Your cat may be scratching the mirror because they don’t understand the cat on the other side of it is their reflection and they’re scared of that reflection or they want to play with it. If you react when they scratch the mirror, they may also like the attention scratching the mirror or glass gets them. Your attention may be just what they want if the mirror or glass is on a door that allows them to get into another room, space, or outside. And in some cases, your cat’s behaviour can’t really be explained and may require medication if it becomes compulsive.
5 Reasons your Cat keeps Pawing at the Mirror
There are many reasons cats scratch surfaces, such as to sharpen their claws (you can read about those reasons here), but most of them don’t apply to mirrors. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons cats may scratch a surface such as a mirror or glass.
Pay attention to more than just the scratching. Is your cat jumpy when around the mirror or glass? If they’re more so hitting the mirror, rather than scratching it, or are puffed up and making themselves look big by arching their back and turning to the side, this may indicate they’re scared of their reflection or don’t quite know what to think of it yet.
If this is the case, it’s unlikely the behavior will last long. They should quickly realize it’s not another cat they’re seeing as there aren’t any smells or sounds coming from the reflection.
As long as they won’t knock the mirror over and you’re not worried about them putting a scratch in the glass or frame or hurting their paws by excessively scratching the hard surface, you can allow them to be curious and inspect the mirror.
However, if this behavior persists longer than the first few times they see a mirror, it may be worth speaking to your veterinarian about their behavior. You don’t want them to become anxious when they see a mirror or be dealing with stress every time they walk past a reflective surface.
If your cat is a kitten, or your cat has a playful disposition, they may simply be goofing around and playing with their reflection. If they’re lightly batting at their reflection and are pouncing around, running and hiding then jumping out, it’s more likely they’re being playful than fearful.
If your cat scratching the mirror or glass doesn’t seem fearful or playful and they’ve been around these types of surfaces most of their lives, they may be looking for attention. They may not seem to have any purpose to the scratching but if you tend to react by telling them to stop or walking over to where they are, they may like how scratching the glass gets your attention…even if it’s negative.
4. TO GET SOMEWHERE
If the mirror they’re scratching is on a door, your cat may be scratching at it because they want to get to the other side of the door. The same idea applies if your cat is scratching at glass that is on a door or window; they likely want to get on the other side and are hoping scratching is the way to do that.
5. BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS
Those are the most obvious reasons for your cat scratching a mirror, but for many, those reasons don’t make sense for the behavior their cat is exhibiting and it seems less rational than that.
We have to remember, just like humans, cats can experience disorders, chemical imbalances, seemingly irrational anxiety, stress, etc. This can lead to odd behavior that we’re unable to correct on our own.
If your cat exhibits a lot of strange behavior, and perhaps it’s even creating a strain on your relationship with them or within your home, talk to your veterinarian. They may be able to prescribe some medication that helps calm your cat and makes life more enjoyable for them and you.
Here’s a good interview with Jackson Galaxy when it comes to using mood meds for cats.
Why is my Cat Scratching the Mirror at Night?
Your cat may be choosing nighttime to scratch the mirror because they’re bored and either want your attention or they find the mirror scratching entertaining.
Cats have natural instincts to move and hunt at night. This built-in behavior may be at the root of your cat being more active during the night.
But they may also be on a different sleep schedule than you if you’re out of the house all day and they have nothing to do but sleep. By the time you’re winding down, they’re full of energy.
And if they’re full of energy while you’re sleeping, chances are, your cat is bored. They may scratch the mirror to get your attention so they can get food or playtime from you.
Keep in mind, if they’ve scratched the mirror in the past, and it’s gotten you out of bed, the activity may now be their go-to tactic to get your attention during the night.
Consider giving your cat more attention before bedtime and playing with them for a solid 30 minutes to use up some of their energy. Especially if you’re typically away from home during the day. They want your attention and love, and playtime is one of the best ways to give that to them.
You may also consider introducing some new interactive toys.
I try to give my cats a new toy each month, so they stay stimulated. Ones that are battery operated and move when they sense motion or are touched are ideal to keep them entertained during the night.
Mine love their floppy fish.
There’s even one that can be controlled with a wireless remote control. Perfect for when you’re in bed and want the toy to catch your cat’s attention and stimulate them for a while. View the remote control version here:
Or, a motion-activated ball may be more up your cat’s alley:
How to Stop your Cat from Scratching the Mirror
In most cases, the behavior will stop on its own as your cat becomes more familiar with the reflective surface, but here are a few things to keep in mind.
If your cat’s behavior doesn’t seem to have a rhyme or reason, and you’re reaching your breaking point with the ways they act out, talk to your veterinarian. They can likely prescribe some medication that puts your cat at ease and makes life more enjoyable for both of you. Here’s that link again to the interview with Jackson Galaxy on mood meds for cats.
If your cat is young or a mirror is new to them, they’ll likely stop pawing at the mirror once they become more accustomed to it and seeing their reflection. As long as they don’t receive some type of “reward” (as they view it) for their behavior (e.g. you give them your attention when they do it), they may simply grow tired of the behavior.
3. MORE STIMULATION
Be sure your cat has plenty of toys to stimulate them so they don’t go looking for things like mirrors and glass to keep them occupied. Try introducing a new toy every once and a while if you find doing so keeps them from exhibiting strange behavior such as scratching at a mirror or reflective surface.
For indoor cats, their entire world is within your home. They don’t get to leave like you do to get a change in people or surroundings. So it’s understandable that your cat may get a little stir crazy from time to time and look for new ways to entertain themselves.
4. CALMING SPRAYS
You may try using a spray around the mirror or glass that is designed to calm cats and reduce behavior such as unwanted scratching. Feliway comes in sprays, diffusers, and collars. Comfort Zone is a similar product.
5. COVERING THE SURFACE
Although it’s not a long-term solution, it may help to cover a mirror with a blanket or even tape tin foil to the surface; something they won’t like to scratch. While the mirror is covered, it’s a good idea to encourage another behavior, such as scratching their scratching post. If you reward another behavior, they may be less likely to scratch the mirror when you do uncover it.
You may also try placing a scratching post in front of the mirror. This won’t cover the mirror, obviously, but it may indulge their scratching behaviour and deter them from using the mirror.
6. REWARD DIFFERENT BEHAVIOR
Cats don’t learn by punishment, but rather by reinforcing good behavior. When your cat scratches the mirror, you can immediately stop them by clapping or picking them up and moving them away from the mirror; don’t hold them for a long period of time or talk to them, give them minimal attention.
Then try to get them to engage in better behavior, such as scratching their scratching post or playing. If/when they do take their attention away from the mirror and scratch a more appropriate object or play, then is the time to give them lots of attention. They should hopefully learn that the scratching post and toys give them the attention they want while scratching the mirror doesn’t.
7. IGNORE THE BEHAVIOR
If the behavior isn’t dangerous (e.g. they’re not anxious around the mirror or in danger of hurting themselves) and you believe they’re scratching the mirror to get your attention, it may be beneficial to ignore the behavior. If your reaction is what they’re looking for, and you’re giving it to them, they’ll continue using the scratching as a tool to get it.
Instead, ignore the “bad” behavior and pour on the attention and affection when they’re doing something you deem as “good”, such as playing or scratching their scratching post. They may slowly realize that the bad behavior doesn’t get your attention, but the good behavior gets them lots of attention and affection.
I hope this article has helped you determine why your cat is scratching a mirror 🙂
You may also be interested in:
- Why Does my Cat Scratch the Wall?
- Why Does my Cat Scratch the Wall After Using the Litter Box
- Why Does my Cat Paw at Smooth Surfaces?