Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have a wonderful female spayed tuxedo cat named Penelope. I love her, but she makes working at home very hard. After breakfast she comes into my home office, lays down in front of the keyboard and rests her head on my left forearm. To type I have to rest my right elbow gently on her hip. She then starts purring loudly. I don’t get to type much or she’ll get restless and register her displeasure somehow. This really slows me down.
All I can really do is mouse around a little. Actually I move the keyboard off the keyboard tray and back onto the desk so she can have the keyboard tray to herself.
She’s an indoor-outdoor cat. She has four other kitties to play with, including her womb-mate Aphrodite. We live in the country in a house, and there are squirrels, moles, voles, field mice, lizards, and birds to chase. She lives with a very nice, respectful German Shepherd dog too.
But she cries if I try to pick her up and put her aside so I can read my papers and type like a normal person. If I ignore her very long she sits up on her haunches and starts to paw me on the shoulders and cheek. If that doesn’t work, she starts to scratch me. Then if I start to absent-mindedly pet her she’ll bite me to get me to refocus exclusively on her. There’s no compromise with this cat! She must be the center of attention.
If I put her out the front door she runs around to the back door and starts pounding on it. There’s no doubt this wonderful kitty loves me and is usually an affectionate, comical bundle of laughs — but I would like her to be more emotionally independent. Any suggestions?
Siouxsie: Rita, as you probably know, there are “people cats” and “cat cats.” People cats like Penelope clearly prefer the company of their humans to that of other cats, while cat cats tend to be more aloof with people. But we’d agree that Penelope’s behavior is a rather extreme example of people cat-ness.
Thomas: You didn’t mention how long Penelope has been exhibiting this behavior. If she’s been snuggly and cuddly with you since she was a kitten, then this is a behavior that’s grown over time. If, on the other hand, this behavior is a recent development, it could be that she was stressed or traumatized somehow and is turning to you, her person, for comfort.
Dahlia: It’s tricky to change a cat’s overly dependent behavior without causing her even more stress. The act of re-training a cat that’s overly dependent on a person for emotional support and comfort requires patience, because it can take quite a bit of time for the results to manifest.
Siouxsie: In some ways, the way you’ve responded to Penelope’s needy behavior has served as positive reinforcement. When you allow Penelope to have her way and keep you from doing what you need to do, or you rearrange your keyboard so that she can be where she wants to be, that’s telling her that it’s okay for her to be so demanding.
Thomas: The best way to address Penelope’s overdependent behavior is through a combination of positive reinforcement for the desired behavior, and the “no” and down (or out) method for undesired behavior. But as we said, this is going to require patience and consistency.
Dahlia: If you don’t mind Penelope being in the office with you, as long as she’s not on your arms or demanding attention, then you’re not going to have to retrain her all that much. But still, it may take patience.
Siouxsie: Positive reinforcement is the key. If Penelope learns to associate good things like treats or play or “mommy time” with staying out of your face, she’s more likely to undertake the behaviors you want. So before you undertake this positive reinforcement training, you’re going to have to get a few things.
Thomas: First, buy some treats that you know Penelope loves more than anything else, preferably treats that she doesn’t get on a regular basis. Then, get or make a special “thing on a string” toy that you can use to play with her. Keep this toy in a closet when you’re not using it. Finally, make Penelope a special place of her own where she can be near you and watch you without being on your lap — perhaps a special kitty bed on a corner of your desk or on a nearby shelf, or on a chair near a radiator or sunny window.
Dahlia: This special place shouldn’t be more than a couple of feet away from you, and it should be comfortable and warm. Perhaps you can even put one of your used shirts or pajamas in the bed so she can smell you when she cuddles up.
Siouxsie: When you’re working and Penelope gets in your lap, gently put her in her special place. Give her a treat (just one!) and lots of petting and love. Tell her what a good kitty she is for getting in her bed. When she starts to get out of her special place, reach out and pet her and tell her it’s okay, you’re here.
