Why is my cat pawing at hard, shiny surfaces?

by Linda
(Bullhead City, AZ)

My cat ‘George’ will sit and look out the window and begin scratching on the glass with both paws (one then the other).

At first I thought he was seeing his reflection, but he also does this on the trashcan, the bathtub and any large object with a slippery type surface.

If I have company I tell them he’s ‘waving’ to someone outside.


Hi Linda.. thanks for visiting and asking. This is not uncommon behavior.

There are quite a few reasons given by people who keep cats. You won’t find an answer in a book.

People say it is because the cat:

–sees his reflection and wants to interact with it. Even a shiny surface that is not a mirror will reflect a ghost image of the cat so he might be interacting with that.

–wants to get attention. I don’t think this is correct.

–likes the feel of it on his/her paws. I am not sure this is right either.

My thoughts about this behavior are as follows.

We should refer domestic cat behavior questions to what happens in the wild with wildcats. That informs us about our domestic cat behavior.

Cats do paw at water in the wild. And domestic cats also paw at the surface of water. They do this as part of an instinctive act to catch prey in the water perhaps by breaking up the reflection so that they can see better into the water. A lot of small wild cats live and hunt near water courses etc. as these areas are sources of prey.

Water is a shiny reflective surface when still. Your cat may be exercising a natural and instinctive ‘searching for prey behavior’ in touching a shiny surface. The fact that the surfaces are vertical (and therefore can’t be water) is not relevant. The behavior is instinctive.

That is one possible reason. Another is that your cat is simply curious at the nature of the material.

Cats are naturally curious as we know. “Curiosity killed the cat”. Cats get into trouble because of their curiosity.

They like to paw at and prod objects that look interesting for whatever reason. Your cat might have a interest in shiny surfaces simply as a personality trait. Cats do have individual personalities. Also shiny surfaces are man made. You won’t see them in the wild unless it is water or ice. This may generate a curiosity.

These are my suggestions. They are not out of books but simply my ideas.

If anyone else has a better idea I would love to hear from them in a comment.

Hope this helps.

Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment written by visitors. It is a way visitors can contribute to animal welfare without much effort and no financial cost. Please comment. It helps this website too which at heart is about cat welfare.

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Why is my cat pawing at hard, shiny surfaces?

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Mar 24, 2012
My cat does this, too. NEW
by: Maggie

On sunny mornings, if I’m still in bed and Chilli, my Abyssinian cat, wants to lie on my bed in the sun, he will paw at the window until I open the blinds, or tell him no! He will also do this to the cupboard door when he’s hungry, or the back door, when he wants to go outside (on his harness or with supervision, of course!). To me, it’s Chilli’s way of communicating that he wants something, but needs my assistance. Your cat would have his own reasons for doing this, which is clearly different to Chilli’s reasons. Perhaps it means he needs to go to the toilet? He doesn’t want to go inside, but if he has to, the smooth surfaces are his preference? You can’t really be sure unless you thoroughly observe him before, during and after he does the pawing, but I don’t doubt it’s a form of communication.

16 thoughts on “Why is my cat pawing at hard, shiny surfaces?”

  1. All sound a bit like my cat but he scratches every smooth surface , kitchen cabinets, mirror doors, outside doors..Nothing to do with his food ! Why…..


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