
- Let your furry pal adjust. Clingy cat behavior usually lasts about a week. Eventually, your cat should return to his normal self after he calms down and figures out you are not leaving again.
- Temporarily shower your cat with the attention he was missing while you were gone. Give in to his demands for a week while paying attention to his actions.
- Use a conditioned response to teach your furry pal the right behavior. Although we want to shower our pets with love and attention, doing so every time he demands might actually reinforce the clingy behavior. The best thing is to ignore your cat whenever he becomes overly affectionate. Reward him with treats or toys when he behaves appropriately.
- Clinginess is often a sign of stress or anxiety. Give your cat reassurance and affection but in moderation.
- Encourage independence. Keep your cat entertained or distracted by providing him with interactive toys, scratching posts, and hideouts. Occasionally leaving your cat alone will help a lot in correcting his needy behavior.
- If your cat craves attention due to anxiety, use cat calming products such as a pheromone spray or a calming collar.
- If you have tried everything and your cat is still too demanding, it might be the right time to visit the vet or a behavioral therapist.
What to do before your next trip
So, you have already learned the hard lesson after leaving your cat alone for a few days, and you want to make things right before your next trip. You want to minimize unwanted behavior and, as much as possible, keep your furry friend stable and entertained while you are away.
Train your cat to be more independent using the following tips:
- Provide your cat with lots of toys as well as scratching posts to keep him distracted while you are away. Motion-triggered toys are attractive to curious cats as these toys ignite their predatory behavior.
- Invest in a window perch. Cats enjoy gazing at the birds and their surroundings without necessarily going outside.
- Ask someone to check in on your pet while you are away. This could be a neighbor, friend, relative, or pet sitter. It is also a good idea to have this personal bond with your cat first, prior to your trip. Cats usually feel more at ease with familiar people than strangers.
- Make sure to cat-proof your home before leaving. Move any hazards and dangerous chemicals out of your kitty’s reach.
- Some owners prefer leaving their television on, usually on the animal channel that cats love to watch.
- Use calming products such as pheromone diffusers or sprays to help your furry pal relax.
- If your cat repeatedly displays inappropriate behavior such as excessive yowling or crying, pooping or urinating outside the litter box, or clinginess, then make sure to have him checked by the vet before leaving. These compulsive behaviors might signal other serious concerns.
Leaving your cat behind when you travel can be very difficult. Cats are creatures of habit and, with you absent for a couple of days, you might wonder how this will affect his behavior.
While you are away from home, know that your cat will miss your presence. He might start to wonder why you left, and whether you will ever come back. The uncertainty regarding your return can lead to feline anxiety, which is why, when you return home after a long vacation, it is likely that your cat will display excessive attachment or clinginess.
As much as possible, we want to keep our furry companions independent, especially while we are away. Fortunately, there are ways to handle a clingy cat and prevent such unhealthy behavior from happening again after your next trip. With the tips discussed in this post, your cat should be able to recover from your absence and get back to his normal routine before you know it.
Image: istockphoto.com / Marina Chernyakova