Cats are known for being “the independent pet”. However, like with any species, each individual has their own personality and cats can be extremely affectionate and sociable too. On the other hand, a change in behaviour patterns may be your only clue that something is wrong and may warrant veterinary attention. But how can you tell the difference?
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You are interesting and your cat loves you!
As mentioned above, some cats love being in the presence of humans. Although there are some very clingy cats, others simply follow people around, or sit next to them, despite not wanting to be touched. In fact, if you have a timid cat and they choose to always be in your presence, that is something any cat lover should be very proud of!
Another reason why your cat may want to follow you everywhere is because they find you interesting. Cats are curious beings, and you not only bring exciting smells from outside, open doors that access areas they can’t access on their own but also do things that trigger their curiosity.
They want something from you
Let’s be honest, everyone that lives with a cat knows they like to have it their way and are very good at getting it, right? Cats are exceptionally intelligent and although they do not speak, they quickly learn how to communicate with us.
It happens that following people is a great way of getting what they want, children do it too! Think of your cat’s routine and observe their behaviour and you may notice following you actually has a purpose.
When asking for something, cats tend to follow owners around the time they are used to getting it. They may transition between rooms to indicate the path you have to take to give them what they want; or look at you and the thing they want (or to where it is). For example, you always let them outside first thing in the morning and they start paying attention to you just before you get out of bed? That is a classic “open the door/window” sign and it usually works, so they repeat it. They look at you and the empty bowl in front of them or walk to and from the kitchen? That’s a “Why is this empty? Please feed me!”.
One of the things a lot of cats need, and one that can go unnoticed, is attention! Cats are, overall, more independent than dogs. But they still need and enjoy spending time with you; and they get bored too, especially if they stay at home all day. Following you around can be a call for playtime or some cuddles. So make sure you give your furry friend the attention they need and provide them with enough entertainment and stimulation.
When there’s something wrong
The examples above are all manifestations of normal feline behaviour. However, cats can follow us when something is wrong too. If this represents a change in your pet’s usual behaviour you should pay extra attention to it and perhaps even consider taking them to the vets for a general check. I see pets brought into consults without a specific or measurable complaint all the time. Amazingly, even when owners can’t describe exactly what is wrong, sometimes a consult because “my cat is just not right” is enough to diagnose medical problems and prevent their progression, or at least rule them out.
Hyperthyroidism (excessive production of thyroid hormone), IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and diabetes are all common feline medical conditions that can cause increased appetite which can lead to cats following their owners more. Cats that feel pain, nausea, stress or general discomfort may feel vulnerable and seek their owners attention or become “clingier” too.
Our pets get used to our routines and learn how to communicate with us very effectively. One of the strategies cats use to get our attention is by following us.
Although a large percentage of cats enjoy following their owners for entertainment and enjoyment of their company, sometimes this may be a call for help. Either for something simple like being fed; playing or going outside; or for something more serious like soothing of pain or discomfort.
If your cat follows you around, try to recognise patterns, where are they looking and if this represents a change in behaviour or is just part of their personality. If you can’t figure out the answer, a visit to the vets may be warranted to make sure everything is ok.