If your cat walks past a mirror, they’re likely to react in some way. Some cats become suddenly aggressive, while others seem afraid of what they see. It’s a strange reaction, and it certainly suggests that they see something.
Felines certainly see the mirror image, but they don’t always understand it. Cats do not look into a mirror and recognize themselves. They’ll see another cat, and react according to their nature.
It can be very amusing to watch your cat observing their reflection. This guide explains what cats see in mirrors, and why they react the way they do.
Do Cats Recognize Themselves in the Mirror?
Your pet will recognize a cat in the mirror. However, they will not recognize it as themselves.
This is not a sign of cognitive disease in your cat. The simple fact is, cats place very little emphasis on sight for recognition.
Even when it comes to their owners, a cat will not recognize a human face. They pick up on their owner’s distinctive voice. With their fellow felines, cats rely upon scent to know who is who.
This means that, when your pet passes a mirror, they see a cat. Nothing more, nothing less, and certainly not a feline that they recognize as themselves.
This was covered in a psychological experiment from 1970 dubbed The Mirror Test. This experiment assessed how a variety of animals, including cats, reacted to their reflections.
How your cat will now react to this depends on their personality. Common reactions include:
- Hypnotic fascination, as your cat observes the imitating feline.
- Sheer panic, as your cat runs from a potential threat.
- Aggression, if your cat is territorial and sees this new cat as an intruder.
- Sniffing and investigating the mirror, as though trying to interact with the other cat.
- Some cats may also not react whatsoever. Kittens that grow up in a home surrounded by mirrors learn to accept them.
One thing that may surprise you is that very few cats groom use mirrors for grooming.
My Cat is Meowing in the Mirror
Many cats will be highly curious about their reflections. If your cat stares at themselves and meows, they are likely trying to get your attention.
Cats do not communicate in meows with each other – that’s reserved for humans. Your pet is likely trying to alert you to this strange new cat in the house.
Some cats react to mirrors with fear and other aggression. Many will watch carefully.
My Cat Keeps Staring at Themselves in the Mirror
Some cats seem utterly fascinated by their reflection. They’re not vain – they’re just trying to make sense of what they’re seeing.
If your cat is playful and boisterous, they will try to encourage their reflection to engage. A kitten or spirited cat will always want to play, after all.
They will be happy to see another feline in their space. Many cats paw at the mirror too, attempting to interact with this potential playmate.
Such a cat will watch their reflection like a hawk. They may even show some understanding of the imitated movements. Eventually, however, they’ll grow bored. If the other cat is not responding in the way they’d like, they’ll look for other entertainment.
My Cat Runs Away Whenever They See a Mirror
If your cat runs for their life when they glimpse their reflection, they’re afraid.
This is perfectly normal for an anxious cat. Your pet will assume that it’s another feline, and will be keen to avoid a confrontation.
Equally, it’s possible that your cat just got a shock. Cats rely on senses of hearing and smell to learn if something or somebody is coming.
Their reflection will provide neither of these. This leads to fright when they see another cat creeping into their personal space.
Watch how your cat follows up this initial response. They may pluck up their courage and return for more investigation.
Alternatively, they may go and hide until they think the coast is clear. You’ll need to manage your reaction accordingly, helping your pet become more comfortable if necessary.
If your cat has suddenly become scared of their own reflection, look into why. If your cat roams outdoors, it’s possible that they are being bullied.
This would leave your pet with a fear of strange cats. Again, you may need to work to make your cat more comfortable.
My Cat Tries to Fight Their Own Reflection
Cats that grow aggressive at the sight of their own reflection can be problematic.
As your cat passes the mirror, they’ll notice their reflection. They will then claim that it’s another feline, come to claim their territory. Naturally, many felines will not take kindly to this.
The first step will be that your cat will attempt to intimidate this ‘other’ animal. This involves striking a threatening pose, such as raising heckles.
Your cat may hiss, or even growl at the reflection. This will be intended to scare the other cat away. Being a reflection, this will not happen.
This means that the cat will feel that they have no option but to attack. This could lead to the cat damaging the mirror, or worse, hurting themselves.
Eventually, your cat will come to understand that it’s just a reflection. The lack of smell, for example, will eventually hit home. That does not mean that they won’t do some damage first, though. Your pet may hurt themselves, or damage a mirror.
Do whatever you can to calm them down before this happens.
My Cat is Indifferent to Their Own Reflection
Many cats will show no reaction to their reflection. This is nothing to worry about, and not a sign that your cat is going blind.
They will just have grown used to mirrors, and they understand that the cat they see is not tangible. This doesn’t mean that your cat understands how mirrors work. Felines lack this cognitive function. The lack of smell, however, means that your cat does not react.
This behavior is very common in cats that have always lived in a family home. Kittens that are born in shelters will not experience mirrors.
Likewise, cats that spend their early life in such surroundings will not see their reflection. Cats that explore a traditional family home, however, will often be exposed to such sights.
How Can I Keep My Cat Calm Around Mirrors
It’s impossible to live in a home devoid of mirrors. However, if you have a cat, you may need to take some safety procedures. Common ways of making the mirrors in home feline-friendly include:
- Remove any mirrors from the ground level of your home.
- Cover mirrors up while your cat is home alone, and when you go to bed at night.
- Play with your cat in front of a mirror to forge a positive association.
- Sprinkle catnip over a mirror to encourage further investigation from your pet. This will provoke exposure therapy.
- Keep relaxing pheromone diffusers around mirrors in the home.
- Find an area of the home devoid of mirrors, and make this your cat’s safe space.
- Stand in front of a mirror and speak to your cat. They’ll recognize your voice, and slowly make the connection.
There may still be a handful of incidents and accidents surrounding mirrors in your home. Some cats will never accept their own reflections. With these steps, you can minimize the risks.
My Cat Broke a Mirror in My Home
Cats that leap all over the house will have an occasional accident. The delicate nature of mirrors ensures they are frequent victims of feline enthusiasm.
If your cat breaks a mirror, stay calm. Remove your cat from the area, and assess them for any injury or sign of embedded glass. If your cat is bleeding, the wound should be cleaned and bandaged.
Keep your cat out of the way of the accident site while you clean it up. Glass can easily become embedded in paws. Once the area is completely clean, replace the mirror when you get a chance. Even if your cat shattered the mirror deliberately, they’ll need to get used to such items.
No two cats will react to their reflection in the same way. Equally, your cat may not behave the same way. If they are feeling anxious or threatened, they may be uncharacteristically aggressive.
If your cat seems to be struggling around mirrors, limit their exposure. Follow the tips that we have outlined, and help them stay calm.
Mirrors are essential, so you’ll have to try to help your cat make peace with them. Just don’t force them to gaze upon their reflection if they’re unwilling. Time is needed for nervous cats to accept their own likeness.