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.
Signs of Attention-Seeking Behavior in Cats
In general, a cat who is trying to get your attention will resort to whatever works. Typical behaviors include:
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.
Correcting Your Cat’s 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:
- Ignore the behavior you don’t want
- Provide other outlets for the cat’s energy and attention
- Give attention to the cat when she’s quiet or acting appropriately
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