Thomas: Continue to do this, but don’t go crazy with the treats. We wouldn’t give Penelope more than three or four treats in a day. You can, of course, give her as much petting and love as you want. And make sure you adjust the amount of food she gets at mealtime to make up for the calories in the treats, or else you run the risk of her becoming obese.
Dahlia: If Penelope becomes demanding and continues to try and jump in your lap, that’s the time to say quietly but firmly, “no,” and put her on the floor. When she gives you a wounded look (and she will), pick her up and put her in her special place, give her petting and love, and tell her what a good kitty she is.
Siouxsie: When Penelope bites you, that’s another time for “no” and down. If she bites you to get your attention and she consistently hears “no” and is removed from your area, she’s eventually going to get the point that biting is not going to achieve the desired effect.
Thomas: And when she scratches, that’s also time for “no” and down (or out). If she keeps on scratching or biting, put her outside of your office and close the door. Give her a “time out” for 10 minutes or so, then let her back in. If she scratches or bites again, put her out again.
Dahlia: This method is all about reinforcing the behavior you want and consistently informing her in no uncertain terms about the behavior you don’t want.
Siouxsie: Penelope may and probably will cry, whine, pound doors and berate you until you think it would be better just to give in and let her have her way. But don’t give up; you still need to be consistent. It’ll be better for both of you in the long run.
Thomas: You can give Penelope a different and more constructive kind of “mommy time” by taking breaks from your work and playing with her using the “thing on a string” toy. If you’re doing a lot of keyboarding, you should take a couple of minutes every hour or so to stretch and take a walk around; it’ll keep you from getting repetitive motion injuries. And by playing with her, Penelope will get used to another style of interaction with you.
Dahlia: As an extra added bonus, a good play session will probably leave her tired and more inclined to curl up in her special place for a rest in a nice sun puddle.
Siouxsie: If you think Penelope’s behavior is due to anxiety, you might want to talk with your veterinarian and see if he or she has any other recommendations on how you can help her to feel calmer. Reducing anxiety may make Penelope more emotionally independent, too.
Thomas: Good luck, Rita. Changing Penelope’s behavior will take time and a lot of patience on your part. But the rewards will be worth it, for both you and Penelope. Please let us know how things turn out.
I sort of had this problem. We took a stray in (actually, she made herself part of the family when she became the first cat to use the new cat door we installed) where for the first month she laid on the pillow on the futon, between running to the kitchen to eat and drink. We cleaned up after her, as she wasn’t going outside to eliminate. If you got on the futon next to her she would climb up on you and sleep. After a month she was going outside (I think she finally realized that she was allowed back afterword). She had dreadful allergies and really troubles keeping herself clean, although regular brushing which she loved got that under control.
She discovered the top of my computer, and started sleeping there, then she decided since I was there she would climb up on my shoulder and sleep there or on my arm. I’d tolerate it as long as I could, and then would move her to the computer. Sometimes she would lay next to the mouse. As long as I was nearby, she was happy.
For awhile, at night she would sleep on my keyboard.
Then she lost some weight, and before I could get her to the vet, she was gone. She was old, somewhere in her teens. She is missed.
Hey, not sure if these boards are still open, but im having a similar problem with my new cat.
Me and my wife recently adopted a 6 year old tortie from a local shelter. she is spayed and very healthy. She has no desire to go outside, and uses her litter box very well. We were told that the cat was the companion of a lady with some sort of disability (we werent told what kind).
We took her home and she is a nightmare. She meows non stop. Constantly for no reason at all. She refuses to drink out of anything but a glass bowl on the living room coffee table, and tips the bowl over several times a day. She is declawed, but still uses her front paws as if she had them (clawing at furniture and kneeding). She was very small wen we got her, and hounds all day for food (we have a bowl constantly full of dry food, and giver her canned wet food twice daily) she refuses to eat from the bowl, instead picking her food up and eating it from the floor, making a pretty big mess. We tried giving her pate canned food, which she didant like. So we tried the meat in gravy and she just laps up the gravy and leaves all the meat.
