Most of the time when I go to the kitchen, my cat, Mimosa, decides to follow me. I have always attributed this to her incessant search for food. Her dry food is on the counter and her evening wet food is served in a bowl in the kitchen cabinet. It makes sense that Mimosa would try her luck as soon as she walked into the kitchen. But it turns out there are other reasons why a cat follows a human. If you’ve ever wondered “Why do cats follow you?”, here are some answers.

Why does my cat follow me? It may be kitten behavior.

One answer to the question “Why is my cat following me?” is that a cat following you may be a learned behavior that goes back to when you were a kitten. Despite the image of cats as very independent creatures, young kittens learn about life by following their mothers. This is sometimes called the mother-cat bond.

A kitten quickly learns that if it follows its mother, it will find food, play, security, and affection – pretty much everything a human ends up doing when they adopt a cat.

Jacqueline Munera, a certified feline behavior consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, adds that these types of positive interactions – which include grooming activities like brushing and petting – help create a bond between cats and their owners.

“Some cats are very curious and want to know what their owners are doing,” Jacqueline adds. “Other cats seem to enjoy spending time with their owners and following them around the house. This strong attachment relationship can also have a downside: Cats suffer from stress when separated from their humans.”

So the next time you ask yourself, “Why is my cat following me?” the first answer might be that it’s a learned behavior.

Why is my cat following me as a sign of affection?

The second question you should ask yourself after asking “Why is my cat following me?” is whether your habit of following him is a form of affection for him.

“It’s a great compliment to be chosen as a favorite person,” says Jacqueline, “It means your cat chooses to stay close to you and spend time in your sphere of influence.”

Your cat may also miss you, especially if you are away from home all day for work. This can mean that your cat follows you around when you return as if she wants to tease you with a game or pet sitting.

How should you reciprocate your cat following you and other feline displays of affection?

It’s important to acknowledge and reciprocate the affection your cat shows you when she follows you, but be sure to do so in a way that your cat appreciates.

“The best way to reciprocate depends on each cat’s preferences,” says Jacqueline. “Some cats may enjoy moments of interactive play, while others don’t really want interaction and just want to be around you.”

When it comes to returning affection, it’s wise to experiment to see where your cat likes to be petted or brushed. “Most cats’ favorite places are the underside of their chin, cheeks, and the top of their head,” Jacqueline says. “Some cats even like to be scratched on their backs, near the base of their tails, and there are even cats who like to be stroked on their bellies and scratched!”

“Owners can learn cats’ body language to better understand their communication signals,” she adds.

Why is a stray cat following you?

We may have answered the question “Why is my cat following me?”, but what should you do if you notice what appears to be a stray cat following you outside?

First, Jacqueline points out that if the cat is showing “signs of friendly behavior,” it is most likely that the cat is used to people and not feral.

In most cases, it is an indoor/outdoor friendly cat that enjoys its outdoor privileges. Feel free to pet the cat if it seems open, but do so gently and without startling it. And be sure to introduce yourself properly. (Also wash and sanitize your hands when you get home).

If a cat follows you outside, it may be a house cat that has lost its way. Check collars and markings. Check local ads or social media notifications to see if anyone is looking for a cat with a similar description.

If the cat doesn’t seem friendly, Jacqueline recommends watching its body language to assess whether it seems threatening or fearful. Although she adds, “This is usually not a very common problem, as most stray cats leave people alone.” Check to see if the cat’s ear has fallen off, the universal sign that a feral cat has been neutered. If not, consider spaying or neutering through a local TNR program.

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