In a nutshell, yes, a kitten can become too attached to its human companion. This over-dependence often results in destructive behaviors when the kitten's emotional needs become more than his caretaker can meet. Preventative measures by humans lead to a more mutually satisfying relationship when the cat is an adult.
Without trying to lay a blanket statement on the issue of what causes felines to become too dependent on their owners, there are a few commonalities when such issues arise. According to the Feline Advisory Bureau, a cat is more apt to become too attached to his human companion if that human companion is a woman living alone, is taking prescription medication for a psychological issue or is experiencing divorce or the death of a spouse or partner. This is also true if the individual refers to the cat as if he were a human and prefers making eye contact with the cat than other people. Another indicator that a cat can become too dependent on his human companion is if the owner won't go on vacation for fear of leaving the cat to be cared for by anyone else.
The Feline Advisory Bureau gives some examples of just how far some human companions have gone in an effort to accommodate a cat's needs. One woman placed seven different varieties of cat food in seven different bowls so the feline could make his pick based on what he was in the mood to eat. Another left the heat turned up at night in the entire house to make sure the cat wasn't cold in any room he chose to be in while his owner slept. Another was getting up at 3 a.m. to cook fish for the cat because she believed it was what the cat wanted.
How It Starts
According to Vet Info, a kitten can develop separation anxiety if taken away from his mother too early in life. In the rush to have a cute little furball romping around the home, some potential owners mistakenly convince less-than-strict breeders to release kittens from their mothers as early as six weeks, according to the Fanciers Breed Referral List. This ends up creating an unstable environment for the kitten, who should continue to nurse from his mother as he begins to eat solid food. To compensate from the early loss of mother, kittens may suck on blankets, buttons, human earlobes or even themselves. Once this behavior begins, it's difficult to stop.
Unfortunately, the kitten's human companions generally only recognize something is wrong once their feline pal begins to engage in behaviors that humans don't like. According to Vet Info, these actions include urinating or defecating in unusual places, frequent vomiting, excessive grooming leading to bald spots, withdrawal and destructive clawing or gnawing at furniture or other household items. Another behavior known as caterwauling involves the feline walking around the house crying for attention.
In the case of early removal from the mother, the preventative measure is quite simple: Leave the kitten with his mother until it is appropriate to remove him. Once a kitten is "of age" and ready to move on to a new household, Vet Street suggests you plan furball's arrival for a time when you can be home for a couple of days to teach the kitten your home's routine and set boundaries for his behavior. A kitten who knows the routine and knows when his needs will be met is less likely to become anxious.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.