“Why does my cat paw at smooth surfaces? The windows, the floors, the mirrors, and even our kitchen table – nothing’s safe from the wrath of her fluffy paw! But, why?!”. That sounds a lot like something you’d want to scream the moment that your fluffy friend starts digging and pawing, doesn’t it?
“No tea, no shade,” buddy! We’ve been there and we’ve certainly done that! Trust me, there isn’t a pet parent in the world that hasn’t at some point stopped to wonder “What the heck’s wrong with my cat?! Where’s the factory reset button? Where’s my money-back guarantee?”
And, your furry friend doesn’t even bat an eye when she sees you having a mental breakdown over something she’s done. More times than not, she continues doing whatever she was doing – the “elevator butt,” the kneading, the “knocking things down,” the butting, the winking, and the purring.
Trust me, that list could’ve been much longer but we wanted to spare you the details. You get the point, she’s going to continue doing whatever she wants. There’s hardly anything you can do about that other than educate yourself.
But would you know, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to prepare everything you need to make such an endeavor at least a little easier. And hey, on the off chance that everything else bites the dust, at least you get to observe and appreciate your precious purrincess’s fluffy paws and beautiful beans.
Back to the “Why does my cat paw at smooth surfaces?” question, we could simply say that cats are weird and be done with that. But, there are a couple of reasons why cats bounce their little paws off of reflective surfaces of choice. And, they might make you rethink everything you’ve ever known about cats!
Why does my cat paw at smooth surfaces? Is it an attention-seeking behavior?
One of the most common topics of conversation among pet parents seems to be the attention-seeking behavior their precious pets display on a day-to-day basis. Some absolutely love the meowing, the “asking for cuddles,” and other oddities, while others don’t understand the reason behind such tantrums.
And oh boy, are those parents going to be surprised when they learn that the reason could be both emotional and physical, or the combination of the two!
Not only that, but their curious creature could simply be displaying her “normal behavior” while they’re trying to figure out what’s wrong with her!
But, that’s why you came knocking on the right door. And, one thing that can save you from observing, analyzing, and overthinking everything your mischievous monster seems to be… homework. That’s right, conducting research and weighing the factors should save you the trip to the vet’s every time she does something.
“Why does my cat paw at smooth surfaces?” She might be pawing because that’s what she’s been doing since she was a kitten. Or, she might be pawing because she’s marking her territory. Oh, and she might be pawing because she’s hungry. Keep on reading and find out.
1. You have got to be kitten me!
Did you know that most attention-seeking behavior starts during “kittenhood?” Kittens are the definition of strange behavior. They have no clue what’s really happening. They spend most of the time experimenting with what works best for them (to get their mother’s attention).
Pawing, kneading, making biscuits – these are the things that most kittens do from the moment that they become aware of the fact that they have paws. And, they don’t employ these sneaky tactics ONLY to get their mother’s attention.
That’s right; they find these movements comforting and reassuring. So, they grow up and find themselves doing the same whenever they remember the “good old days” they spend cuddling and snuggling with their mothers.
And, that’s why you shouldn’t go “What?” when your precious pet starts pawing at you. Smooth surfaces seem to be more appealing. But, she might find comfort pawing at you because she sees you as one of her own, her mother (or even her baby!) Aren’t cats the best?!
2. You’ve been (unconsciously) encouraging this behavior
We don’t mean to point fingers. But, we can’t help but notice you’ve been encouraging her behavior from the moment she started pawing at pretty much everything she could get her paws on.
Maybe you’ve given her the attention she was looking for every time she was pawing at the floor. Maybe you’ve given her a chicken bone or a chicken nugget every time she was pawing the kitchen doors. Or, maybe you’ve given her additional belly rubs and smoothes every time she was pawing at your leg.
“But, what’s wrong with giving my kitten the love and attention she deserves?” Absolutely nothing, as long as you understand that she might have picked up a “bad habit” or two along the way. Or, you might have accidentally reinforced her behavior by showing her that’s what she needs to do to get what she wants.
3. She’s marking her territory
“Why does my cat paw at smooth surfaces? Sometimes she doesn’t even care that she’s presented with the smoothest plate or the shiniest mirror out there. Other times she can’t stop pawing, kneading, and “summoning the spirits” on the floor I just cleaned. Why does she do that?”
As a matter of fact, she might be pawing at the floor because you finished cleaning every inch. And no, she’s not doing that to get on your nerves or to provoke a response from you. Don’t be silly; she’s just a cat. But, she’s probably doing that to mark (or re-mark) her territory.
She’s got sweat glands (or scent glands) on her paws and she’s not afraid to use them! That’s right, cats have little pockets of scent hidden underneath that fluff (they have them everywhere!) They use them to send a message to other cats or to claim something as their own. That’s her floor now and there’s nothing you can do about that!
4. She’s sharpening her claws!
“Mrs. McFluffer’s gone completely crazy! She’s pawing at the floor, the walls, and even the mirrors and she’s leaving the mark of her claws everywhere she goes! Why does my cat paw at smooth surfaces?!” Have you considered the pawsibility that she isn’t necessarily pawing – maybe she’s clawing?
Maybe she’s not as happy about that cat scratcher you got her off of Amazon as you thought. Maybe she’s already scratched every part of the scratcher and she’s on the market for a victim that doesn’t bend, lean, or tumble to the ground whenever things get a bit “too handsy” (or should we say “pawsy?”)
