Cats are full of quirky and sometimes confusing behaviors. Your feline companion may intentionally knock things over or bring home “gifts” like dead rodents and birds. However, there’s one cat behavior that often baffles humans, and that’s why do cats scratch at mirrors and windows?
Cats scratch at windows and mirrors as they do not recognize their reflection. Instead, they believe it to be another cat that they are attempting to fight by scratching. Cats also scratch at windows and smooth surfaces even if they can’t see their reflection to mark their scent.
Keep reading to learn more about how cats perceive their reflections, why they scratch surfaces, and what you can do to stop this behavior. By the end of this article, you will better understand your cat’s behaviors, instincts, and even your cat’s mental wellbeing.
Can Cats Recognize Their Reflection?
Recognizing your reflection demonstrates self-awareness, and only a few animals possess the ability to recognize themselves in the mirror. These animals are the great apes, elephants, and some species of dolphins.
Cats cannot recognize their reflection. They were tested to see if they could recognize their reflection using the mirror self-awareness test and failed. Instead, they interacted with their reflection as if it was another cat, or the cat showed a lack of interest in the mirror.
Some cats searched behind the mirror to find their reflection. Others ran away from their reflection, and some cats scratched at their reflection defensively.
A scientist called Gordon Gallup developed the mirror self-awareness test or MSR. This test examines an animal’s ability to recognize itself in a mirror by placing a dot or mark on the animal’s face.
If the animal then examines the mark on their face, it demonstrates that they recognize their reflection in the mirror. This test has been administered to a wide variety of animals, with most species failing the test.
However, the MSR test is somewhat controversial, and the scientist behind the test has produced some other unusual studies.
The mirror self-awareness test also has shortcomings when it comes to what animals use as their primary sense. For example, domestic dogs use their sense of smell for identification so that an MSR test may produce inaccurate results.
On top of this, animals may be capable of recognizing themselves in the mirror but have no interest. This can also lead to false negatives.
There are videos on the internet of cats appearing to interact with their reflection in the mirror. However, this is likely due to the cat’s intrigue or confusion by what they perceive as another cat mimicking their actions.
Check out this youtube video to see for yourself:
While videos like this are funny and wholesome, they do not indicate a cat’s ability to recognize its reflection. They do, however, provide insight into why your cat scratches at mirrors and windows when they can see their reflection.
Why Do Cats Scratch Smooth Surfaces?
If your cat is scratching at smooth surfaces or windows even when they can’t see their reflection, this is likely due to another expected feline behavior, scent marking.
Cats have scent glands on their paws, which leave a scent when cats scratch smooth surfaces. Cats will often mark their scent on shared surfaces like sofas and rugs. However, they also leave their scent on smooth surfaces like windows.
Cats leave their scent on surfaces to mark their territory. They instinctively keep their part to inform potential rivals that this is their area, among other reasons.
Marking territory is expected behavior in predatory animals like cats and dogs.
Cats also scratch against surfaces like windows and walls to maintain their claws. Scratching against surfaces can help your cat keep their nails sharp, which again, is an instinctual behavior.
Why Do Cats Scratch Windows at Night?
Have you ever been woken up at night by the sound of your feline companion pawing or scratching at the window? If you have, this can be a sign of a few potential issues your cat is having.
Cats scratch windows at night for a few reasons, but this behavior is usually an indication of frustration or anxiety. Here are the most likely reasons as to why your cat is scratching the windows at night:
- Excess energy
- Hunting instincts
1. Excess Energy
One of the main reasons for cats actively scratching windows at night is excess energy.
If your cat does not expend enough energy during the day, it can become more active at night. Cats are better equipped for nighttime activities than we are. As a result, a cat that has spent the day lounging around will scratch at the window in an attempt to get outside so they can use up their energy.
Helping your cat to burn through their energy during the day will reduce their activity during the night.
Cats scratching at windows during the night may also be a result of anxious or frustrated behavior. If your cat sees a dog or any potential threat outside, they may scratch the window to assure themselves that they are safe behind a solid window.
3. Hunting Instincts
Cats are phenomenal hunters, as they have heightened senses, retractable daggers in their feet, and incredible agility. They also have strong hunting instincts that drive them to search for prey.
If you find your cat sitting on the window watching the outside world, they may be searching for potential prey. If your feline spots something they want to pursue, they may start scratching at the window in an attempt to hunt their chosen target.
Allowing your cat outside to play and hint can prevent this behavior.
Also, providing the cat with interactive toys can suppress their hunting urges during the night. This, in turn, will save your windows from your kitty’s claws.
How To Stop Your Cat Scratching at Windows and Mirrors
Cats scratch your things, which is destructive and can lead to you spending your hard-earned money on repairs and replacements in your home.
To prevent your cat from damaging your window and mirrors with their claws, follow these tips and tricks that stop your cat from scratching windows and mirrors:
- Buy a scratching post.
- Place tape or sandpaper in front of the mirror and windows.
- Cover mirrors so the cat can’t see their reflection.
Providing your cat with a scratch post Is a fantastic way to prevent them from scratching anywhere else. A place for them to scratch allows your cat to sharpen their claws without causing damages.
Cats don’t like to stand on tape or sandpaper, so placing them in front of mirrors and windows will deter your cat from going there in the first place.
Also, covering mirrors and reflective windows will prevent cats from being able to see their reflection, which can prevent the cat from mistaking the reflection for another cat and scratching or otherwise interacting with it.
Cats scratch at windows and mirrors for a few reasons.
They may be mistaking their reflection for another cat as cats lack self-awareness, marking their scent, sharpening their claws, or attempting to get outside. Your cat may be scratching at windows and mirrors for one or maybe even all of these reasons.
Scratching is an instinct in felines. The best way to prevent this behavior from becoming destructive is by providing your cat with a scratch post so they can get it out of their system without destroying your home.
- The Nest: Can Cat See Itself in the Mirror?
- Semantic Scholar: The Mirror Test
- Youtube: Cat in the Mirror
- Paws Whiskers and Claws: Feline Scratching Behaviours
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.