Cat Scared Of Own Reflection: Here’s The Answer




Cat Scared Of Own Reflection


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I can vividly recall Muezza’s first encounter with mirrors. Oftentimes, she would get startled and take off upon seeing her own reflection. I did some digging to understand this strange behavior of my mixed Persian cat with mirrors.

So, why is a cat scared of own reflection? Apparently, your cat lacks the cognitive ability to recognize its own reflection. Hence, they can interpret their reflection as a perceived threat—more likely an intruder or rival cat. However, as they get older, your cat will get used to seeing their reflection and not find it bothersome.

But what is the scientific explanation behind this, and do all cats react the same to their own reflection? I’ll cover all these in the next sections, so read on.

Cat Scared Of Own Reflection: Why It Happens

Let’s explore the reasons why a cat sees a reflection in the mirror and gets scared. I gathered that there are a couple of reasons to explain this behavior. Please refer to the table.

Why Cats Are Scared Of Own ReflectionNotes
Lack of recognitionCats rely heavily on smell and hearing for recognition. So, it’s unlikely that they’ll understand that the reflection is their own image
Perceived threatIt violates their territorial instincts. Essentially, they feel their space is being invaded. Also, if their reflection intensely stares back, it unsettles them
Body language misinterpretationWhen the reflection copies the movement exactly, it can seem unnatural and disturbing. Also, cats can interpret the movement as aggression
Rearing and environmentCats that grow up without exposure to mirrors from a young age will get startled easily on their first encounter
TemperamentLike humans, cats have different temperaments. Some are more sensitive or easily startled than others, making them more wary of their reflections

Lack Of Self-Awareness In Cats: A Scientific Explanation

Scientists have performed mirror tests on different animals. Essentially, this is a test for self-awareness and cognition in animals.

  • To pass the test, the animal needs to understand that the image in the mirror reflects one’s self, not another individual.
  • However, to date, only humans, orangutans, and chimpanzees have passed the mirror test convincingly.
  • Even the more intelligent gorillas, elephants, and dolphins only display partial awareness in the mirror self-recognition (MSR) test.
  • Human self-awareness starts at 18-24 months; for chimpanzees, it’s 28 months or during their third year. Essentially, it tells you that self-awareness isn’t common in animals.

Now, cats primarily lack self-awareness because of their sensory and cognitive makeup. Let me highlight a few points to break it up for you.

  • Cats haven’t evolved to rely on visual cues for communication and social behavior. Instead, they mainly use scent and sounds to identify and interact with other cats. Their reflection has no smell, so they don’t recognize it as themselves.
  • Cats have poor visual acuity. In fact, cats have 20%-40% of our visual acuity, meaning they have less ability to focus. This makes it harder for cats to recognize details in the mirror reflection that would identify it as themselves.
  • A cat’s cognition is simply lower than that of humans and apes. After all, the ability to recognize one’s reflection primarily depends on an understanding of oneself as an independent entity. Well, cats lack that.

Other Ways Cats React To Own Reflection

It’s not always that your cat will be scared of its own reflection in the mirror. Based on my experience with cats, especially Muezza, there are four other possible outcomes.

Possible ResponseNotes
StaringYour cat may stare curiously at its reflection. It may stare for long periods of time, transfixed by the moving image
IgnoringSome cats may be completely uninterested and go about their business as usual
AggressionYour cat may puff up, hissing, swiping, and scratching at its reflection
PlayYour cat may attempt to interact or play with its reflection. They’ll paw at the mirror or try to rub against it. However, this happens on rare occasions

How To Train Your Cat To Accept Mirror Reflections

You can train your cat to be comfortable with its own reflection in mirrors. However, from my experience with Muezza, it requires patience and consistency.

Having said that, here are some tips that could help. I’ll highlight them in the table to make it easy for you to grasp.

Tips For Mirror TrainingHow To
Start exposure earlyIntroduce your kittens and young cats to mirrors so they can get used to it early on. Typically, older cats who haven’t seen mirrors are more fearful
Let them investigateGive your cat time to approach and inspect the mirror at their own pace – don’t force them close to it. Give them treats whenever they approach voluntarily
Cover and uncoverPut a lightweight cloth over the mirror. Cover and uncover it for short periods so your cat can gradually get used to seeing the reflection
Create positive associationGive your cat treats or play with toys in front of the mirror. The idea is to make them associate good things with the mirror
Use pheromonesUse synthetic feline pheromones to send a calming message to your cat. One good example is Feliway. It will make your cat relax and more comfortable around the mirror

Are Mirrors Bad for Cats?

As long as you observe your cat’s behavior around mirrors and limit exposure, mirrors are unlikely to cause major issues. Just monitor how your cat reacts and be prepared to completely remove mirrors if your cat appears stressed.

Having said that here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Cats can become overly fixated on or territorial towards their reflection – they don’t fully understand that it’s another cat. This can potentially lead to stress or aggressive behavior.
  • Naturally, anxious cats may react negatively to seeing their reflection.
  • Mirrors directly facing your cat’s food, water, or litter box could seem threatening. Your cat may freak out and not eat or use the litter box.

Cats and Mirrors Spiritual Meaning: What Does Folklore Say?

  • Some folklore associates a cat seeing its own reflection with bad luck. In fact, some consider it a sign of impending misfortune.
  • Primarily, the notion is that cats have the innate ability to detect negative energies.
  • On the other hand, cultures see it as the cat guarding against malevolent entities.

So, the spiritual meaning of cats and mirrors varies between cultures. How you interpret it can be subjective. Nevertheless, the general consensus is that none is based on scientific evidence. They’re more folklore than absolute truth.


Let’s answer some common questions related to “Cat scared of own reflection.”

Q. What are the visual signs of fear in cats?

Erect fur, flattened ears, retreating, and excessive vocalization are some visual clues for a scared cat. Others include crouching low, shaking, and frequent nose licking.

Q. How do I calm an anxious cat?

The key is to respond to the anxiety calmly, gently, and reassuringly. Some tips include providing calming pheromones, removing potential stress triggers, and petting your cat gently. You can also distract your cat with a favorite toy or treat.

Q. Why do cats like the light reflection?

Cats find light reflections fascinating for reasons related to curiosity and predatory instincts. Essentially, it satisfies their need for stimulation, activity, and hunting practice.


In summary, your cat shows fear of own reflection primarily because of a lack of self-awareness. Be that as it may, not all cats will freak out.  Some may ignore it; others may be curious or aggressive. Essentially, it depends on your cat’s individual personality and past experiences.

However, you can help your cat overcome its fear of reflection with patience and positive reinforcement. But if you notice any signs of stress, it’s best to keep mirrors out of their way. Plus, most cats will naturally learn to accept their own reflection as non-threatening over time.

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