If you’ve got a feline follower, you’re certainly not the only one. We look at the reasons behind this common cat behaviour, with expert insights from JoAnna Puzzo, feline welfare manager at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
It’s not unusual to find your cat following you around (even into the bathroom!). And for most owners, having a cat-shaped shadow isn’t too much of an issue. In fact, many see it as an endearing and enjoyable part of cat ownership. So, why might our cats be trailing after us – and what can you do if you’d like to gently discourage the habit?
Why your cat might follow you
There are many reasons why cat owners might often have their pet on their heels around the home:
Cats are famous for their curiosity. They often follow their owners around to find out what’s going on – and, all-importantly, whether it offers new opportunities for play, food or expanding their territory. So, when your cat dives between the clean sheets you’re putting on the bed or chaperones you into the shed, it may just be a sign of their inquisitive nature.
Lots of cats crave human attention. Being scratched or stroked around the scent glands on their cheeks, chin, head and neck is particularly pleasurable for them. If they can get this attention by winding around your legs or jumping up on your laptop, then that’s what they’re going to do!
Chances are, you are your cat’s favourite individual. One of the ways they let you know this is by rubbing their head against you (called ‘bunting’) to mark you with their scent and show they feel relaxed in your company. When you move around, they want to bunt your shins and calves.
Your cat can’t get their own food or water, so if they’re hungry or thirsty they need to let you know. Following you around and getting in your way is usually a pretty effective way to do this – sometimes with insistent meowing to really get the message across!
Some cats just love company. Certain breeds, including Siamese, Burmese, Abyssinian and Bengal cats, are especially sociable, so don’t be surprised if they try to join you on a video call or even in the shower.
As highly territorial animals, many cats hate having part of their turf blocked by a closed door. So, if you’re wondering why your cat follows you to the bathroom, or stands in the doorway when you’re leaving the house, it might be because they’re trying to maintain maximum access to their entire domain.
Cats are creatures of habit and quickly learn to expect food, play or outdoor access at a particular time. So your cat may cling closely when they think it’s time for tea or for you to unlock the door.
Many people think of cats as being fiercely independent, but they often enjoy a close bond with their owners and can feel insecure if this is disrupted, even temporarily. That’s why your cat may escort you everywhere if you’ve just returned from holiday – or even when they see the suitcase they associate with you going away.
My cat following me is becoming a problem
While shadowing you is generally a harmless habit, there are situations when it can be a sign of a psychological problem in your pet. Plus, at times it can be awkward or dangerous – for example, if they get under your feet as you’re coming down the stairs or carrying hot pans in the kitchen.
What to do:
- If you stroke your cat on the staircase or give them a tidbit while you’re cooking, you’ll reinforce this risky behaviour. So, practise positive reinforcement instead, ignoring your cat when you don’t want them shadowing you, and giving them the affection or food they’re craving at a more convenient (and safer!) time and place.
- Try to break awkward associations in your moggy’s mind. For instance, if they link you coming downstairs in the morning with being fed, try feeding them after you’ve finished your own breakfast or when you get home from the school run instead.
- Always speak calmly and positively to your cat. Avoid shouting or using aversion techniques, such as water sprays, to try and change their behaviour. Not only is this ineffective, it’s also likely to make them stressed and anxious.
- If your cat is scratching at doors to try and get close to you when you’re apart, try enriching their environment with scratching posts, hidey-holes and outdoor access if possible. Occupy them with boredom-busting toys so that they can safely play alone, or a puzzle feeder that makes them work for their dry food (just make sure they can figure it out first!).
Why does my cat follow me everywhere?
Your cat may want to be closer to you when they’re anxious or unsettled, perhaps because you’ve moved home, introduced someone new to the household or there’s a new cat in the neighbourhood. Their intense attachment should subside as they start to feel more at ease.
If, however, they continue to seem nervy and over-attached to you, or you notice other concerning behaviour (such as toileting indoors outside their litter tray, increased aggression, or over- or under-grooming), this could be a sign of an underlying health problem or anxiety disorder such as separation anxiety. Get them checked over by a vet to see what might be causing their clinginess.
Is your cat a born follower? Share your stories and pics on Instagram or Facebook with the tag #PethoodStories.