Why Does My Cat Scratch the Window?

Why Does My Cat Scratch the Window

Your cat has claimed the living room window as his territory. And it shows, with the scratch marks on the sill and glass.  For countless times, you have seen him paw and scratch on the glass to the point that you can barely see what is going on outside if you peer from it.

Apart from making the window look unsightly, your pet’s habit of scratching the window becomes doubly annoying with the noise that he makes. But why exactly does he do this?

Why your cat keeps on scratching the window

Cats scratch windows for a few reasons, including:

  • Leaving his scent mark
  • Stretching his body
  • Fighting his reflection
  • Ward off perceived outdoor threats
  • Stress relief
  • Sharpen his claws

1. Leaving his scent mark

Cats have developed various ways to communicate with other cats and their humans. Apart from vocalization and body language, felines use their scent glands to communicate. 

This behavior is called scent marking. Scent marking entails transferring scents on objects through their skin, paw pads, urine, and feces.

When a cat scratches a window, essentially he is marking it with his paw pads. He intends to stake his claim on that specific spot.

If you own two or more cats, you notice that each of your pets has his own favorite spots in your home. Scent marking enables each cat to tell others that a particular area has been claimed. To a large degree, this helps keep the harmony within your home.

2. Stretching his body

Ever wondered why your cat stretches his body from time to time, sometimes propping his body on the window for support?

There are a few beneficial reasons why felines, including big cats, stretch their bodies.

For starters, stretching is a good way for cats to awaken their bodies, especially after a long nap. Cats will often curl up and contort their bodies in different positions while sleeping. 

Stretching allows felines to become fully awake and increase their blood pressure. Increasing blood pressure facilitates the optimal circulation of blood to different body parts. At the same time, stretching aids in releasing harmful toxins from the body. And after a good stretch, a cat’s body is primed and ready for the hunt.

Stretching is also a great way to keep a cat’s muscles supple. Again, this relates to a cat’s hunting instincts. When a cat’s muscles are supple, he is ready to face the challenge of taking down his quarry.

Sometimes, cats stretch their bodies to show their contentment. And for a cat owner, that is one great compliment from your pet. Great for you, unfortunate for your windows.

3. Fighting his reflection

Unlike people, elephants, dolphins, and some species of magpies, cats and other wild animals cannot recognize their reflections in a mirror.

Your pet might be scratching the window because he thinks that his reflection is another cat. Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell and when they see their reflections on a mirror or the window, they see the image looking back at them as a threat.

Cats are territorial by nature and will not back off from a  fight to ward off interlopers, real or perceived. In this case, his own reflection.

This is also the reason why many cats are startled the first time they see themselves in the mirror.

4. Ward off perceived outdoor threats

Allowing your cat to have a seat by the window is a good way to keep him entertained and engaged. Just like watching television, your cat can spend hours and hours looking outside, watching the world go by.

But sometimes, birds, a small animal, or even the neighborhood feral cats can pass by, catching your cat’s attention.

A cat will scratch the window because that is his only resort. Separated by a barrier, your cat can only claw on the window in an attempt to scare off other cats or vent his frustration for his inability to catch a potential prey.

5. Stress relief

Cats are susceptible to stress. Even the slightest change in their living environment can cause stress and anxiety. And when a cat does not have an outlet to release his stress, he can resort to destructive behavior, including scratching the window.

The same thing applies to a bored, unengaged cat. If your cat is unstimulated, he will find a way to amuse himself. 

As much as possible, keep your home environment stable and avoid unnecessary changes that can upset your cat. Keep your cat’s mind and body engaged by setting aside time to play with him daily.

6. Sharpen his claws

Cats need to scratch to sharpen their claws and remove their outer claws. And if you have not trained your cat to avoid scratching anything he can get his claws on, including the glass on the window.

Unfortunately, there is no real way to stop the behavior because this instinct is embedded in his DNA. You can, however, redirect this behavior to acceptable things, like a scratching post

How to discourage your cat from scratching the window

If you are annoyed by the unsightly marks left on the window or by the noise your cat makes when he paws and scratches the glass, there are a few strategies that you can try.

First, make the window unavailable to your cat. You can block his access to the window by placing a piece of tall furniture against it. This works best if you do not rely on that window for lighting.

You may also try to place a tint on the glass. By blocking your feline’s view of the outside world, he is less likely to paw and scratch the glass due to his excitement.

On the other hand, if you need the window as a light source for the room, you can discourage him from lounging in that area by using scents that cats dislike. These include citrus, lavender, and even vinegar.

You can also apply strips of double-sided tape on the window sill to discourage your cat from climbing there. Cats do not like the feel of sticky tape on their paws.

How to repair scratched glass and window sills

Once you have discouraged your pet from scratching the glass and window sill, the next order of business is repairing these.

Repairing the windowsill

Start by cleaning the windowsill using a degreaser and a household cleaner. Cleaning the windowsill helps eliminate leftover grease and oil which can make the task more difficult than what is necessary.

Once the sill has been cleaned, begin sanding the surface. Once the scratches have been removed, you can fill in the scratches using a wood filler for wooden sills or an epoxy repair stick. 

Using a putty knife, even and smooth out the epoxy or wood filler. Do not worry about making the surface perfectly even. You can sand the windowsill later on. 

Allow the epoxy or the wood filler to cure. Once the curing time has elapsed, you can begin sanding the surface. If you are using a wood filler, you may need to reapply some more because the material shrinks.

Finish the job by either staining or painting the windowsill.

Removing scratches from the glass

Begin by putting a drop of polishing compound on a buffing pad. Then, wipe off the scratches on the glass, using a soft, circular motion. Continue doing this until you have removed the scratches on the glass.

Once the scratches are removed, wipe the glass with a sponge soaked in rubbing alcohol. The alcohol will remove the excess polishing compound.

Finish the job by wiping the glass dry using a piece of clean lint-free cloth. 

This trick will work on the shallow scratch mark. If the glass has numerous deep scratch marks, you should strongly consider getting the glass replaced.

Redirect your cat’s scratching behavior

In a nutshell, you cannot stop your cat from scratching, whether he has turned his attention to his scratching post or any item in your home, including the glass in one of your windows.

What you can do is to redirect his need to scratch to an acceptable surface. If you want to discourage your pet from scratching the window, understand his motivations. From there, you can find the appropriate solution for your problem.

Image: istockphoto.com / Nils Jacobi