By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a cat insurance and dog insurance agency.
Does your cat nearly trip you with figure-eight maneuvers between your legs when you head for the kitchen? Does he sneak up on your desk and hover so closely that your elbow bumps him when you try to type on the computer keyboard? Or, worse, does he serenade you with loud meows at the foot of your bed an hour before your alarm clock is set to chime?
These irritating scenarios are just a few linked to demanding cats, felines who have clearly crossed the line of good manners. Animal behaviorists report that in the ranking of owner complaints about cats, demanding attention ranks third behind inappropriate urination and aggression toward another cat in the home.
Other examples of demanding behaviors include sitting on work papers or a book you are trying to read. And, leaping up on our lap the instant you sit down. Or pacing back and forth and vocalizing at you.
Why so demanding? Keep in mind that cats crave daily routines and some may vocalize when you’re an hour late to serve their meal or become irritated that you forgot to scoop their litter box.
And genetics also play a factor in the degree of demandingness displayed. In general, Siamese have reputations for being vocal and bossy. While breeds such as the Sphynx are noted for being clingy and wanting to spend every minute with their chosen person. It may be because they lack hair on their coats and need to be kept warm.
Medical conditions can also cause sudden insistent demands in a cat. If your mellow middle-aged cat suddenly starts conducting loud meow marathon sessions, he needs to be examined by a veterinarian. He could have hyperthyroidism, a glandular disease that causes the thyroid gland to produce excessive amounts of the hormone thryoxine, resulting in increased appetite, sudden weight loss and hyperactivity. Or, your cat may yowl do to a painful injury or abscess.
Here are ways to tone down demanding behavior in your cat:
1. Don’t treat your cat as a small dog. Dogs usually respond appropriately when ushered into a closed bedroom or bathroom when annoying you or houseguests. Time outs do not work so well on cats. It doesn’t take much energy to meow for a long time. So, when you do usher your cat into a safe room, make it pleasant and engaging for your cat by providing a soft place to nap, food and water and a keep-busy toy. Also clip his claws so he won’t damage the doorframe by scratching.
2. Schedule daily play sessions with your cat – ideally 5- to 10-minute sessions in the morning and at night. Have him stalk and pursue a feather wand toy down the hall. Crinkle paper wads and toss them for him to chase and hunt.
3. Dine together. Some cats feel vulnerable when they lower their heads into food bowls to eat. They feel safer when they can eat their meals close to you while you eat your meal.
4. Practice the art of compromise. Position a cozy cat bed on your desk to stop your cat from standing between you and the computer monitor. For cats who dash into the kitchen each time you do, consider locating a towering cat tree near the kitchen to enable your cat to view your moves from a high secure perch. Be happy that your cat enjoys your company and wants to be with you.
5. Avoid engaging your cat in chatty conversations. The secret is to never answer a talkative cat when he meows. You unintentionally are encouraging him to continue the conversation louder and longer.
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