Do Cats Understand Mirrors And Their Reflection?

Does your feline act out when they see a reflection of herself in a mirror? Perhaps they expand to double their size or anxiously look in the mirror for the fake feline?  We could be amused by cats acting in this hilarious way the whole day. However, can our felines actually able to identify their reflection in mirrors? Do Cats Understand Mirrors?

Cats can’t understand mirror reflection; however, they can see their image, but they are unable to identify themselves. They see a strange cat in their reflection which makes them furious. However, the majority of felines will react furiously, but some will overlook it or look at the reflection curiously.

But for most cat owners’ felines gazing in the mirror at their reflection and showing strange behaviors might be confusing. So, in this article, I’m going to answer the most frequently asked questions including whether felines can recognize reflections or mirrors, why they scratch the mirror after watching their reflection, and much more!

Do Cats Understand Mirrors And Their Reflection

Do Cats Understand Mirrors?

Despite popular belief, cats have absolutely no understanding of mirrors. Mirrors don’t fascinate cats as many other objects because they don’t produce noise or attractive aromas. When felines move in front of the mirror, they see a movement, yet most cats may not notice it the exact way we do. They may consider the movement as a shadow moving in the mirror.

Cats don’t understand that they’re gazing at their reflection in the mirror. The primary cause of this is the felines’ lack of self-awareness. Continue reading to learn further about self-awareness and the science behind the cat’s not recognizing themselves in the mirror.

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Can Cats Recognize Themselves in a Mirror?

Cats who gaze into a mirror don’t recognize themselves. They misinterpret their images for some other feline when they look into the mirror. Due to their tendency for being territorial, felines may overreact by swelling themselves and attempting to protect their home from the new cat that they’ve seen in the mirror.

Can Cats Recognize Themselves in a Mirror

Cats recognize different species via their smelling sense and not their vision. Because of this, your other felines may not immediately identify a new cat addition to your home. Mirror reflections are a comparable implementation of this idea. That’s why a feline doesn’t recognize its reflection and neglects it because it lacks a fragrance.

Also, Check Out: Do Cats Have a Sense of Humor?

Can Cats See Their Reflection in The Mirror?

When your felines are nearby, they can view their own image in mirrors. Cats can see their image clearly from as far as 20 feet away. Moreover, as you know, felines are nearsighted so what they see totally depends on their distance, the color they’re wearing, or the surroundings.

What Science Can Tell Us?

Scientific studies have provided much evidence that supports the idea that most cats can or can’t recognize themselves in a mirror. According to American scientists, in a mirror, cats may don’t understand their reflection just like we do, however, they may recognize their body in the mirror reflection and thinks that it isn’t someone else.  

Moreover, the mirror test has faced opposition from several scientists. They claim that it’s not a fair way to assess an animal’s level of self-awareness. According to some academics, the test’s weakness is the assumption that the animals recognize themselves via the unscented red dot on their forehead. So, when they look into the mirror and if they gaze at the red dot or claw it that means they recognize their reflection.

The test, according to scientists, is unjust to animal communication. Animals strongly depend on their additional senses, such as smelling and listening, despite the fact that the test is centered on responses to visual information. Dogs, for instance, fail this but successfully pass the smell test.

Dogs can distinguish their pee from other animals when their urine is mixed with others. Moreover, most animals are prone to aggression when they’re subjected to the mirror test. Therefore, their aggressive response is mistakenly interpreted as a lack of self-awareness. The same factor may cause felines to respond violently in the mirror test.

It is wrong to claim that felines are unable to recognize mirrors due to all of the following causes. There’s a high likelihood they will, even for a moment, but still, they’ll fail the self-recognition tests.

Also Read: Can Cats Laugh?

Why Does MY Cat Attack Its Reflection?

The most usual reaction cat pawing at the mirror.  It may be surprising for cats who aren’t accustomed to looking into their reflection in the mirror. Although your cat may be aware that it is staring at some other cat, it relies mainly on smell to identify other cats. As a result, it can panic if it sees a cat without a scent.

Why Does MY Cat Attack Its Reflection

So, when the feline first sees the mirror, it could become frightened and violent right away. Moreover, when it turns to face the mirror, it sees a pair of hostile eyes. Naturally, the cat becomes hostile as a result of this, setting up warning sirens in its thoughts.

Is Your Cat Self-Aware? Do Cats Have Self-Awareness?

The capability to identify oneself and to physically perceive one’s own look is known as self-awareness. Researchers have developed a few methods to test for self-awareness, and felines continuously fail these tests.

Even though they don’t demonstrate self-awareness in the traditional Mirror Test, they do possess a sensation of self-awareness. You can understand the cat’s level of self-awareness from its different body postures while responding to its feelings. For example:

  • Your cat jumps on a high table from the floor to show his confidence.
  • Avoid the territories of their neighborhood cats to keep themselves protected from fights with other felines.
  • Meow and bunt their heads against yours for dinner.

All these behaviors demonstrate that your feline is aware of her feelings, actions, how her body functions, and how to ask something from their owners. But as you know felines don’t have excellent vision. In reality, cats fail to see objects that are 20 feet away and are unable to differentiate between some tints and colors. That’s why it might be the reason behind their mirror test failure.

