LIFESTYLE

How Much Attention Do Cats Need: Understanding Feline Emotions

lonely cat
Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

Cats can be difficult to understand at times. One minute they are acting all affectionate and the next, they are looking as aloof as the next guy. However, that does nothing to take away from the fact that your cat needs attention too. That being said, how much attention do cats need?

To be candid, there is no single universal answer to the question. The amount of needed by one cat is often different from that required by another. That will be due to a lot of different factors that should be taken into consideration by cat parents.

That is why today’s piece is geared towards informing you of how much attention you should provide for your cat. In today’s post, let’s see the hidden dynamics behind your cat’s emotional profile and how much attention they need from you.

Why Do Cats Need Attention?

depressed cat

The fact that your cat seems to sleep all day and go about her activities like no one else was there does not mean they don’t need any attention. Of course, there will be times when the cat just wants their alone time, but they will need you to give them attention too.

When cats don’t get the attention they need, it can easily spiral into other issues. Cats, like humans, can get bored and depressed when they are left to be on their own for too long.

If left unattended for too long, some cats might get tipped to the extreme and develop what is known as a negative attention syndrome. This is what causes some cats to misbehave in order to get their owners to notice them.

If the only time you address your cat is when you find her scratching the sofa or jumping cabinets, she will most likely start doing these when you are in the area. Although that counts as bad pet behavior to you, that is the only means they know to get your attention.

Can we blame the cats when they do this? Absolutely not!

Imagine walking out of the house to go to work in the morning and leaving the cat alone in the home for such long hours every day. You have to understand that the only fun thing that might have happened to them all day is you opening that door from the outside and walking back into the house. What a boring day, don’t you think?

Combine that with the emotional stress of them then expecting you to at least greet them as their first solid interaction of the day but not getting such an action. That is one sure way to get anyone over the edge.

Taking some time to pick up the cat (for breeds that like to be picked up), stroke them, and talk gently to them goes a long way for the two of you. The cat will be happier for it, and you as the pet parent will also find peace in that activity.

How Much Attention Does My Cat Need?

persian cat lying alone

Here comes the million-dollar question.

Because of the way most cats behave, many people tend to assume that their cats don’t need attention or only need the bare minimum of it. It is not even surprising that the reason why most pet parents would opt for a cat over a dog is because the former supposedly needs less attention.

While there are some cat breeds that truly like to be left alone most of the time, the assumptions above are wrong. Even though your cat behaves stand-offish, they do crave your love, care, and attention too.

Cats are not the type of pet that can be brought up on a template plan of feeding and cleaning like you would for other small animals like hamsters. They need physical and mental stimulation, not to mention a chance to bond with their owners (and sometimes other pets in the house), which is very important to their mental and emotional well-being.

Based on experience and research, the answer to this question will vary. A kitten will surely require more attention than an older cat.

A kitten is at an early stage of development, curiosity, and emotional associations. They are also very energetic at this stage, and you should be able to match that up so that they get the most out of every day.

See Also: How to Get a Kitten to Like You

The second and maybe most important factor is the cat’s breed. Some cats like the Siamese will be more attention-demanding and playful than others, whereas other breeds like the Persian are quieter and won’t demand your attention, though they need it too.

In the end, it all boils down to understanding your own cat. Take the time to observe your cat and see where they fall on the attention spectrum. See how much energy your cat has for socialization and bonding every day and how you can match that for them.

To rephrase, there is no hard and fast rule to how much time you should spend with the cat per day. The ideal thing is for the both of you to work up your relationship to the extent where you know when they need some attention and when they are done for the day.

That being said, we come to the next question…

Do Indoor Cats Need the Most Attention?

outdoor cat sitting

Following our model of how a cat needs more than just feeding and grooming to live a happy life, the answer to this question will be ‘yes.’

An outdoor cat has almost unlimited options. They get the chance to interact with other felines and even some friendly dogs in the neighborhood, and perhaps even humans. They are given almost all the freedom they need to exercise their predatory instincts when they see smaller animals.

More than that, they even get to exist in a purely natural environment where they can do all climbing, napping, and playing they need.

Enter indoor cats.

Staying behind your doors and windows for most of the day, they are limited to interacting with whoever and whatever is inside that house with them. For pet parents that live alone, this won’t be an issue if you didn’t have to go to work or go out a lot. For those that leave the house a lot, there will surely be some boring days during which your cat wished they had someone else around.

