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.

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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.


Why is my cat pawing at hard, shiny surfaces? — 11 Comments

  1. I first noticed my cat doing this to my tablet. I assumed she was watching the pictures fly by. But then, in my walk in closet, she found then side of plastic blanket carrier. Then plates, plastic waste cans etc. I have no idea. Whenever I go back to the closet, she follows me in and paws the plastic. It’s very ritualistic.


  2. My cat does this every night when I get up to use the bathroom. He scratches at the shower wall like a mad kitty, and when I’m done he’s done. He follows me out. I wish I knew why he does this. He doesn’t seem to want anything, and goes right back to bed aftwards. Cats are so strange!


  3. Our cat Monte did this the first Christmas when I threw an empty plastic card packet on the floor, that could have been the water thing, bet ever since he has done it if he wants something, usually treats! Bedroom mirror is the door where the upstairs treats are kept, kitchen cupboard for downstairs treats, patio doors to go out and bath to go to the loo! So, definitely his way of communicating 😹


  4. My cat is indoor, but I do let her come outside with me for picnics in the backyard every now and then. She likes to paw like that on the back door to plead with me to let her out. However, she also seems to do this to other objects (eg. pieces of cardboard, notebooks, flat plastic surfaces, paper) for fun. I know she’s in a playful mood when she starts doing this.
    The behavior, when applied to smooth things on the ground reminds me of cats digging for moles. My initial thought would be that maybe the smoothness perplexes them because they can’t dig into it, just as a frozen lake would in the wild. However, this behavior doesn’t extend to smooth floors like tile or wood, at least not that I’ve observed.


  5. My cat does this when he wants me to feed him. He wakes me up pawing at the headboard an during the day he paws at a glass covered picture. The latter means he wants me to get the fishing pole and play with him. I have other cats so he is not lonely!


    • Thanks for sharing Susan. When my cat wants me to get up and get involved including feeding him, he licks the side of the bed. It gets me up!


  6. Pingback: Does your cat try and hide food? | Pictures of Cats

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