Excited Cats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

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

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

Cats may also scratch on the mirror to get your attention. If you typically interact with your cat when they scratch on the mirror, they may have learned that this 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 may try to play or fight the other feline.

3 cat face divider

How Do I Stop My Cat from Scratching the Mirror?

There are several ways you can attempt to make your cat stop scratching the mirror. Which method works for you largely depends on why your cat is scratching the mirror, to begin with.

Firstly, don’t give your cat attention for the behavior—positive or negative. You don’t want them to associate scratching with getting any attention, as this may only prompt them to scratch more.

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

One of our preferred scratchers, the Hepper Hi-Lo Modern Cat Scratcher, is a surefire way to keep your kitty out of trouble (or at least away from scratching the things they should not!). It's not only stylish, but it's functional as well. It's made of sturdy cardboard with a durable plywood and metal frame and can be set up in three different ways – high, low, or lower. The different positions encourage maximum engagement, exercise and stretching, and of course, intense scratching (they can throw their whole body into it). 

cat in living room playing with hepper hi-lo cat scratcher while in highest position

With the Hepper Hi-Lo, your cat gets to have a blast scratching like a maniac, and you don't have to worry about them causing so much chaos or scratching your stuff. There are even replacement cardboard pieces available, so you really can let your cat go to town on this, and know that it will be long lasting. Click here to learn more about this awesome scratcher.

At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest, so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

You should also cover the mirror if possible or even move it somewhere your cat can’t get to 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. However, 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 just 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 directly.

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, though, 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.

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

The only way to get your cat used to the mirror is through regular interactions and positive reinforcement.

Introduce your cat to the mirror gradually and gently. Start by letting your cat smell the mirror and get familiar with its scent. Then, let your cat see its 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. Very 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 your cat 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 any sort of positive interaction towards 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 your cat 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 your cat’s sight.

Then, slowly reintroduce it, preferably from a good 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 a variety of reasons. Some cats may see them as a source of play. Seeing themselves moving in the mirror may elicit a strong play instinct, especially in kittens. They may see the mirror as a positive experience for this reason, leading to them heading back to the mirror regularly.

On the flip side, your cat may also dislike the mirror. They may be stressed about it existing, or they may think that the cat in the mirror is an intruder. In these 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.


Do Cats Recognize Themselves in the Mirror?

Cats do not typically recognize themselves in the mirror, which is why they may display many of the strange behaviors we see when they interact 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 may 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 extremely confusing for cats.

cat paw divider

Final Thoughts

Mirrors are often ignored by cats. However, they can also be a source of anxiety. Some cats don’t understand that the cat in the mirror is them, and they may believe it to be an intruder. For this reason, some cats may scratch at the mirror as a way to chase the intruder away.

Other felines may try to play with the other cat or just try to play with whatever is moving in the mirror. Some don’t even recognize the reflection as a cat, as it doesn’t have a scent. Cats may be playful and scratch the mirror for this reason, too.

thematic break

Featured Image Credit: Massimo Cattaneo, Shutterstock