More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder

Why Does My Cat Ignore Me?

Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP,
Feb 8, 2022

It might go without saying, but when it comes to social skills, cats are not dogs.

Many dogs need the attention of their owners and crave social interactions. Cats are much more independent, and some would even go as far as to say that they can seem standoffish. They still need social interactions, but they seek them on their own terms and usually don’t beg for attention.

So how do you know if your cat is grumpy and wants to be left alone, or just didn’t know you wanted their attention, or is simply ignoring you?

Why Do Cats Ignore You?​

There are many reasons why your cat may seem to be ignoring you. Here are the most common.

Your cat wants alone time.​

Probably the simplest and most common reason is that your cat simply isn’t in the mood right now.

Cats are independent creatures and have their own emotions and moods. If your cat doesn’t feel like getting scratched or coming for a treat, well, chances are, they’re just simply going to ignore you and keep doing whatever it is they prefer to do, which may include napping.

If your cat is doing their natural thing and relaxing, but this doesn’t include you, don’t take In this case, it’s best to just leave your kitty alone and let them come to you when they want attention.

Older cats might not know you want their attention.​

Some cats have more significant reasons to not respond to you. For example, if your cat has gotten a bit older, there is a chance that they aren’t hearing or seeing quite as well as they used to. There is the possibility that your kitty isn’t ignoring you, but rather, they simply haven’t yet clued in to the fact that you are trying to interact.

Moving a little more slowly and deliberately helps these kitties become aware of you, and then they can decide if they feel like paying attention to you. If this becomes a trend, talk to your veterinarian about it so that they can look for underlying medical conditions. Of course, if your cat is acting lethargic or not responding when you try to get their attention, call your vet right away, as this can be an emergency.

Your cat might be scared.​

Many cats will choose to ignore something they perceive as a threat, or that they are stressed by. If you have punished or swatted your cat in the past, or even yelled at them, they may now see you as a potential threat.

Your cat doesn’t know if your intentions are good or bad, so they try to ignore you. Sometimes, simply accidentally stepping on your cat is enough to trigger the cold-shoulder reaction. In these cases, cats will often flee if you continue to solicit their attention.

If your cat runs away, hides, and tries to avoid you, back off and give them some space. Let a little time pass, and then try to win over their affection with some gentle scratches or treats. Cats have long memories, and a spray with the water bottle may be remembered weeks and months into the future. You should never discipline a cat with punishment—and that includes spraying with water or yelling.

Your cat may not be feeling well.​

It is not unusual for cats to become more reclusive if they are not feeling well, particularly if there is an illness brewing. Even as cats age, they can develop a form of cognitive dysfunction that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

If your cat is showing any signs of concern in addition to being more standoffish, such as drinking more than usual, having less of an appetite, or acting different in any other way, see your veterinarian. Kitties will often pull back when sickness is developing, and the sooner you discover the underlying problem, the better. With a little effort and some help from your vet, you can translate their behavior and address the problem.

Your cat may be upset by something.​

Cats seem to be very independent and sometimes standoffish, but the truth is, most cats have delicate emotions. The slightest insult—perhaps even smelling like you were petting another cat—may put their nose out of joint and cause them to snub you.

Does this mean they are being spiteful? Not at all! They are just communicating their feelings in the only way they know how.

Most cats are pretty forgiving and anxious to have everyone back in good grace. A little detective work and some treats or canned food bribes should do just the trick.

What If My Cat Is Suddenly Ignoring Me?​

If your cat’s behavior seems to change suddenly, run through the potential scenarios that might have triggered this change.

Is there a new pet in the house? A new baby? A change in work schedule? Perhaps you’ve moved? Did you trip on your cat while cooking dinner? If you can’t find an event that may have triggered the change, medical concerns come into play.

Often, cats will hide signs of illness very successfully until they are truly quite sick. If this is the case, your kitty may seem to withdraw suddenly because they feel poorly.

If you notice that your cat has a sudden change of behavior (including ignoring you) that you can’t explain with a specific reason, have your cat examined with some bloodwork as soon as possible. You’ll be happy to find any problems early, while they can be addressed.

Daniel E.
Exactly. Similarly, a lot of symptoms that are attributed to aging can be signs of treatable disease (arthritis, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, etc).
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