My Cat Needs Constant Attention

Janice L. writes to tell us about her cat who never leaves her alone.  Janice writes:

My cat Gracie follows me everywhere in the house. She’s 8 years old and it’s getting worse. Gracie wants me up at night waking me 4 to 6 times. Help, I need my rest. Thanking you in advance.

Well, Janice, you'd be surprised how many cat people would love to be in such a predicament, but we'll try to help you anyway.  :)  There are two component parts to this problem: Gracie and you.  First, let's focus on the part you can control most easily - you.

Gracie has learned that you will respond to her requests for attention anytime and anywhere.  If she wakes you up, she gets the attention she wants.  If she follows you, she gets the attention she wants.  Your assignment is to break this cycle.  If she tries to wake you up, you must not respond, no matter how difficult it is, and it WILL be difficult.  But you have to take the responsibility for this issue and get Gracie over the hump of retraining YOU.  If Gracie requests attention when you aren't prepared to give it to her, you must not respond.

In place of this unwanted attention time, you should schedule attention time especially for Gracie.  Two 30-minute play sessions each day will probably do the trick as long as you're consistent with your timing.  We'd recommend scheduling one session right before Gracie's bedtime so she can play (hunt), then eat and crash for the night.  Under no circumstances should you respond to her after bedtime.  If you follow through on retraining yourself, you should eventually see changes in Gracie's behavior.

As far as changing Gracie goes, you may want to provide more stimulation for her.  You can do this by enriching her environment with cat trees for climbing or a new box on the floor.  SHe absolutely needs vertical space so she can get off the floor in any room.  If she's an indoor-only cat, she'll need a couple of big windows from which to watch the goings-on outside.  You can also bring her some new toys.  Remember, a wad of paper is a new toy to Gracie.  Toys don't have to be expensive!  Take a look at your home from her point of view.  Think just how bored you'd become in the same place day in and day out.  That's what Gracie is experiencing, so she sees you as her sole source of entertainment.  Give her some more options and she should spread her attention out a bit more.

Of course, the best way to enrich Gracie's environment is to adopt a new cat friend for her.  We tell every new cat adopter that two cats are much easier to care for than one.  Most people won't believe us, but it's absolutely true!  If you choose to go this route, check out our post on introducing a new cat to the family so they have the best chance at forging familial bonds from the get go.

We know that you and Gracie will be able to work out your difficulties and find a way to happily live together.  With just a little consistency on your part, Janice, you'll soon see results.