Attention-Seeking Behavior in Cats

Attention-seeking behavior can occur in any cat at any age but during my consultations I’ve seen it most often in cats who don’t receive adequate stimulation or who are left alone for longer periods.Fotolia 45773057 XS Attention Seeking Behavior in Cats

Signs of Attention-Seeking Behavior

In general, a cat who is trying to get your attention will resort to whatever works. Typical behaviors include:

Meowing

Pawing

Jumping up to be at your level

Walking around and between your legs

Stealing objects, knocking things off tables

Biting (usually an inhibited bite)

Causes of Attention-Seeking Behavior

This behavior can occur as part of another primary behavior problem, a medical problem or it can happen just for the sake of gaining the cat parent’s attention. Cats who suffer from separation anxiety or cognitive issues may also often engage in attention-seeking behavior. If the behavior is due to an underlying medical issue, the cat may be seeking your attention as a source of comfort from her pain. It can also be because she’s confused by her discomfort. With attention-seeking behavior, as with any behavior issue, it’s important to get a medical work-up so you can rule out any medical causes to avoid having your cat suffer or be in pain.iStock 000000177340XSmall Attention Seeking Behavior in Cats

Correcting Attention-Seeking Behavior

Here’s the hard part… most cat parents reinforce the very behavior they don’t like because they acknowledge the cat for displaying attention-seeking behavior. When the cat jumps on the table and starts meowing it’s common for the cat parent to look at, talk back or pet the cat. Even if you reprimand the cat you’re offering attention – just what the cat wanted.

The key to correcting attention-seeking behavior involves three steps:

  1. Ignore the behavior you don’t want
  2. Provide other outlets for the cat’s energy and attention
  3. Give attention to the cat when she’s quiet or acting appropriately

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If the attention-seeking behavior is due to boredom or separation anxiety, make sure your cat has adequate environmental enrichment. Here are some examples:

 

A cat tree by the window for climbing and watching the birds

Puzzle feeders and puzzle toys for reward-based object play

Elevated areas for play and resting

Scratching posts for scratching

Adequate climbing opportunities

A consistent schedule for mealtimes

A consistent schedule of litter box maintenance

A daily schedule of interactive play therapy

Consistent affection and interaction from you

Provide Consistency, Security and Stimulation

 

If you aren’t consistent in the cat’s feeding schedule, litter box cleaning, playtime or even when you come home at the end of the day, it can create the need for attention-seeking behavior. Provide a consistent and reliable schedule as it relates to the cat and her needs and she’ll probably not have to resort to the undesirable act of attention-seeking behavior. If you play with her using an interactive toy but you only play every few days, then it’s understandable why she’d engage in trying to get your attention. Cats are hunters who are equipped with incredible senses. They need appropriate energy outlets. They’re also creatures of habit who rely on consistency in their daily lives. Combine the security of being consistent with the fun of daily reward-based activities and you’ll very likely have a much happier cat who will no longer knock your alarm clock off the nightstand in order to get your attention.

Need More Information?

For more specific information on cat training and solving cat behavior problems, refer to any of Pam’s books, including Think Like a Cat. If you’d like to make an appointment for a consultation with cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, contact our office.

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We’re sorry but Pam is unable to respond to questions or remarks posted in the comment section. If you have a question about cat behavior, you can find many answers in the articles Pam writes for the website as well as in her best-selling books.

 

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About Pam Johnson-Bennett

Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of the international hit TV series "PSYCHO KITTY" airing in the UK on Animal Planet and in Canada on Nat Geo Wild. She is award-winning author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.