Also, because of this, felines depend more on their smelling sense as compared to their 20/100 vision. This makes the sense that they don’t need a mirror to recognize themselves. As a result, they don’t recognize their reflective image in the mirror or have the self-awareness to do so.

Interesting Reading: What Do Cats See When They Look at Humans?

Why Do Cats Stare in The Mirror?

A cat gazing into a mirror may do so for 2 purposes:

Why Do Cats Stare in The Mirror

Observing Motion

It’s possible that cats concentrate on mirrors after spotting a moving thing reflecting in them. They have no idea that the object they’ve seen is sitting behind them. They, therefore, gaze as they attempt to determine what it represents and its location of it.

Find Something Interesting

Sometimes a feline will spend a considerable amount of time gazing into a mirror not because it recognizes its image. Cats frequently fixate on inconspicuous objects while perking their ears and focusing on intriguing noises.

The feline may have momentarily recognized it in the reflection, but this doesn’t guarantee it is considering anything when it gazes. Cats are unable to ponder on life, history, feelings, or themselves because they don’t have a default setting.

How Cats React to Seeing Themselves in the Mirror?

We are aware that felines are unable to recognize themselves in the reflection of another cat. However, as they turn to face the mirror, they notice something: a different cat. Felines can recognize one another quite well via visual and smelling senses. Your cat will therefore believe there’s a second cat in the home or within the mirror whenever he observes his reflection in it.

How Cats React to Seeing Themselves in the Mirror

Several variables affect how your feline responds to her reflection:

  • Character
  • Territorial consciousness
  • Astonishment or amazement
  • Contact with other felines in previous years

Let’s go over some of the typical reactions that cats exhibit when they catch a glimpse of their mirror reflection.


Cats that are possessive of their home could mistake their reflection for an invading cat. Grunting, screaming, clawing at the mirror, or blowing up her tail are all possible reactions from an aggressive or defensive cat.

Whenever your feline does this, the reflective feline in the mirror reacts in a similar way, which can cause her to think the feline is also furious or unfriendly. As a result of this unfavorable situation, it’s very uncommon for cats to simply ignore the mirror.


A calm cat can be curious to find out more about the feline in the mirror when he sees its reflection. He might carefully scratch the mirror when he mistakenly believes that the reflection in the mirror is another cat.

Moreover, he may try to smell this odd buddy in the mirror. He might even attempt to move to the opposite side of the mirror to welcome the fascinating cat if he realized there was a protective shield behind them.

No Reaction

It’s likely that your feline will peek in the mirror shortly and then leave without saying anything. In this case, your cat understands how mirrors function and there isn’t another cat behind the mirror.

Why Do Cats Scratch Mirrors?

A cat frequently tries to paw a mirror when they see a look of themselves in it because:  with it.

  • They think it’s another cat in there
  • Curious about the mirror
  • Consider it to attract their owner’s attention
Why Do Cats Scratch Mirrors

Some felines interpret the mirror as if it were a feline they were talking with. Since felines use their claws to engage with one another. So, scratching at something doesn’t always indicate aggressiveness.

Additionally, they explore the things they come into contact with their claws. After looking at the mirror, your cat can be curious about the reflection working even though it’s too little to fully understand what it means.

Dogs howl to get our focus, whereas felines are less noisy. Felines meow to engage with their owners and also employ other techniques to elicit a response. Your cat may start to think it’s a way to grab your attention if you respond to it clawing at a mirror on a regular basis.

Find Out: Why Do Cats Scratch The Sides Of The Litter Box?

Frequently Asked Question

Why do cats ignore mirrors?

Some felines are quieter or more distant than many others because they have varied personalities. So, if your cat observes that the reflection in the mirror isn’t dangerous, she will ignore it.

Why do some cats seem to talk to their mirror reflection?

Vocalizations might be an expression of curiosity, communication, or frustration in response to the perceived “other” cat.

Can I use mirrors to help a shy or anxious cat gain confidence?

Mirrors might not be the most effective tool for boosting a shy cat’s confidence. Focus on creating a secure and comforting environment through other means, such as hiding spots and positive interactions.

Can cats differentiate between a real cat and their mirror reflection?

Cats might not fully understand that the reflection is themselves, but they can perceive it as another cat due to their keen senses.

Final Verdict

In contrast to human beings and other mammals, cats might not be able to recognize their image in the mirror. But this doesn’t indicate that felines have no sense of themselves at all. Your cat is fairly aware of their body postures, feeling (rage, starvation, love), and his value in your home.

So, don’t put too much pressure on our cat’s capability to recognize its own mirror image in light of this. Moreover, if your feline come agitated, hostile, or claws at the mirror, you must hide mirrors or prevent him from looking into the mirror.

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LearnAboutCat Author Isabella

Who is Isabella?

My name is Isabella, and I am a dedicated and knowledgeable cat enthusiast. With years of experience caring for cats and a deep love for felines, I made a mission to help other cat lovers navigate the challenges of cat ownership.

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