by STEVE DALE
Q: HELP! My cat needs my attention 24/7. Everywhere I go my cat follows me; although it is sweet I am afraid to leave her side for a couple minutes even without her crying and meowing. What should I do? She sleeps with me at night and sleeps with her arms around me which is so adorable though as well. However, it is hard to sleep because every time I close my eyes she is rolling over and putting her paw right in my face begging for attention.
Your cat loves you! Why is this a problem? I bet before this cat came along, you said to your significant other, or friends – “I’d love an affectionate cat.” Be careful what you ask for, right? I can assure you, thousands are reading your question and thinking, ‘How sweet, I want that cat!’ But then they don’t have to live with a Velcro kitty. We agree it’s adorable, though.
Some cats who seem excessively or hyper-bonded are adopted or rescued from the street as very young kittens and hand reared. Or maybe, it’s just her personality, and she – well, loves you.
Certainly, the most impact, and a great diversion can occur, if you bring in a second cat. But this strategy necessitates a careful and an especially deliberate introduction of the new cat. Odds are good that your cat will accept the newcomer, if you follow a meticulous protocol for introducing newcomers. However unlikely, it’s possible your existing cat won’t especially like the new cat on the block. Another option is to add a member of the household who happens to be of the canine persuasion. Your cat will actually likely be even more accepting of a dog, but again a specific protocol is called for when these dog to cat home introductions occur. Keep the dog on a leash, at first, so your cat doesn’t feel threatened.
Less dramatic than adding a friend is simply to give your cat more to do. Feed her in various locations around the house, so she has to ‘hunt’ for her meals. Make sure she has window ledges to watch the world go by. Or has TV to watch, literally. There are assorted DVD’s, which some cats enjoy. The shows may feature birds and sometimes little lizards.
If you’re really determined, you can clicker train your cat to become independent. Check out “Clicker Training for Cats,” by Karen Pryor (Sunshine Books, Waltham, MA; 2001; $12.95).
While separation anxiety is rare in cats, it most does exist. If your cat cries or screams when you’re away, doesn’t eat in your absence, becomes destructive, or only misses the litter box if you’re not at home, contact a veterinary behaviorist (www.dacvb.org) or member of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (www.avsabonline.org).
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