Cats are celebrated for their independence and can be low-maintenance pets. Yet, beneath this well-known aloofness, lies an intricate landscape of emotional needs and a desire to bond with us.
This uncertainty of trying to find a good balance between giving your cat the space it needs and the attention it requires can be confusing at times.
How much attention does a cat really need?
The amount of attention your cat requires depends on its breed, age, health and individual temperament. A general guideline is that cats need at least 20-30 minutes of active play and interaction daily, along with plenty of opportunities for quiet companionship.
In this guide, we will help you to understand your cat’s attention needs, the consequences of no attention and what you can do to deepen the bond with your cat.
Why Do Cats Need Attention?
Humans aren’t designed to be ‘islands’ and neither are cats.
They are emotional creatures with the desire for affection and social interaction with their owners.
There’s a good reason why your cat likes rubbing itself against you all the time. Got to learn to read between the lines when it comes to our cats.
In fact, a study has found that cats can form secure with their owners, similar to the attachments formed by children and dogs.
The common misconception about cats is that they are aloof and ‘cold hearted’.
Cats aren’t behaving aloof on purpose.
They just seem that way as cats have always been solitary animals as a species and don’t have a habit of living in groups or packs like dogs or cats.
Stray cats or feral cats in the wild can get together and form cat colonies with some social order.
They spend much of their time sleeping together and engaging in social grooming.
How Much Attention Do Cats Need Daily?
As mentioned earlier, cats generally do well with 30 minutes of attention every day.
That is just a fraction of your waking hours.
And if you can’t even spare this amount of time for your cat, keeping a pet might not be ideal for you now.
Cats don’t have the best attention spans so it would be best to divide up your attention in small amounts throughout the door.
The amount of attention that a cat requires also depends on the following factors.
Age Factors (Kittens vs Adult Cats)
Kittens are similar to human toddlers with whiskers. There are full of energy, curiosity and can never seem to get tired
Their playful antics are also their way of exploring the world and learning how to be a cat.
This means they require more interaction and stimulation, from playtime to socialization.
Less Than 8 Weeks Old
If you have a kitten that is less than 8 weeks old, it is very fragile at this stage and needs round-the-clock attention.
They can’t regulate their body temperature well and can’t feed themselves.
Kittens at this age need to be fed every few hours.
If you have a kitten that is already a few months old, there are easier to manage but still requires constant vigilance.
Eight Week To Four Months Of Age
This is also the teenage years for cats which means they are nothing but ‘trouble’.
They will have almost 4x the energy of an adult cat and will be jumping, running and climbing all over your home.
Having interactive toys and scheduling play sessions with them can do wonders.
You will need to kitten-proof and watch your kitten carefully as it might get into trouble like getting too close to the window ledge or power socket.
When my cat was this age, I had to watch him like a hawk. There were a few times when I found him trying to get into situations that almost made me die of fright.
This would be the best time to get your kitten used to being groomed.
You don’t want to be stuck in a painful experience where your cat hates being groomed as it gets older.
Most cats are considered to be adults when they are older than a year old.
Adult cats are more settled, understand their environment and are generally less demanding.
They may enjoy a good cuddle session on the couch or some quiet lap time while you read a book.
There’s really no need to spend every waking hour with your adult cat. I know, the urge can be very tempting but they also appreciate their quiet time away from you.
A good rule of thumb with adult cats is to let them guide you on how much attention they want.
Now that my cat is a full-grown adult, he comes looking for attention when it is time for bed.
Breed Of Your Cat
Different cat breeds have varying social needs. Some cat breeds enjoy being the life of the party while some are like introverted artists who enjoy their solitude.
Here are cat breeds that require more attention.
- Maine Coon
The above cat breeds definitely need more attention than just 30 minutes a day. If you are someone who is gone most of the day, these breeds won’t be suitable for you.
Don’t choose a cat just based on its physical appearance alone.
Make sure you are able to provide the necessary care and attention required by the specific breed.
Individual Cat Personality
Every cat is a unique character with their own personality even for breeds that require more human attention.
I was hoping to convert my cat into a lap cat but he can’t sit still for more than 5 seconds on my legs.
These individual differences mean that you’ll need to spend some time understanding your cat’s specific needs and temperament.
Always move at the pace at which your cat is comfortable.
It’s like a dance where your cat leads and you follow, ensuring you provide the right amount and type of attention they need to thrive.
What Happens If You Don’t Give Your Cat Attention?
Rest assured that your cat will definitely let you know if you are not giving it enough attention. Here are some signs to look out for.
Meowing Or Vocalizing
Domesticated cats have evolved over the years to develop an effective form of communication with humans.
And it is called ‘Meowing’.
Many people don’t realize that cats generally don’t meow or vocalize at each other to communicate unless it is a sign of aggression or mating.
But when it comes to humans, your cat will meow to communicate its desire for attention.
And they will be doing it rather loudly and frequently till you switch off your Netflix and go give your cat attention.
Meowing back at your cat to tell it to wait will only make matters worse.
Disrupting Your Schedule
Many cats know how to choose the busiest of times to get your attention.
Like when you are busy typing out an important email or presentation at home and your cat will just come and plomp itself in front of you and your work.
Chances are nothing can get done until your cat’s call attention is required.
Your cat wants your attention and it wants it now!
Pawing Or Nudging
Some cats can be a bit more brazen or blatant when it comes to expressing their need for your attention.
