7 Reasons Cats’ Attention-Seeking Behavior

One of the most common complaints about cat behavior is that they are excessively vocal: loud meowing or crying, sometimes accompanied by other attention-seeking behaviors. Because the reasons for both behaviors can be physical, emotional, or both, you need to do some homework on the possible causes.

What sometimes looks like a “behavioral problem” can be completely normal behavior for a given cat. Weigh all factors before determining that your cat has a problem that needs to be corrected. Here are some of the activities that have been associated with, or mistaken for, attention-seeking behavior as possible causes:

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“Lost in the night” howls

Although no one knows exactly why some cats do this, it is most common in older cats due to cognitive impairment (aging) and/or vision or hearing loss. This sad cry, in a cat of any age, when suddenly running around the house with the fur rolling on its back, may also be the result of another medical condition, feline hypersensitivitycommonly known as rippling skin disease. Other medical conditions that can cause excessive vocalization include hyperthyroidism, cancer, neurological disorders, and pain. For all of these conditions, veterinary intervention and treatment is required.

begging for food and hospitality

While not completely eliminating true hunger, cats, like humans, can sometimes become addicted. The effort they put into satisfying their addiction can be pretty pathetic, especially for a snack like bonito flakes.


Occasional snacking is harmless, and for overweight cats, using small, low-calorie treats when the cat begs for food is a viable alternative, especially the high-protein variety. Treats should not exceed 10% of your cat’s daily calories. For cats, several small meals a day are actually better than one large meal in the morning or evening. Schedule three to four small meals of canned food and eat the rest after 20 to 30 minutes. If you need dry food because of your cat’s preferences or schedule, give a small Eat a dry meal in the evening that you can keep overnight.

claw your arm or leg

Some cats, like children, do require constant attention, pawing at your arms when you sit down, or making a “figure 8” on your legs when you try to walk.


Some cats just need more human attention. If the cat is the only cat in the house, you may want to adopt another cat for companionship. Otherwise, try to schedule special play, cuddle, and petting times for these cats. Cats love routines, and if they know a lap time is coming, they’ll likely leave you alone.

insist on meowing

Some cats are also loud (Siamese and Oriental breeds are known for this trait). Many cats actually enjoy cat-human chatting back and forth, and when you talk to them (or meow) they will meow at you immediately.


Enjoy it if you want to talk back to your cat. If you’re not particularly fond of “talking cats,” be careful when he’s quiet. On the other hand, if your normally quiet cat suddenly starts meowing incessantly, (or if a normally chatty cat suddenly stops meowing), he may be trying to tell you that he is distressed. Or your cat may gradually become deaf. A visit to a veterinarian is recommended here to rule out medical problems.


While pica (eating non-food) isn’t necessarily a compelling behavior, it does get our attention as humans. Pica also manifests in sucking or chewing, and is especially dangerous if plastic or rope-like objects are ingested. Sucking is common in certain breeds, including Siamese, Burmese, and Himalayan cats, and in cats that are weaned prematurely or leave their mothers. Stress seems to be a common trait in pica cats.


Since stress is common in cats with pica, it is important to rule out or deal with stress. Anxiety and stress can often be relieved by arranging regular petting or play in a quiet place with plenty of toys, vertical space, and other forms of environmental enrichment. In rare cases, anti-anxiety medication may be required.

Pica can also be associated with certain mineral deficiencies, So make sure your kitty’s diet is balanced. It’s also important to remove inappropriate chewing/swallowing substances by picking up string, small plastic pieces, and rubber bands, or eliminating them as objects of interest by cat-proofing the wires with wrapping paper or bitter apple spray.

inappropriate scratching

Sometimes cats with lots of scratch bars and other “legitimate” scratching surfaces will still insist on inappropriate scratching on carpets or furniture. Cats sometimes use inappropriate scratching to communicate.


Be sure to provide your cat with a variety of scratching posts of different materials and shapes so they can find the one they like best. You can also use treats and catnip to attract your cat to proper scratching.

Ripple skin disease

This condition, also known as feline hyperesthesia, is unknown. It can sometimes be successfully treated with dietary changes, elimination of fleas or toxins (which may be a cause), medication, and/or planned exercise activities for the cat.

stress and anxiety

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

  • recent moves
  • a newborn baby
  • New pet (cat or dog)
  • Owner is absent due to new job or vacation
  • Sudden attack by another cat
  • The owner or another cat is sick

In these cases, providing your cat with a rich environment is critical.

Doing your homework, understanding your cat’s normal behavior, and keeping tabs on behavioral changes can go a long way in helping a cat in need eliminate attention-seeking behavior.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your veterinarian right away. For health-related questions, be sure to consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know your pet’s health history, and can give your pet the best advice.