Your cat is most likely scratching at the window because they see another animal outside and want to go out and explore. They may also be expressing their natural instincts to scratch, stretch, and leave their scent, or be scratching to get your attention or deal with some type of disorder.
4 Reasons Why your Cat Scratches the Window
1. TO GO OUTSIDE
Whether your cat is an outdoor cat or not, they’ll have the desire to go outside, especially if they see another animal in their backyard. Keep in mind, the other animal may not be there when you look. Your cat may see the other animal in the middle of the night but be ready to go out and explore in the middle of the day.
It may not be animals that get them pawing at the window. My cat used to paw and meow at windows on windy days. All the leaves and debris flying through our backyard would get him excited.
Even though we never allowed him to go outside on windy days (because he was an indoor cat and was only allowed out on a harness and leash when we were outside), it didn’t stop him from wanting to go out and explore.
I found if I could distract him from the window by playing with him, the behaviour would stop, he’d tire himself out, and then he’d nap for a few hours. Is it more work than simply yelling at him to stop? Yes, but it was my responsibility to care for him. Cats aren’t chia pets we only have to water and feed once and a while and give them attention when we feel like it. We must care for them when they need us.
Sometimes cats will paw at the window, almost like their front paws are trying to run on the surface. The rapid movement of them almost digging at the window may be thought of as the same behaviour a toddler might exhibit if they wanted to open a door. They may grab the door handle and shake back and forth in an effort to open the door.
Your cat would typically use their head or paws to push a door open, so their pawing at the window may be their way of desperately trying to get that window open.
2. NATURAL INSTINCTS
Your cat has a natural instinct to scratch. Although it makes more sense for them to scratch objects they can get their claws into, they may scratch the window as a way of expressing these instincts, whether it makes sense to us or not.
Cats’ natural instincts to scratch are based on:
- Sharpening their claws – when cats dig into materials such as tree bark, it helps them shed the outer layer of their claws to smooth and sharpen them; sort of like us using a nail file.
- Leaving their scent – cats have scent pads in their paws and when they scratch, pheromones are released. These pheromones are used for several reasons, but your cat may be leaving their scent to mark their territory. This may also make sense if they see another cat outside and want them to know that cat is on their territory. Their obsessive scratching may be their way of making sure their presence is known.
- Leaving a visual cue – cats also scratch surfaces to visually tell other animals that this is their territory. If your cat is trying to dig their nails in when they scratch the window, that could be the reason behind the behaviour.
- Stretching – your cat may also be using the window as a way to stretch upright, especially if it’s next to their napping spot. It’s natural when they stretch their toes, their claws will come out, so it’s easy for a stretch to lead to some scratching.
If it bothers you when your cat scratches the window, it’s likely you react in some way every time they do it. It may be yelling at them or walking over, picking them up, and asking them why they keep doing that. Although you know it’s negative attention, your cat may simply be viewing it as getting your attention in general, which they love to have.
Some cat behavior just can’t be explained. If the scratching seems compulsive and obsessive, your cat may have a disorder or chemical imbalance that’s making them feel they need to scratch at objects like the window.
How Do I Stop My Cat From Scratching my Window?
You can’t cover all the windows in your house in an attempt to get your cat to stop scratching at them. Your cat likely finds enjoyment in looking out the window, so you don’t want to stop that. You simply want to stop the scratching. Here are a few solutions.
1. PROVIDE INDOOR STIMULATION
Increase playtime with your cat so that they’ll a) be a little less energetic to scratch or want to go outside when they’re looking out the window, and b) won’t be as excited by the site of things they can “play” with outside, such as birds.
2. TRY A CATIO
If you have the space, you may want to consider putting a catio in your backyard. Catios are sort of like an outdoor tent for your cat. They allow indoor cats to be outside, without being exposed to predators. There are several styles and sizes.
More of an upright cage:
Or a smaller one for a kitten or small cat:
Keep in mind though, once your cat gets a taste for the great outdoors, they’ll likely be wanting to go out more and more. If they must rely on you to let them outside, the meowing may increase if you don’t have a routine.
If you’re able to get up each day, put them in their catio for a few hours and then let them back in, they may learn a routine and know they’ll get their outside time and don’t have to meow at you for it.
If you have a cat that meows constantly to be fed, even though you’ve fed them at the same time every day, they may exhibit the same behavior when it comes to going outside.
DON’T USE A LEASH
There are cat harnesses on the market but it’s not a good idea to put your cat out on a leash, unless you’ll be there to watch them the entire time. Another animal, such as a dog, coyote, etc. could wander into your yard and then your cat has no way of escaping.
3. ADD MORE SCRATCHING POSTS
If you believe your cat is scratching at the window in an attempt to sharpen their claws or stretch, try adding a sturdy scratching post to the area and use positive reinforcement to get them to use it.
When they scratch the window simply clap or pick them up and put them next to the scratching post. Don’t give too much attention to the negative behaviour.
If/when they start scratching the scratching post instead, at any time (it doesn’t have to be after they’ve scratched the window), give lots of positive attention. Talk to them, stand close and watch them, speak in a loving/positive tone, and give them a reward after they’re done. That may be giving them a treat or spending a few minutes playing or cuddling with them.
4. USE A SPRAY
You may try using a spray, diffuser, or collar that releases “good” pheromones that help calm your cat and deter “bad” behaviour such as scratching. Many people find great success with these types of products, while others find they don’t have much of an impact. It’s worth a try though.
5. USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Don’t give them your attention when they’re scratching the window by yelling, talking to them, or picking them up and bringing them to hang out with you.
Instead, stop the behaviour with as little interaction as possible (e.g. clap your hands or pick them up and place them next to a scratching post). When they start to engage in “positive” behavior, such as playing or scratching their scratching post, try going over the top with positive attention. Continue to do so even when the positive behavior isn’t connected to the negative behaviour.
Show them how much of your attention they get when they play, scratch the scratching post, cuddle next to you, etc. And how little they get when they engage in “bad” behavior, such as scratching the window.
If your cat exhibits several “strange” behaviours that can’t seem to be explained, it may be worth speaking to your veterinarian. They may be able to prescribe medication that makes life more enjoyable for both your cat and you. Here’s a good article with Jackson Galaxy and his views on mood meds for cats (they’ve come a long way).
I hope this article has helped you determine why your cat is scratching at the window and what you can do to stop it 🙂
You may also be interested in:
- Why Does My Cat Paw at Smooth Surfaces? (How to Stop it)
- Why Does My Cat Scratch the Wall After Using the Litter Box?