Why Do Cats Scratch Windows: Clues About This Odd Feline Behavior

Cats love to scratch – this is pretty much a given if you share your life with a family feline. But some things that cats choose to scratch on make more sense than others.

For example, it is easy to understand why your cat might scratch at a scratching post to sharpen their claws and remove the dead dull outer layers of keratin.

But why do cats scratch windows? What the heck could be behind that strange choice of a scratching post? Read on to find out!

Why Do Cats Scratch Windows?

There is no uniform consensus as to why cats scratch windows. There are a variety of popular theories, however.

The most common understanding is that the window is showing your cat either a self-reflection or a view of something going on outside, such as an outdoor cat or a bird.

The window may also be a place where another family cat has left their pheromones and the cat is scratching as a way to add its own scent mark on top of that.

Watch a Cat Scratching At a Window

In this short YouTube video, you can see what it looks like when a cat scratches at windows.

This might be helpful just in case you are not sure the behavior you are seeing in your cat is the same as the behavior being discussed in this article.

Decoding Different Reasons for Why Cats Scratch Windows

Cats scratch windows for a variety of reasons. The key to decoding this behavior is to look past the scratching itself to the context. In other words, what is happening at the time your cat decides to scratch windows?

Of course, you may not always be there before your cat starts scratching at the windows.

If it is just one window that your cat scratches at repeatedly, you may consider installing a pet cam to see what is going on in that location when you aren’t around!

But until we learn to speak feline and can ask our cats directly “hey, why do you scratch windows?” we just have to go with our gut and learn from other cat owners and feline behavior experts about the most likely reasons why cats scratch windows.

The window is a point of conflict

As the Cats Protection charity points out, windows are often “conflict points” where indoor cats may see birds, lizards, or outdoor cats and scratch to mark their territory.

The window is reflective

Cats may also see their own reflection in the window and scratch in response to the image. It is not clear whether the cat has an awareness of seeing themselves or whether they may perceive their own reflection as another cat.

If your cat is also scratching at mirrors and other highly reflective surfaces, it could well be that their own reflection is the reason for the scratching behavior.

The window contains another cat’s pheromones

If you have a multi-cat household, your cat may also scratch at a window where another cat in the family has scent-marked the glass.

As Cat Behavior Associates explains, cats have special scent glands in many places on their bodies, including on the paw pads.

So when your cat is scratching away at the window, they may be depositing their pheromones – which are like their own personal cologne – on top of another cat’s pheromones as a way of marking territory.

This is most likely if your family includes multiple cats. Even if you think your cats get along very well, this behavior could be a sign that there is some stress between two or more cats in your home.

Your cat is trying to send a message

Cats send messages in all kinds of ways just like people do. Cats use their pheromones (scent), scratching, vocalizations, body language, and other clues to let you know when something in their environment isn’t to their liking.

While most cat owners are pretty well-versed in decoding when their cat is happy or pleased with something, it can take more advanced detective work to figure out when your cat is not happy about something.

While scratching behaviors are not always a sign there is something wrong, as The Humane Society points out, scratching is often a way that cats use to tell their owners they are upset.

How to Keep Cats from Scratching Windows

Just as no one likes the sound of fingernails on a blackboard, it is a rare cat owner indeed that enjoys the sound of their kitty’s nails scratching away at a pane of window glass.

This sound is crazy-making!

Is there a way to make your cat stop scratching at the window?

There are several options you can try. If the first thing you try doesn’t work, it may mean you just haven’t quite identified what is causing your cat to scratch at the window.

So just keep trying different things from this list here until you find what works for your particular situation.

Remove the window screen or line it with aluminum foil

If your windows have screens, some cats literally seem to find these screens irresistible for scratching posts.

You can try removing the window screen to see if this is the trigger for your cat’s scratching behavior rather than the window itself. If your cat stops scratching, the problem is gone!

But what if you need the window screens?

Another way to keep your cats away from screens is to line the edges with aluminum foil.

Cats generally don’t seem to favor sitting or standing on aluminum foil.

If the foil doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to your particular cat, however, you can try another type of textured surface, cat repellant spray, or sticky cat tape until you find one that works.

Remove the window blinds or use a deterrent

If your window has mini-blinds or any kind of window decor, these are often magnets for cat scratching just like window screens.

If removing the blinds and replacing them with a less attractive shade isn’t an option, then you can try a cat repellant spray or some type of uncomfortable surface like foil or sticky tape to keep your cat away.

Provide something else for scratching

Sometimes new first-time cat owners simply don’t realize their cat needs something to use to scratch their claws and keep them sharp.

This can make window screens or furniture a natural target.

You can try installing a cat tree or offering cat scratching posts to see if this redirects your cat’s scratching behavior away from the windows.

Use a fan

Just like sticky tape and repellant spray, cats also seem to near-universally dislike being in the path of moving air.

As Home Decor Solutions points out, sometimes all that it takes to keep your cat away from the window is to install a small portable fan that keeps the air in that area in constant motion.

Add more enrichment to your cat’s daily life

While a senior cat may be content to simply lounge and nap the day away, kittens and young adult cats are typically playful and energetic.

They are also smart and get bored quickly.

So if your cat is returning to the windows, again and again, to watch the outside world, play with the mini blinds, scratch sealant out from the frame or drive you mad with the scratch-scratch-scratch sound of claws on glass, they may be bored!

As Your Cat Magazine points out, adding lots of new toys in a constant rotation and finding creative ways to extend meals and treat time may help liven up your cat’s daily life so the windows don’t seem so enticing.

Try a cat calming therapy

Cats with stress may exhibit all kinds of odd behaviors. Scratching can be a sign of an anxious kitty.

You can talk with your feline veterinarian about calming essential oil blends and pheromone sprays that may help your cat chill out and stop obsessive scratching behaviors.

Use claw caps with your cat

Claw caps are a controversial option to keep cats from scratching. They are definitely a more humane alternative to declawing (declawing should never be an option as this cripples your cat for life).

But claw caps can also cause your cat a lot of stress and that may result in other unwanted behaviors around the house. So you probably don’t want to try claw caps until you’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked.

Take your cat to the vet

Finally, if nothing else has worked to stop your cat from scratching windows, it is time to schedule an exam with your veterinarian.

It is possible for your cat’s paws or nails to be irritated or inflamed for some reason and medical treatment is the right remedy.