Cats bring us a lot of joy with their antics. They dance and prance at a piece of fluff floating around the house, string is just the best thing ever, and don’t even get them started on the enigmatic and unobtainable laser pointer.
Whatever the temperament of your cat, it’s likely they’ve had a few interesting encounters with the man in the mirror― battles that your mirror remembers by the numerous scratches on it.
But the varied stories about cats and mirrors begs the question: why does my cat scratch the mirror?
Cats scratch the mirror as a way of investigating new objects, attention seeking, and using it as a scratch pad. Some cats may also scratch the mirror because they think it’s a window.
Constantly amusing with their hijinks, cats never fail to entertain us in new ways, but you should seek to stop your cat from mirror scratching.
The rest of this article will explore the various reasons why your cat may have taken an interest in scratching a mirror, how it affects them, and how to get them to stop.
Cats Scratch Mirrors to Sharpen Their Claws
Scratching on things is a natural behavior, but it can be frustrating when that instinct causes damage to our furniture, couches, and valuables.
Cats scratch to get their claws back in tip-top shape, removing the outer layer to reveal a new, sharper nail underneath, and cats will scratch just about anything whenever they feel the need.
If you don’t have appropriate scratching surfaces (aka a scratching post or scratch pad), a cat will use whatever’s nearby to sharpen their claws. While mirrors aren’t ideal, cats will certainly use them as scratch posts if not provided a better alternative.
The motion of scratching feels good to a cat, and the smooth, glassy surface of a mirror is a perfect place to stretch and scratch.
Cats Explore and Mark the World Around Them by Scratching
Mirror scratching may also be a way for cats to test the world around them. Cats are inherently curious, and batting things with their paws is a great way to explore new things.
If you bring something new and foreign into the house, your cat will likely approach it with caution and use their paws to bat or scratch at it, thereby determining if the object is safe.
If you get frustrated with your cat for scratching up something new you brought into the house, don’t blame the cat.
Sometimes, cats scratch to leave behind their scent, announcing their territory to anyone else who passes by. What better place to scratch than the brand-new object you just brought into the house?
Cats May Be Confused by Their Reflection
We’ve all seen funny videos of cats arching their backs and posturing at the mirror and wonder why they’re so enamored by their own reflection. The reality is that cats are not self-aware and don’t acknowledge that the cat in the mirror is in fact them.
They see another cat looking at them, arching their back, and copying their every move. Pretty scary stuff, right? The mere sight of another cat giving them the stink eye could cause a cat to react aggressively by scratching the mirror to defend themselves or their territory.
If left unattended, your cat may develop a complex when it comes to mirrors. They will eventually learn that in this particular spot of the house, there’s another cat who is always watching them.
Such a reaction can be dangerous for your cat, who will start to see your home as an unsafe place with hostile cats roaming around.
Cats are particularly susceptible to getting frightened by their own reflections at night, when they may spot a bright glow from the eyes of the ‘other’ cat.
Cats Scratch Mirrors for Attention
If you’ve reacted negatively to your cat when they casually scratch a mirror, they may be inclined to do it again as a way of drawing your attention. If you continue reacting to the behavior, your cat may start to believe that a new game of ‘scratch and run away’ is afoot.
Such habits can be difficult to break, and you may find that you need to remove the mirror entirely to stop this behavior.
While spray bottles are more effective on some cats than others, it may be the irritant your cat needs to let them know that the mirror scratching behavior isn’t acceptable and will ruin the game of chase that they perceive.
Cats See Mirrors as Windows
If your cat doesn’t seem to be interested in or react to their own reflection, but still obsesses over scratching the mirror repeatedly, it’s possible that they view the mirror as a window with an area behind it that they want to explore.
Cats get quite indignant when they find out they can’t go somewhere, and they may take out their frustration on the mirror. If your cat is already prone to scratching windows, then you might want to take precautions and keep them away from your mirror.
Is Scratching the Mirror Dangerous for Cats?
Scratching the mirror can be hazardous to your cats as well as you. If your cat scratches a mirror deeply over a long-enough period of time, they may compromise its structure.
While it’s unlikely that your cat will actually cause a mirror to be structurally compromised, there is no telling when it might suddenly crack or shatter. Glass from the mirror can also be scraped off by your cat’s claws and become imbedded in their paws.
Glass cuts can be very dangerous and will likely require an ER trip for your cat. If your mirror is left on the floor of a storage room, your cat runs the risk of knocking the mirror over and being hit by it as it falls or shattering it from the impact.
Cat claws also aren’t really strong enough for mirror scratching, so they are at risk of tearing a nail. Because of the blood supply so close to the nail, cats can bleed heavily from a torn nail and should be taken to the vet immediately.
Left unattended, torn nails are at high risk of infection.
Not only do mirrors pose a threat of harm to your cat, but they can also become a source of significant stress. How would you feel if you expected someone to be watching you every time you entered a certain part of your house?
A cat’s entire world relies on stability, especially if you have an indoor cat. Creating an environment that has stressful areas in it will only make your cat more anxious and ill-content.
Anxiety and aggressive behavior will escalate if mirror scratching is left unaddressed, and your cat will likely develop an aggressive response to entering a room if there’s a mirror in it.
How to Discourage Your Cat from Scratching Mirrors
Stopping your cat from obsessively scratching mirrors can be difficult, but the first step is to provide better alternatives. Cat trees, scratching posts, and puzzle toys are all great ways to divert your cat’s attention from a mirror and get them better enrichment.
Try to spend more time playing with them so that they don’t spend all of their pet up energy getting frustrated at the mirror. Sometimes, mirror scratching is just a reaction to intense boredom and lack of play.
Giving your cat the proper exercise they need is crucial for their happiness. Of course, you can always remove the mirror or bar the cat’s access to the mirror if that’s an option.
Sometimes, repositioning the mirror so that the cat can’t see their reflection as they pass is enough to ease their stress.
For some cats, simply covering the mirror is enough of a solution, but you want to be wary of cats that love clinging and grabbing onto towels or blankets, as they once again run the risk of pulling the mirror down on themselves again.
In more extreme cases where you cat expresses severe anxiety any time they are around a mirror by hissing, scratching, or bristling at it, medical intervention may be necessary. Veterinarians may prescribe your cat anti-anxiety medication to calm them down.
Cats scratch at mirrors for plenty of different reasons, and while the behavior can be pretty funny to observe, the habit can become annoying when all your mirrors are damaged.
A lot of cats scratch at mirrors just because the action of sharpening their claws feels good and is a necessary survival instinct. They don’t even recognize that there’s another cat in the mirror, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t care.
Other cats, however, can react adversely to seeing themselves in a mirror. Scratching can also be extremely stressful for your cat if they perceive that they are having a tense exchange with the cat in the mirror every time they go past it.
Whatever the case, it’s important that you address the underlying cause of the mirror scratching so that your cat isn’t stressed.