6 Hints That Your Cat Wants Attention

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Leaving cats alone can result in mischief. Here are some common situations you might discover if you've been away for several hours or simply aren't engaging them as much as they'd like.

1. Shredded Toilet Papercat image

Cats love to play, scratch and bite, and a toilet paper roll provides a three-for-one punch. To your kitty, a roll of toilet paper likely registers as another new toy meant just for them. Besides shredding the paper with their claws, cats may unravel the roll from room to room, rolling out the white carpet for your return.

How you react can influence what happens next, especially when your cat wants attention. If you're not around to play or provide a warm lap to nap on, attacking your spare roll of toilet paper might be the perfect way to get you to chase them around and temporarily satisfy their hunger for attention.

2. Mangled ToysBlack and white cat with a stuff mouse toy between its paws.

This can include a catnip toy with its stuffing strewn about the room, a destroyed bird toy lying in a pool of feathers, a mouse toy with its ears or tail chewed off and drowned sparkle balls in your cat's water dish — or your toilet. When leaving cats alone, it's important to set out a variety of engaging toys for them to play with. But solitary play can't compare to interacting with their beloved human. A bored, lonely or stressed cat looks for ways to entertain themselves, and this may mean going a little too hard on their toys.

3. Stolen Snacks

When you're away, your cat may take the opportunity to cruise your kitchen countertops or open cabinets, helping themselves to whatever they find. That might mean eating a stick of butter, chewing holes in their treat bag or helping themselves to catnip. Overindulging in snacks or inedible items can prompt upset tummies and bathroom accidents. If you think your cat might indulge in thievery, secure food inside cat-proof containers and cupboards with child-proof locks. Cats love heights, so putting food on top of the refrigerator may look more like a challenge than a deterrent. Visit your veterinarian if you suspect your cat consumed an inedible item while you were away.

4. Damaged Furniture

Long-haired Calico stretching against a pink striped couch.

Your cat loves your comfortable couch as much as you do (after all, it smells like you), and that's one reason they claw it. When cats claw, they're marking the item as theirs, leaving behind their scent and visual cues — which, to you, just looks like a shredded sofa. The most prized territories in the home often get the most scratches. When a cat wants attention, they may also scratch the "wrong" target to make you notice them. After all, any attention trumps being ignored.

5. Toppled Items

orange tabby cat with paw in a drinking glass.

Another way that cats try to get your attention is by knocking your things off of tables (gravity experiments!). Cats use their paws to explore the world, and paw-patting items offer great entertainment. Your cat registers objects in motion better than stationary objects, so making things "go" makes sense from a behavioral standpoint. When a cat wants attention, they might do this right in front of you. Secure any valuable items with museum putty or something similar, and place items such as your phone or glass of water out of your cat's reach. Not only will this help prevent things from getting broken, but it will also help keep your cat safe and unharmed.

6. Soiled Sheets

People often think of dogs when they think of separation anxiety, but cats can also develop anxiousbehaviors when they're left alone. A classic sign of feline separation anxiety is eliminating on your bed. You spend lots of time in your bed, and your mattress and bedding smell more like you than anything else in the house. Stressed cats use their own smell to calm themselves and target items that remind them of their beloved person. Of course, missing the litter box may also point to a health issue, so check in with your veterinarian.

A brown and black striped cat playing with her pet owner

How to Reduce the Mayhem

Cats won't understand your tears or your angry voice when you come home to a mess.
Disciplining a cat after the fact won't work, and punishment will only make your cat fear you. Instead, prevent messes by securing breakables, cat-proofing the kitchen and closing the bathroom door to protect toilet paper. More importantly, give your cats what they need and deserve — your love and attention.

Enrich their environment with tunnels to hide and play in and levels to lounge and scratch so they leave forbidden spots alone. Here are some other tips:

Schedule Play Sessions

Toss a toy in the empty bathtub while you brush your teeth in the morning and bring out the fishing pole lure after dinner. Routine helps cats feel secure.

Deliver on the Snuggles

Give your cat nuzzles in the morning before you get up and lap time in the evening while you wind down with a book or television show.

Provide Plenty of Toys

This includes toys you don't mind them destroying, such as paper bags and cardboard boxes. Fill a box with fresh grass or leaves for cats to sniff and paw. It's better to vacuum up a legal mess than your grandmother's china.

Offer Visual Entertainment

Set up bird feeders and birdbaths outside the windows for your cat's viewing pleasure.

Set Up Scratching Opportunities

Situate approved claw targets near windows, couches and anywhere your cat likes to lounge.
Let's face it: You have to leave home at some point. But with enough cat-approved attention throughout the day, leaving cats alone doesn't have to result in disaster. Focusing on giving your kitty the TLC they deserve is the best line of defense.

A cat sits wrapped in toilet paper

Contributor Bio

Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, an award-winning pet journalist and author of 35+ pet titles. Quoted as an expert by the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reader's Digest and many other publications, Amy has appeared on Animal Planet, Good Morning America, CNN and many others. Amy shares behavior and care information on her website, to empower cat and dog lovers to make informed decisions for their animal companions. She lives in North Texas with her furry muses and several hundred roses.