Here’s the situation: You have a few cats. They all get along well, for the most part. But one cat disproportionately demands more attention than the rest. Sound familiar?
In my case, the attention-seeking cat in my household of five cats is the young adult Norton. I don’t think there’s enough attention in the world for Norton. He absolutely loves and thrives on all the attention he can get. And I love giving it to him. But I also need to make sure the other cats don’t get shortchanged. Here’s what I’ve tried to do to make sure that everyone gets the attention and love they need.
In a multi-cat household with an attention monger, it can be very easy to get busy with the attention grabber and not notice the other cats as much. So observe everyone. You know your cats better than anyone. Does someone appear to be a little “bummed” or needing a little directed love? Has another cat gone into a shell? Are the other cats wanting attention, but when you take out the toys, does the attention monger make it impossible for the others to join in the play?
I’ve done this when needed. I have adult cats that love to play, but they’ll hang back when my young adult plays. Norton is all over the toys and he’s so boisterous that the others don’t get a chance to have fun. So sometimes, I isolate Norton in the bedroom and play with the others for a bit. He objects for a while because he wants to be in on the action. But I think it’s important for everyone to get the play and interaction they need. Some cats need more or less of this, but every one of my cats needs it in a certain way. For example, Kieran gets very happy if I brush him. Kieran will play, too, but it takes a while to work him up to it. Rama is wired to play, and I can tell that Rama sometimes doesn’t like if it the young adult Norton horns in on Rama’s playtime. I do some musical cat moving in the household, and try to give each cat what they need.
Ideally, I’d really like to be able to play with all the cats together, or at least the ones that really really love to play. So I’ve gotten a little inventive about trying to create situations where they can all play together. I bet many of you have done the same thing. For example, if I’m playing with the feline fisher, I try to swing it in a wide swath, so that several cats can play at once. This usually works well if you have places on the floor where cats can hide — a box, for example, or between pieces of furniture. Sometimes what will happen is that cats will hide in various places near where we’re playing, and jump out to grab the Feline Fisher or the wand toy as I swing it by them. In this way, I can keep several cats busy at once.
Other ways I’ve successfully played with a few cats at once involve the red dot laser toy and the chase-the-cat-kibble game. I’ll throw one pellet at a time over a smooth floor and my three cats that love this game will take off running. I throw the kibble pieces in different directions so that each cat has a chance to run and chase the food.
If you have a friend or partner who loves cats, get them to help keep the attention monger busy while you play with or give attention to another cat in the household. Norton is so wired, for example, that my husband could play with him in one part of the house while I play with or give attention to some of the others, elsewhere. Separate rooms, if you have them, work well for this.
Of course, giving everyone attention doesn’t just mean playing. It depends upon the cat. Kieran, as I mentioned, loves brushing at least as much or more than playing. Kieran loves lap time. We make sure that he gets room on a lap, even if the attention monger Norton is trying to get lap space as well. It’s important to help everyone be happy. I think it contributes to their overall health, as well — at least to the extent that we can do our best to help a cat be healthy and happy.
If your attention seeker is young and wired, like mine, tire him out completely, then play with the others. Better yet, adopt another cat who can keep up with the attention seeker. There is truth to the cliche that if you have one kitten, you should have two (so that they can play and wear each other out, and leave the older cats alone). We’re not able to do this here at this time, but Jamie Bluebell does a pretty good job of keeping up with Norton. Jamie is about one and a half years old and Norton is eight months old at this time.
The quiet cat who hangs back may inadvertently get ignored when your attention monger is the center of the scene. So spread the love and make sure that everyone gets what they need. Some cats need more than others, and some need a unique form of attention that might do nothing for another cat.
Do you have an attention mongering cat in your multi-cat household? How do you meet their needs? What clever ways have you devised to keep everyone happy? Share your great ideas in comments!
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.