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​​Why Does My Cat Ignore The Mirror?

If your cat ignores your mirror you may feel that it is weird. Which, may lead you to wonder why they do this… 

Why Does My Cat Ignore the Mirror?

Cats ignore the mirror because they realize the image inside the mirror does not have a scent. Felines are smart enough to understand that a lack of scent means the image is not real. Wasting time on something that does not exist is pointless. 

So, now you know. But, when do cats develop this understanding? Do they get what the mirror is really used for? Why isn’t my cat scared of its reflection? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

When do cats develop this understanding of mirrors?

Cat standing beside a mirror.

Cat standing beside a mirror.

Learning to separate real and fake is a type of self-awareness that all kittens must develop before becoming adults. Self-aware cats can learn to ignore their reflection rather than attack it.

Can Cats Understand What a Mirror Really Is?

Cats do not understand what a mirror is in the same way that humans do. They recognize that the mirror is reflective, but they do not understand the mirror’s exact purpose. For instance, cats can recognize themselves in the reflection, but they do not recognize mirrors are for viewing your reflection.

The subject is up for debate on whether cats understand what their reflection is. Scientists have evaluated whether cats are intelligent enough for self-recognition. Many have learned it is a resounding yes.

On the other hand, others have come up with hesitant nos. As of now, the results are mixed.

Why Isn’t My Cat Scared of Her Reflection?

Many cats are not fearful of their reflection because they are self-aware. By the time they are adults, cats become conscious of their existence. As kittens, they observe themselves in the mirror with curiosity and may challenge their reflection as if it is another cat. 

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Top 10 Cat Breeds

When they realize there is no smell to the reflection, adult cats inevitably learn that the image in front of them is not real. 

Why Do Some Cats Attack The Mirror?

There are several reasons that cats attack mirrors. From traumatic experiences to pure interest, cats are curious and unpredictable animals. The most common reason that cats will attack mirrors is that they think it is another cat.

At their early ages, kittens will attack mirrors because they have not learned that the image in the mirror is not real.Many kittens combat the mirror because they think the reflection is another cat. Cats like to attack mirrors as a defense mechanism but often outgrow this behavior after the first few months of their life. 

Some cats will attack mirrors because they have a negative experience with the reflective surface of mirrors. The shiny, metallic surface of mirrors often causes lights to reflect in unusual ways. Many cats who were previously feral have trauma from reflective surfaces and flashing lights.  

Why Does My Cat Cry at The Mirror?

Depending on your cat’s body language, crying in front of the mirror can mean different things. One of the most common reasons cats cry in front of mirrors is because they think another cat is on the other side of the glass. Crying at the mirror is your cat’s way of confronting the other cat.

Your cat may also cry at the mirror because they know mirror gazing is a reliable way to get your attention. Crying by the mirror might happen because there has been a lack of attention recently.

Are Mirrors Bad for Cats?

Mirrors are generally not bad for cats. Most cats will eventually learn that the cat inside the reflection is not a threat. Unless a cat is causing direct mischief to the mirror, such as intentionally knocking them over, mirrors are not considered problematic. 

Cats who are not raised around mirrors as kittens may not learn normal mirror behaviors. Similarly, some adult cats may have traumas with mirrors that can create negative behavior. Covering mirrors and then slowly reintroducing an adult cat to mirrors is a good tactic for misbehaving cats.

A slow reintroduction allows the cat to adapt slowly. High energy cats are may accidentally break mirrors if their human companions are not careful. Broken glass is dangerous to cats, so you must be careful where you place your mirrors.

Even a cat who is well-behaved can have their fair share of accidents. Only place mirrors in out-of-reach areas.  

Why Does My Cat Dig at Mirrors?

Cat staring at it's reflection.

Cat staring at it’s reflection.

When cats dig or scratch at mirrors, they are expressing curiosity in their reflection. Curiosity by digging is a common investigative behavior that helps your cat learn more about mirrors. 

Digging at mirrors is a fantastic attention-seeking behavior, often because humans react when cats play around with mirrors. When a cat realizes they can get a reaction from you, they will use this to get attention if they can. Avoid showing your cat any reaction to minimize the amount they play with the mirror.

How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Pawing at the Mirror?

Most cats will outgrow pawing at the mirror. Pawing at threats is a natural behavior for your furry friend. So if your cat thinks mirrors are threatening, you may need to reposition your furniture to prevent your feline from feeling anxious.

If repositioning your furniture is not an option, place double-sided tape in front of your mirrors. Place tape where your cat sits while they scratch, so it is uncomfortable or impossible for them to paw at the mirror. 

What Does My Cat Think When it’s in Front of My Mirror?

Each cat’s reaction varies when it comes to mirrors. Mirrors are directly related to self-awareness. Many cat owners believe how a cat reacts to its reflection correlates with its level of intelligence. 

Observing the body language of your cat can provide insight into what they are thinking. Pay special attention to your cat’s tail; this part of your cat’s body is emotionally revealing.

Watch how they convey themselves through their actions too. Slow, rigid movements are signs of an anxious or wound-up cat. If you keep a close eye on your cat when they watch themselves in the mirror, you may get a good idea of what they think and feel when they are in front of the mirror.

Kittens and Mirrors 

Kittens will often experiment with mirrors. They learn self-awareness by batting and hissing at themselves through mirrors. Many kittens will combat their reflections for a few weeks or months until realizing that the image they see is not real. 

Interestingly enough, the time it takes for kittens to develop a sense of self is much quicker than the human child.

Adult Cats and Mirrors 

Adult cats are uninterested in mirrors. In the average household, a cat has been around enough reflective material that they will not overreact when exposed to a mirror. Many adult cats might react abnormally to mirrors if they did not grow up around mirrors.

Placing mirrors in odd places can look cool but it may cause your cat unnecessary anxiety. Avoid placing mirrors in odd places, so you do not catch your cat off guard. 

Why is “The Mirror Test” Not Ideal for Cats?

The Mirror Test is not always ideal for cats because the test focuses predominately on sight to identify other animals. When it comes to felines, the cat’s smell is a more dominant sense than sight so some scientists claim cats are at an automatic disadvantage with the Mirror Test. 

Cats are limited to sight in the Mirror Test. Sight is only one of the cat’s many senses they use for animal identification and not the strongest, either. Because smell and hearing are stronger than sight, some cat owners believe that the Mirror Test is an inadequate judge of the feline’s capabilities. 

Lindsey Browlingdon