Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Cats > Why Does My Cat Scratch at the Window? 7 Main Reasons

Why Does My Cat Scratch at the Window? 7 Main Reasons

the cat sits on the windowsill and scratches the window

We’ve all been there—one moment, your cat is luxuriating in a sunny spot by the window, and the next, seemingly out of nowhere, they’re scratching at it like a massive salmon on a plate has magicked its way to your yard.

This behavior can be perplexing and, if it happens while you’re sleeping or trying to work, very frustrating. In this post, we’ll explore the most likely reasons your cat is scratching at the window and how to stop it.


The 7 Reasons Your Cat Scratches at the Window

1. Hunting Instincts

Though the magic salmon analogy isn’t very likely, there is a multitude of creatures that could be on the other side of that window, exciting your cat’s hunting instincts. This could be a bird, a mouse, or even a tiny bug climbing up the outside window. The very fact that your cat is forever barred from their target can send them into a frenzy, taking out their frustration on the offending barrier.

If your cat is scratching the window because some sort of prey is outside, their tail may be upright and quivering, the pupils dilated, and they could be making chattering sounds.

angry cat with agressive expression staring outside the window
Image Credit: Margarita Vais, Shutterstock

2. Defensive Behavior

Your cat may scratch at the window if they feel threatened by something on the other side, like another cat. Cats are very territorial animals, so the sudden appearance of another cat, dog, or potential predator could stress them out and send them straight into defense mode.

3. Desire to Mate

If your unspayed female cat is in heat, she may be feeling a strong urge to roam and find a mate. Likewise, an unneutered male cat may have the desire to roam for the same purpose. This may cause them to scratch at the window or door in an attempt to get out.

Being indoor-only is much safer for cats in general due to the risk of traffic accidents, feline diseases, and getting lost, but it’s also especially important for unspayed or unneutered cats to avoid unwanted pregnancies and, therefore, potentially more cats that end up homeless or in shelters.

4. Boredom

Bored cats tend to behave destructively or in ways that will attract your attention, like scratching at something or vocalizing loudly. To prevent this behavior, have daily play sessions with your cat to exercise and mentally stimulate them. You can also provide mentally stimulating toys, like an obstacle or puzzle feeder that requires the cat to figure out how to get to the treats inside.

calico cat on window staring at snow
Image Credit: Kristi Blokhin, Shutterstock

5. Marking Territory

Cats mark their territory by scratching at things because there are special glands in their paws. These glands deposit the cat’s scent on objects when they scratch them, thereby marking them as their own. It’s possible that your cat just really loves their spot by the window and wants to “claim” it, especially if other cats tend to hang around on the other side.

6. Reflection

Sometimes, cats see their reflection but don’t realize that it’s their own and mistake it for another cat after a piece of their territory. This can overexcite them or make them defensive, causing them to scratch at the window as a way of marking it or to “defend” themselves from the perceived threat.

7. Desire to Play

Perhaps your cat isn’t threatened by other cats on the outside at all and simply wants to play with them! If your neighbor’s cat likes to pop over every now and again and your cat is familiar with them, your cat may scratch the window in an attempt to play or get to the other cat.

Other signs your cat is fond of the cat on the outside include a relaxed body posture, rubbing against the window, and purring. Your cat may also roll onto their back to expose their belly, which is a sure sign of trust.

Beautiful grey cat sitting on windowsill and looking to a window
Image Credit: lkoimages, Shutterstock


How to Stop a Cat from Scratching the Window

If the scratching behavior only happens now and then, it shouldn’t cause you too much strife. However, if it’s disturbing your sleep or bothering you in some way, this is when it becomes a problem. Here are some things you can try:

Burmese cat with yellow eyes is sitting on window sill looking straight
Image By: Elena Kabenkina, Shutterstock

Exercise Your Cat

Inadequate physical exercise or mental stimulation might be behind the scratching behavior, especially if it happens a lot. Incorporate a few interactive play sessions into your daily routine and make sure your cat has something to do when they’re in an active mood, like working out a puzzle feeder or playing with another fun toy.

Spay or Neuter

If your unspayed or unneutered cat is scratching at the window, this may come down to their desire to roam. Consider spaying (for females) or neutering (for males), as this can lessen the roaming urges.

cat having post-operative care after spaying
Image By: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock

Provide Alternatives

Try placing a cat tree with scratch posts next to the window so your cat can redirect their scratching urges onto that. All cats should have something to scratch, as this is a natural and important behavior for them. Having an appropriate outlet for their urges may help deter them from scratching inappropriate objects.

Beforehand, you might want to thoroughly clean the window to get the cat’s scent off, as this allows them to start afresh with their new alternative. If they try to go for the window, gently redirect them to the scratch post. Praise and reward them if they use it.

Avoid grabbing your cat’s paws and forcing them to scratch the post, as this will scare them and create negative associations with it.

Deter Your Cat

One method of deterring your cat from scratching is to put aluminum foil around the window edges, as they often hate the sound and feel of this material. However, if your cat is more interested in the glass itself, this won’t work. An alternative is to use a humane, pet-safe cat repellant spray on the area (not on your cat).

spraying a cat repellant in the house
Image By: Squirrel_photos, Pixabay



Though a window-scratching habit can be irritating, your cat isn’t doing it out of spite. Usually, it comes down to their prey drive, mating instincts, or need for more physical and mental stimulation. The good news is that you can make a few simple changes to reduce the behavior.

If nothing works and the scratching doesn’t stop, it might be best to reach out to a professional behaviorist.

Featured Image Credit: Yuliia Bezuglaya, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets