Attention-seeking has risen to a new level among my cats. Until the adoption of Zorro, the suspected Ragdoll that we rescued in 2014, I’ve never had a cat whose personality came close to what Ragdolls are known for — a near-constant need for attention. I spend a lot of time with all my cats, but Zorro is over the top in seeking attention. He is so tuned into us that sometimes mere eye contact will get him to approach me seeking touch or other interaction. Zorro will choose attention over food or treats — apparently human interaction is his prime motivator.
I began to really observe feline attention seeking behavior when I realized Zorro habitually sprawls in a very small hallway where you cannot pass without stepping over him. When he settles in a spot there, he will not move. He looks comfortable. He doesn’t care that you have to step over him, and he seems fearless about accidentally getting stepped upon.
Here are some of the other ways I believe Zorro and some of my other cats seek attention. Many of you will recognize them.
Many of my cats do this, but Zorro, of course, takes it to a new extreme. If we’re reading a newspaper, a cat loves to get between us and what we are reading. If I have a pile of stuff on my desk, a cat loves to plop onto it so I cannot get at the pile. Maybe that is a good thing. What could possibly be so important in that pile?
I’ve had cats who sit near or right next to the laptop, possibly because of the heat it generates. But Zorro has been the most tenacious about claiming the space between me and the laptop. It’s not enough for him to be close to the machine — he has to get ON it, so that I can’t help but notice him. And truly, how can I get any work done when he’s acting so adorable? Zorro has fallen asleep on the keyboard, and/or acted so lethargic that I hate to move him.
The cats are all getting a lot more exercise in our new house, which has two stories. This means that at meal time, as I head to the basement to feed the cats, they all follow me closely down the steps. I’m careful where I’m walking, but only Zorro regularly runs in front of my legs as I go down the stairs. I am not sure if this an intentional attention-getting strategy, but it interests me that he’s the only cat who does this, and he does it consistently. I know to be very careful — so far, I haven’t tripped.
Behaviorist Rita Reimers at The Cat Analyst confirmed my intuition.
“Absolutely they’re trying to get your attention when they block your doorway and seem to get under your foot before you even know where your own foot is going,” said Reimers.
She said one of her cats, Sadie, was so jealous of the phone that she tried to pull it out of Reimers’ hand during a conversation. If the phone was just sitting on the coffee table, Sadie would “pick it up in her mouth and drag it away. She was very jealous of the phone because she did not understand why I spent so much time talking to it instead of to her.”
Reimers says that if she’s been working too hard at the desk, “slowly my cats will gather around me. My Gigi will crawl onto the footstool where my feet are and crawl up my legs to my lap to make me pay attention to her.”
She characterized a cat sprawling in a vulnerable position or location not only as attention-seeking behavior, but also the sign of a happy and secure cat.
“Only when cats are feeling very sure of their surroundings do they let themselves be so vulnerable,” she said.
So my Zorro is clearly quite sure of himself, and happy, when he blocks the hallway. This makes me very very happy.
How do your cats seek attention? Do they get in your way to get attention?
More by Catherine Holm:
About Catherine Holm: Cat Holm is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, and a contributor to Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes. She’s also a yoga instructor. Cat love living in nature and being outside every day, even in winter. She is mom to six adorable cats, all of them rescues.