She refuses to sit anywhere in the house other then ontop of you. She either sits on your lap, or right up against your leg whenever were on the couch. she meows in your face and paws at you if you dont let her near you.
Please help me.
My husband and I have two cats, “my” cat (an 11 year old Maine Coon-domestic mix) and “his” cat (a 6 year old Korat/Russian Blue mix.) I have had “my” cat since 2003 and we’ve had “his” cat since 2007 – both cats get along really well for male cats.
My cat wants to sit next to me and is happy so long as I’m within sight, and my husband’s cat, Saul, wants constant attention when he sits down – whether it be the couch, at the desk, to read, at the dinner table. It is driving him crazy. The behavior has gotten worse since we’ve tried to retrain Saul to not climb onto my husband.
Saul has always been a kneader, licker and a lap cat, but now he is clawing my husband when he isn’t able to knead or isn’t pet when he demands it. We are so frustrated with the behavior that we don’t know what to do anymore. We’ve tried playing with the cat, but he’s not interested – he wants to knead and be pet. We’ve tried the time-outs when the no’s don’t work, we’ve tried giving him his own spot to hang out, nothing’s working.
Any additional help would be very much appreciated!
You are lucky that you have a Tuxedo cat that likes your attention because rule of thumb, Tuxedo cats do not crave attention and do not like people, even their owners – it’s their nature. Typically, they will (only on occasion and only to their liking) visit with you. Also, Tuxedo cats hate to be held. I’ve seen some that like to be pet but it’s actually very rare and again, only to their liking. They will sit on your lap but to stand and pick them up is impossible for most that have them.
I have a sister with 2 of them and and uncle with one and it’s as if they’re directly related even though they live 200 miles from one another. Both families (many babies came along) act the same identical way. I thought it was just coincidence until I spoke to a few others and they said that this was very typical for a Tuxedo. Their mannerisms are very similar to the Siamese.
Feeding them are a chore too. Very finicky. Living at both my uncles and my sisters homes I always made a point of testing different things. I found that they will (all 3 cats) eat dry food, which isn’t really good for them and along with that – they’re favorite meal is Friskies Ocean White Fish or Friskies Salmon dinner. BUT, it has to be PATE. They will not eat a solid like chicken, meat unless it is pate.
They eat so little that I can get 5 meals out of a small can of Friskies. I just cut small triangles and they eat away like tomorrow. Then again, it has to be loose on the plate and not smashed or they won’t eat that either. lol They all love water and noticed that when I took it out of the refrigerator cold, they started drinking more of it than usual – a lot more.
So to have your Tuxedo cats hanging with you is a blessing because it is absolutely not the nature of the Tuxedo cats, which is why I loath them. I love a cat that wants me and wants to sit with me to be pet. These three cats want nobody – just food when they’re ready – and that food has to be served when they’re ready and not before they start meowing or they won’t eat it.
I’ve had many, many cats over the years (probably 15 or more) and all lovable as well as free to come and go in and out of the house, which is the way it should be.
I actually have two tuxedo cats who both require tons of attention. So much that I can get a proper night’s sleep because they need to cuddle so closely to me. My male cat is much more loving than my female cat, but they both want constant stroking and they hate when I’m on the phone or reading a book. My male cat even likes to stroke me back by licking my hands and face. The keyboard situation sounds all too familiar as well.
I have a problem with 2 grown cats getting long. I have introduced them the way your supposed to by keeping one in a room for a bit and giving her the space and letting them have their time but my alpha male just will not give in. Usually he isnt a fighter with other cats, he will give in and walk away but with this one he just doesnt like her. It got to the point I put Callie ( she is a callico) out for awhile (3 weeks) and it didnt work out. She would not eat, lost 7 pounds, and i believe she would have grieved herself to death. She is a big mammas baby and they both dearly love me. I brought Callie home from the pound and I have had Lucky ( male, yellow tabby) since he was a kitten and he is the biggest baby also. They both want my attention all the time and i think the biggest problem is they are jelous. I want them to get along because I cant get rid of either of them.