Why Cats Go Crazy When They See a Mirror

cat mirror

The first time your cat notices his reflection in the mirror is a memorable time for most of us. The typical response is one of fear and assuming a defensive position. Not all cats react the same way, but most are a bit surprised and it’s their fight or flight instinct that kicks in and makes them put on a show for you. Have you ever wondered what makes them go crazy around mirrors? Believe it or not, there has been some research into the topic to learn more about feline behaviors so we can better understand our beloved pets.

It’s a phenomenon

Not all cats are bothered by the sight of another cat staring back at them in a mirror, but some cats become visibly shaken and upset. While we take for granted that we’re only seeing a reflection of ourselves, cats do not have the same frame of reference to draw from. According to Cat Time, cats do not know that it’s their own reflection they’re seeing. They cannot recognize themselves in a mirror because they don’t even really know what a mirror is, its purpose, or how it works. All they know is that they see a strange cat appear every time they step in front of what otherwise looks like a pane of glass like a window, except its not one you can see out of.

Why does my cat try to attack his image in a mirror?

Your cat does not know what he looks like from a full frontal view. When he sees his reflection, he believes that he is seeing another cat. His territorial instincts may kick in and he may feel a need to defend his territory. This is why so many cats arch their back and puff out their fur. Some of them even growl at the reflection, lay their ears back, and take a swipe at it. The only thing that they are aware of is that there is an intruder in the house.

Most cats eventually catch on about mirrors

It may take a while, but your cat will eventually get used to seeing another cat in the mirror. Cats are intelligent creatures. They use more than their sense of vision to identify intruders. The cat in the mirror does not give off a scent, and your cat is likely to finally figure out that the image in the mirror is just a reflection of himself. Just as small human children do not recognize their reflection in the mirror at first, cats are faced with the same dilemma. They’re not born knowing about reflections in mirrors, or even in a pond on a sunny day. Your cat may have the same reaction when he sees his reflection in a window at night or in a stream of water.

How can I help my cat overcome his fear of mirrors?

Some cats have a strong reaction to seeing their reflection in mirrors. It can cause fear and emotional upset. If mirrors are a problem for your cat, and he’s not getting over his fear of the cat staring back at him, there are a few things that you can do to help him overcome his fear and accept the phenomenon brought about by mirrors. According to The Spruce Pets, you can train your cat to accept mirror reflection without going crazy every time. It starts by understanding why your cat is acting the way that he does. He is either feeling very defensive or he is terrified. It’s also possible that your cat associates the shiny mirror with a negative experience. Either way, it’s a part of growing up and maturing and he will eventually come to accept his image in the mirror over time without an aggressive or fearful reaction. If your cat is obsessed with mirrors, you could cover them up until he settles down, but eventually, the covering will need to come off. It’s a temporary fix to allow him time to recover from his fear. In the long run, covering them up will not help the situation. It can make it worse and deepen the mystery. Another mistake that human owners make is to join in and make him feel more fearful. While we may find the situation humorous, the cat does not. Avoid taking any actions that will reinforce your cat’s fear of the image he sees in the mirror.

Reintroduce mirrors with yourself in the reflection

After your cat has regained his composure and has had time to gain his confidence, you can gradually start to reintroduce him to mirrors with a positive association. For example, you could put his favorite toys, or treats in front of the mirror and allow him to approach them at his own pace. When you’re standing in the room, make sure that your reflection is in his line of sight. Seeing you there beside him may help him to begin to understand that he is seeing only a reflection of things that are already in the room. In time he will figure it out and come to accept mirror reflections as a normal part of his life with a human family. He will no longer perceive his image in the mirror as a threat.

Final thoughts

If your cat goes crazy every time he sees his reflection in a mirror, the chances are that he will eventually figure out what’s going on. If it becomes an ongoing problem, there are steps you can take to help alleviate his fears. Patience and understanding can go a long way. Avoid invoking his fear, instead, place positive objects around the mirror. Let him gradually approach the mirror to retrieve special treats or his favorite toys. Let him see your reflection alongside his and in time he will figure it out.

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