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Attention Seeking Behavior in Cats

Including Excessive Vocalization: Meowing and Crying


Cat Behavior & Training > Cat Behavior 101 > Attention-Seeking Behavior

One of the most common complaints about cat behavior is their excessive vocalization: lound meowing or crying, sometimes accompanied by other attention-seeking behavior. Because causes for both of these behaviors can be either physical or emotional, or both, you need to do some homework on possible causes before punishing your cat for excessive crying and meowing, or other attention seeking behavior.

Sometimes what may seem to be a "behavior problem" may be completely normal behavior in a given cat. Weigh all the factors before deciding that your cat has a problem that needs correcting. Readers may be surprised at some of the activities that are related to or mistaken for attention-seeking behavior:

Types of Attention-Seeking Behavior & Possible Causes

  • "Lost in the Night" Howling
    Although no one knows for sure why some cats do this, it sometimes is related to increasing deafness or even senility, as cats age. This kind of mournful calling, when associated with suddenly racing around the house with the fur on the back rolling, can also be the result of another physical condition, feline hyperesthesia, commonly known as Rippling Skin Disorder. In both instances, veterinary intervention and treatment is indicated.
  • Begging for Food and Treats
    Although genuine hunger can't be completely discounted, cats, like humans, do sometimes suffer from addiction. They can be quite pitiful in their efforts to feed their addiction, especially for treats such as bonita tuna flakes. Occasional treats are certainly not harmful, and for the overweight cat, are a viable substitute when the cat begs for food.
  • Pawing Your Arm or Leg
    Some cats, like kids, do need frequent attention, and will paw your arm when you are seated, or do the "figure 8" around your legs as you try to walk.
  • Insistent Meowing
    Some cats are also very vocal (Siamese and Oriental breeds are famous for this trait). And many cats actually enjoy a back-and-forth feline-human chat, and will meow right back at you when you talk (or meow) to them.
  • PICA (Eating Inappropriate Substances like String)
    Although PICA is not necessarily an attention-getting behavior, it certainly does gain the attention of us humans. PICA manifests also in wool-sucking or chewing, and is particularly dangerous if plastics or string-like objects are ingested. Wool-sucking is common to certain breeds, including Siamese, Burmese, and Himalayans, and it is also inherent to cats prematurely weaned or removed from their mothers. Stress seems to be a common denominator in cats with PICA.
  • Inappropriate Scratching
    Sometimes cats who have plenty of scratching poles and other "legitimate" scratching surfaces, still will insist on inappropriate scratching on carpeting or furniture. C.H.U., in a guest article, puts forth the theory that cats sometime use inappropriate scratching as communication. With a Masters Degree in Communication, C.H.U. knows of what he speaks and I have to agree with him that cats sometimes use inappropriate scratching as a means of communicating their needs. It certainly gets my attention!

Stress and Anxiety

Many of these attention-getting behaviors can be the result of stress or anxiety, particularly if there have been recent changes in the household, including, but not limited to:

Next > Solutions for Attention-Seeking Behavior

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