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Why Is My Cat Scratching the Mirror? Possible Causes & Solutions

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on June 3, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Why Is My Cat Scratching the Mirror? Possible Causes & Solutions

There are several reasons a cat scratches a mirror. Figuring out the answer largely depends on the context of the behavior. Some cats may be trying to mark their territory since they have scent glands in their paws, and they leave behind their scent when they scratch. They do it to claim the area as their own.

Cats may also scratch the mirror to get your attention. If you typically interact with your cat when they scratch the mirror, they may have learned that it gets them attention. Even if your feline gets scolded, any attention is often good attention. Other times, the cat may be confused by their reflection. They may think it is another cat and try to play or fight the other feline.

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How Do I Stop My Cat from Scratching the Mirror?

You can make your cat stop scratching the mirror in several ways. The method that works for you largely depends on why your cat scratches the mirror. First, don’t give your cat attention for the behavior—positive or negative. You don’t want them to associate scratching with getting attention since it may only prompt them to scratch more.

You can also try providing your cat with new, interesting toys, which can distract them and help them use up their energy. You can try puzzle toys to provide mental stimulation, but cat trees, scratching posts, and interactive toys work well, too. You want your cat busy and entertained to reduce their interest in the mirror.

You should also cover the mirror if possible or move it somewhere your cat can’t reach it. This method is probably the easiest, but it isn’t always possible.

cat and mirror_Smile19_Shutterstock
ImageCredit: Smile19, Shutterstock

Do Mirrors Stress Out Cats?

Mirrors can stress out some cats, but they don’t stress out all cats. It’s largely a matter of temperament and socialization. Sometimes, cats may not understand that the cat they see in the mirror is them, especially if they are younger and were recently introduced to mirrors.

They may see their reflection as an intruder and try to attack it. Of course, when the threat doesn’t go away, it may prompt anxiety. Some cats may hide instead of attacking the mirror. Similarly, cats may try to hiss or growl at the mirror to scare off the “other cat.”

If your cat does this, it’s a good sign that the mirror is stressing them out. Other times, cats may interact with the mirror out of playfulness or curiosity. Kittens may see something moving in the mirror and try to get it; most won’t care that they can’t get it.

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How Can I Help My Cat Get Used to the Mirror?

Regular interactions and positive reinforcement can help your cat get used to the mirror. Introduce your cat to the mirror gradually and gently. Start by letting them smell the mirror and get familiar with its scent.

Then, let them see their reflection from a distance, using a baby gate or a door to separate them. Reward your cat with treats or praise for being calm and curious. You should limit these sessions to only as much as your cat can handle before becoming stressed. Skittish cats may find it hard to stand the reflection for only a few seconds. You want the mirror to be a source of play, not stress.

As you introduce your cat to the mirror, make the experience positive. You can play with them near the mirror, using toys or a laser pointer to distract them from their reflection. Don’t forget to provide treats early and often. You want their positive interaction with the mirror to be rewarded.

Avoid forcing your cat to face the mirror or scolding them for being afraid or aggressive. This will only make them more stressed and fearful of the mirror. Instead, respect your cat’s pace and personality and give them time and space to adjust to the mirror. If your cat is too scared or hostile towards the mirror, you may need to cover it up or remove it from their sight.

Then, slowly reintroduce it, preferably from a reasonable distance away.

cat lying beside a mirror
Image Credit: Grusho Anna, Shutterstock

Why Is My Cat Obsessed with Mirrors?

Cats may become fixated on mirrors for various reasons. Some cats see them as a source of play. Seeing themselves moving in the mirror may elicit a strong play instinct, especially in kittens. They see the mirror as a positive experience, leading them to return to the mirror regularly.

On the flip side, your cat may also dislike the mirror. They may be stressed about its existence or think the cat in the mirror is an intruder. In those cases, it may be best to remove the mirror to eliminate whatever stress your cat is feeling.

Either way, only some cats become obsessed with mirrors. Many don’t mind mirrors or ever even look at them. It all depends on the temperament of the feline.

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Do Cats Recognize Themselves in the Mirror?

Cats do not typically recognize themselves in the mirror, which is why they display many of the strange behaviors we see when interacting with a mirror. They don’t see that they are separate from others around them, so they can’t conceptualize how they can appear in a mirror.

Instead, most cats think the reflection is another cat. Therefore, they react playfully or aggressively, depending on their temperament. Cats rely more on their sense of smell than their vision to identify themselves and others. They may not understand why the cat in the mirror does not have a scent or respond to their calls or gestures.

Therefore, mirrors can be incredibly confusing to cats.

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Final Thoughts

Cats often ignore mirrors. However, they can also be a source of anxiety. Some don’t understand that the cat in the mirror is them, and they may believe it’s an intruder. For that reason, some cats scratch at the mirror to chase the intruder away.

Other felines try to play with the other cat or whatever is moving in the mirror. Some don’t even recognize the reflection as a cat since it has no scent. Cats may be playful and scratch the mirror for that reason, too.


Featured Image Credit: Massimo Cattaneo, Shutterstock

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