Now, we understand that you might be thinking “But, how can a smooth floor help her sharpen her claws? Wouldn’t something with a bit more texture (like a scratching post???) be more efficient?” That’s true, but you shouldn’t doubt your cat’s ability to keep her claws in check. Maybe your floor’s like ultra-fine sandpaper to her, right?
5. She’s pawing at the mirror kitty!
Have you ever scrolled through TikTok and watched video after video of cats going completely crazy over their own reflection? Running away, storming back to check the reflection one more time, moving her fluffy tail back and forth unable to fathom what’s going on… You can’t get over the cuteness of the whole thing!
But, once your precious purrincess starts pawing at smooth surfaces you lose your composure! You start freaking out, wondering what the heck’s going on, and scheduling appointment after appointment hoping to get a “There’s nothing wrong with her, she’s healthy!” answer.
And, that answer’s pretty accurate because she’s probably pawing at her own reflections.
Kittens (and adult cats) don’t always understand what’s going on when they’re looking at themselves on the reflective surface. More times than not, they’re 100% certain that’s another cat. They have to show her who’s boss by pawing at her!
7. She’s hungry
“Why does my cat paw at smooth surfaces – like the kitchen door, or the kitchen floor, or the kitchen counters?” We can’t be the only ones noticing that the word “kitchen” keeps on appearing, right? We’re pretty sure she’s pawing at those surfaces because she’s hungry, and here’s why.
She might be pawing at the kitchen door because she knows what’s behind them. Cat food, cat treats, AND a bunch of chicken nuggets you’ve made for your Sunday brunch. She might be pawing at the kitchen floor because she finishes her meal and remembers dropping a bit of Fancy Feast.
And, she might be pawing at the kitchen counter because she remembers that you dropped your Thanksgiving turkey. You might have scooped the leftovers, but the scent’s lingering long enough for her to catch a whiff.
Whatever the case might be, you shouldn’t overlook the pawsibility that your kitten’s hungry as a horse right meow!
8. She’s happy
This one’s bound to make you happy! There are times when cats paw, knead and make biscuits because they’re comfortable, safe, and happy. And, as we mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, cats learn such behavior during their “kittenhood.”
As a matter of fact, you might have noticed that your beautiful beast does that while you’re petting her, snuggling with her, or while she’s preparing to take a nap on the smooth surface she deems comfortable enough (the marble tiles seem to do the trick!) And, might not be a smooth surface, but she paws at you, too!
And, she does that because she’s claiming you as her own, marking her territory, and showing you she feels safe, loved, and happy when she’s with you! Trust me, a cat wouldn’t go near someone or something she doesn’t find appealing. She’s the true definition of Marie Kondo’s “if it doesn’t spark joy…”
9. She’s stressed out and anxious
“Why does my cat paw at smooth surfaces? I know for a fact she doesn’t do that because she’s happy – actually, she seems to only do that when she’s stressed out and anxious!” And that’s the answer to that question! Cats display strange behavior when they’re overwhelmed, stressed out, or anxious.
And before you go on a rant about how “cats have nothing to be stressed about because they don’t do anything other than eat, sleep, and poop”, we have to stop you.
Cats are very, very sensitive and they feel frustrated when things don’t go the way they hoped (“argh, that spider ran away!”) Or when humans bother them (“omg, that kid won’t stop tugging my ears!”)
Cats might paw at smooth surfaces when they’re stressed out to put the focus on something other than themselves. Other than pawing, you might notice your cat refusing to eat, becoming more reserved (hiding), and impatient with humans; as well as meowing, hissing, and growling excessively.
10. She wants to have a baby!
That’s right, your precious purrincess might be pawing at smooth surfaces because she wants to have a baby! “How’s that possible?! Mrs. McFluffer’s a baby, she’s too young to start attracting and dating other cats and we’re too young to become grandparents!” We hear you and we understand you, but… she doesn’t.
We’ve mentioned that cats have those scent glands under the fluff on their paws. And we’ve mentioned they mark their territory when they paw at different (smooth or otherwise) surfaces. But, we haven’t mentioned that they do the same thing when they’re trying to attract a mate.
They leave their scent everywhere they go as a way of saying “Look, I’m available and I’m interested!” They’re hoping another cat would sense the scent and come looking for them. And then, the two of them could make babies! Apart from pawing, they meow, growl, move their tails vigorously, and get in fights!
How to prevent my cat from doing the “paw at smooth surfaces” thing?
More times than not, the pawing doesn’t seem to be that big of a problem. Mrs. McFluffer’s paws are pretty fluffy and don’t damage the smooth surfaces she’s pawing at (at least not when she’s keeping her claws retracted and secured!)
But, that’s not to say that you’re comfortable with reinforcing such attention-seeking (and at times aggressive) behavior. And, you might be wondering how to put a stop to the “belligerent petting of the floor and other smooth surfaces.” Luckily for you, we’re bringing you a step-by-step guide on how to do that!
First things first, make sure you set the rules and establish boundaries from the beginning. Don’t reinforce her behavior by giving her the attention she’s seeking every time she throws a tantrum.
On the other hand, granted that you’ve already done the bad parenting, direct her attention onto something different while simultaneously showing her why she should stop. Teach her to paw at her own bed, for starters. Whenever she starts bouncing her paws on the floor, bring her the bed, and voilà!
And, don’t forget that you can always turn to an animal behaviorist for additional advice. Pawing might not be the worst thing your purrincess can do. But, you’re better off not encouraging (and not overlooking) aggressive or attention-seeking behavior. Good luck!