Now, this is not to say there are no exceptions. You will sometimes find some outdoor cats that are in need of some TLC. You can also get an indoor cat that will try as much as possible to avoid interactions with humans and other felines. Each cat is an individual and should be treated as such.

How Do I Know If My Cat Wants Attention?

When cats have been left alone for too long, they start to exhibit some behaviors that owners might perceive as being naughty. It is important to know that your cat will not set out to annoy you. Instead, your cat is just trying to get your attention in the way they know best.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, here are some of the ways your cat could be communicating their need for attention to you.

#1: Meowing Excessively

cat meowing

After kittenhood (when the cats are testing the microphones, probably), cats will only meow to humans. That is why it is considered a healthy behavior for a cat that has been socialized with and is around humans. When it gets excessive though, that is not a healthy thing anymore.

When your cats start meowing more than necessary to the extent that it sounds desperate, they need you to do something for them. It could be that the cat is yet to be fed, needs some grooming, is in discomfort, or wants time with you.

Cats that are more attention-seeking will usually develop habits of meowing at nights or very early in the morning when you are trying to catch some sleep.

See Also: How Many Sounds Can a Cat Make

#2: Pawing

cat's paws

You know how you try to get someone’s attention by touching them? Your cat will try to get your attention the same way—by pawing out at your arm or leg. Take a small break from whatever it is you are doing and tend to the cat.

#3: Clumsiness

orange kitten and fallen vase

For a creature that can jump down from a tall cabinet and you won’t hear a thud, you should know something is off when your cat starts knocking things down.

This behavior could be borne out of your cat knowing that you react to them knocking things down. You call it reaction, they call it getting attention.

#4: Scratching

cat scratching couch

Yet another one of the telltale signs of your cat trying to get attention is excessive scratching. Note that we used the word ‘excessive,’ not just scratching.

Scratching on its own is a natural behavior of cats’. It helps them to mark areas with the pheromones of their claws, shed loose layers of the claw, and stretch too. It can even be a means of letting off pent-up energy, and that is why we recommend getting your cat a scratching post.

How about when her scratching gets out of hand? Especially when she’s doing it on inappropriate objects? Maybe you should try to see what she needs from you.

What You Can Do to Make Sure Your Cat Gets the Attention They Need

kitten sleeping on keyboard

Part of the reasons why your cat might not be getting enough attention is that you have a busy lifestyle. Of course, you try hard to spend time with the cat, but it has been established that the cat is not getting enough of that caring and loving from you.

In addition to whatever you have been doing, you should also consider:

  • Giving the cat treats that they love at intervals during the day

  • Finding more time to play and interact with the cat. Don’t use automated toys but those that require you to be on the other end of them. That helps to build bonds

  • Allowing your cat into your space more. If your cat likes to sit by you while you work, get them a space on your desk that they can sleep in

  • Talking to your cat. Do this in a gentle, soothing voice. It might sound silly at first, but you’ll come to love it later

  • Petting your cat and rubbing them at intervals. They love this!

  • Ensuring they have their own personal space. Cats love it when they have properties they can ‘own’ in the house. That could be toys, cat trees, hammocks, etc.

  • Spending more time with the cat outdoors. Make sure it is in a safe enclosure so that the cat feels at home

What to Do When Your Cat Demands Too Much Attention

kitten meowing loudly

Some cats are very needy and will keep demanding attention even after all you’ve given them. Some ‘puppy’ cats will even follow you around all day and keep making demanding noises, even though they really don’t need anything from you.

Obviously, what you should do in this instance is not to give them even more attention. The ideal thing to do is not to engage the cat in conversation. When talking back to a chatty cat, they can’t discern what you are saying and will always see that as another form of interaction.

Make sure you set up a feeding, playing, and grooming schedule for the cat; make sure your cat has all that they need. You can mix things up a little but not always on the request of the cat—else they’ll keep associating that unwanted behavior with your positive response.

Wrap Up

cat and his owner

There are a lot of things that go into determining how much of attention your cat needs from you. Likewise, it is unsafe to assume that cats don’t need as much attention since they don’t always beg for it. It is your duty as the cat parent to make sure your pet lives a well-balanced life.

Armed with that information, how much attention does your own cat need? How do you usually fulfill that need? Share your thoughts and opinion in the spot provided below! Next, you might want to check out our article on how do cats choose their favorite person.

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.

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