Your feline companion won’t have any qualms about using its paws to nudge you on your arm or face to get your attention.
There will make sure to make some form of body contact to make their presence known to you.
It is super adorable and one feline gesture you can’t say no to.
Flopping At Your Feet
This is something that my cat has been doing ever since he was a kitten.
When he wants my attention, he will walk to where I am and just flop over in a furry ball of cuteness.
When he flops, he just dumps his entire body weight on my feet and lies on his back exposing his belly.
I know I can’t get away without giving him some belly rubs for at least five minutes. Otherwise, I will have a cat flopping at my feet wherever I go.
Your cat might start engaging in destructive behavior if it is not getting enough attention from you.
It will scratch your furniture, unprovoked aggression or even knock things over.
Some cat can even start to have drastic changes to their usual litter box habits.
Cats don’t engage in such behavior out of spite but more of out restlessness and boredom.
To me, the best way to keep your cat well-behaved is with lots of attention and playtime.
Make sure it has expended its energy and would rather take a cat nap.
Cats that have been ignored or not given the right amount of attention for long periods of time can fall into depression.
Cats that are depressed will show some of these symptoms:
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Lack of energy
- Excess grooming
- Sleeping more than usual
If you noticed that your feline buddy has been showing these signs without any underlying health issues, you need to start spending more time with your cat to get it back on track.
How Long Can Cats Go Without Attention?
If for some reason you are unable to give your cat much attention for a day or two, that is fine.
But if you have personal matters that need you to be emotionally absent for longer than that, it is better to get a pet sitter that can come and interact with your cats in your absence.
It is not a good idea to just ignore your cats for long periods of time and cause unwanted behaviors.
How To Give Your Cat Attention?
There are a couple of tried and proven ways that you can use to show and give your cat attention.
Some might work better than others depending on your cat’s personality.
Grooming Your Cat
Cats take pride in their appearance and spend a couple of hours each day grooming themselves.
Some longhaired cats like the Siberian or Persian breed require more frequent grooming to maintain their fur coats.
Brushing your cat is also a good way to give it attention and strengthen your bond.
Mother cats spend a lot of time licking and grooming their kittens to make sure they are clean.
It is best to start grooming your cat from a young age or it might get harder as your cat gets older.
Play With your Cat
Spending some time playing with your cat is also a great way to bond and show attention.
Playtime also allows your cat to make use of its natural instinct of stalking and hunting.
Inside that little feline friend of yours resides a soul of a wild cat. Cats are expert hunters and are always ready to showcase that.
Get interactive toys that can help to stimulate your cat’s senses.
Toys that they can chase will also excite them tremendously.
My cat loves anything that resembles a bird and can spend hours stalking and chasing a feather tied to a string.
Cats go crazy over laser pointers as well. Just be sure not to point it at their faces as it can damage their eyes.
Playtime also lets your cat exercise its muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Talk To Your Cat
There is no need for you to start meowing at your cat in an attempt to communicate with it.
Just speak normally and gently to your cat as you would do with a loved one.
Cats are highly perceptive animals.
Even though they might not understand the meaning of your words, they can start to understand your mood and emotions via the tone of your voice.
Don’t be surprised if your cat starts ‘talking’ back to you with meows and chirps.
Nap With Your Cat
One other way to spend quality time with your cat is to take a nap together.
If there’s one other thing that a cat does well besides being cute is sleeping.
Cats sleep about 18-20 hours a day which is a lot compared to humans.
Cats are usually active at dawn and dusk to hunt prey that feeds at that time.
The rest of the hours are spent sleeping or napping to regain their energy for the next hunt.
If your cat is a lap cat then taking a nap together is easy.
However, if your cat isn’t one like mine, what I will do is find a time when my cat is napping on my bed or couch and sleep beside him.
One more thing I like to do while napping with my cat is to hold his paw in my hand.
My cat likes it too and it strengthens the bond between us.
One thing to note is that not all cats like their paws being touched as it is very sensitive for them.
Don’t force it or you might agitate your cat.
Get Another Cat
There are times when your job or family matters take a lot of your time and require you to spend most of the day outside.
In order for your cat to get the attention that it needs, having another cat as a companion can do wonders for busy cat lovers.
These ‘partners-in-crime’ will develop a strong bond with each other and will do a great job of keeping themselves busy while you are at work.
No one knows how to groom and play better with your cat than another cat.
If you do plan to get another cat, it would be best to ensure that there are of the same age and well-socialized.
Kittens and adult cats don’t go so well together most of the time due to wide differences in energy levels. Two kittens or two adult cats would make a better pairing.
Two cats are better than one, most of the time.
How Much Attention Does A Cat With Special Needs Require?
If you have a cat with special needs, it will require a bit more care and attention.
These will include cats with:
- Physical disabilities
- Chronic medical conditions
- Neurological damage
- Sensory issues
- Behavioral problems
Cats with special needs may require more frequent check-ups, medication or special care routines.
This could be in the form of help with feeding, grooming, or using the litter box.
Special needs cats always require more emotional support and encouragement.
Providing them with a safe, comfortable space and lots of affection can help them lead a happy and fulfilled life.
Do Cats Need More Attention Than Dogs?
Generally speaking, cats do not require as much attention and maintenance as compared to dogs.
You don’t have to bring your cat out for walks or spend many hours interacting with them.
Most cats will be busy sleeping when their owners are out at work and will be awake and ready for attention when the owner is back from work later in the evening.