Cats will paw at smooth surfaces to release their pheromones and mark their territory. They may also be exhibiting playful behavior by running their front paws on a smooth surface or simply like the way it feels. If the pawing seems more compulsive or obsessive, it may be that they’re dealing with some type of disorder.
If your cat is scratching at smooth surfaces, rather than gently pawing, you may find to try and determine why they’re scratching and use these solutions to fix the destructive behavior.
Cats have scent glands in their paws, so when they rub their paws on smooth surfaces, it can stimulate those glands to release pheromones. Cats have these scent glands in several places, but since it’s harder for your cat to rub their face against a flat surface to distribute their pheromones (they’ll more so rub their face on corners), they’ll use their paws.
Your cat may want to release pheromones to mark their territory. If you have other cats in the house or the house you live in had other animals in it at some point, your cat may be trying to cover those scents with theirs, in any way they can, which includes pawing at smooth surfaces.
Even if your home is brand new and has never had other pets in it, there will still be unfamiliar scents, and your cat will still have the desire to let any other animals that come along know; this is their territory.
2. PLAY OR ENJOYMENT
Your cat may simply be playing when they paw at smooth surfaces. If the behaviour is accompanied by running around, hiding, jumping, etc. this is most likely the reason for the pawing.
They may also like the smooth surface that allows them to glide their paws across. Humans like to touch soft fabrics, pop bubble wrap, etc. for the pure enjoyment of it. So it’s not a stretch to believe cats may also touch surfaces for enjoyment.
3. OBSESSIVE BEHAVIOUR
Cats, just like humans can have things going on in their minds that aren’t always rational. If your cat seems to be pawing at smooth surfaces obsessively, it may be that they’re dealing with stress, anxiety, a disorder or chemical imbalance of some sort and don’t quite know how to express it, so they behave in odd ways.
How do I get my cat to stop pawing at smooth surfaces?
If your cat is pawing at smooth surfaces such as windows, mirrors, glass, bathtubs, sinks, etc. the behaviour may be starting to bother or worry you. Here are a few options to consider:
1. CLEAN & SPRAY
When the pawing is due to your cat wanting to mark their territory, it may be that they smell something you don’t. If you think it may be from animals that lived in the space prior to you moving in, you can try using an enzyme cleaner, such as this one, or this eco-friendly plant-based one, to remove the unwanted scents.
Then you can spray the area with a product such as Feliway, which mimics “positive” pheromones that help put your cat at ease and reduce behaviour such as excessive scratching or spraying.
2. MORE PLAYTIME
If you believe your cat is pawing at smooth surfaces to be playful, feel free to allow them to continue to do so. But if their claws come out once and a while and you’d like them to stop, consider taking more time out of your day to play with your cat. You may also try introducing a new toy once every month or two so they have something new to stimulate them.
Try introducing a different smooth surface, one you don’t mind them pawing at. Perhaps you can give them a large plastic bin to hop in and paw away at. If you “reward” them when they paw at the surface you want them to (e.g. give them lots of attention, cheer them on, give them cuddles or treats after), and ignore them when they’re pawing the surface you don’t want them to, they may start to associate the “good” surface with rewards and be more drawn to it.
If their pawing at smooth surfaces seems strange (not playful, happening too frequently, etc.) talk to your veterinarian. If your cat commonly exhibits strange behaviour, there may be something more going on in their brain and with their mood.
Your veterinarian may be able to prescribe medication that helps balance your cat out. Although drugs shouldn’t always be the first solution to treat problems with, they can help you take steps towards correcting the behaviour. Jackson Galaxy gave an interview on the subject, which you can read here.
I hope this article has helped you understand why your cat paws at smooth surfaces and how to correct it (if you want to) 🙂
You may also be interested in reading: Why Does My Cat Scratch the Mirror? (7 Ways to Stop It)and Why Does My Cat Scratch the Window? (6 Ways to Stop It)