Why Won’t Cat Look At Itself In the Mirror?

This post provides no answer to the question it poses. The only definitive answer would come from a highly intelligent, very evolved cat. Since that won’t occur for tens of thousands of years, if ever, can we play with possible likelihoods? After all, we and cats understand each other well enough for some kind of communication to take place, for some kind of bridge or affection to exist between us, some kind of attraction. I like to think we can.

Cat is willing to regard all manner of things in the mirror: the ceiling lamp, the counter before it, things in the room, less often other cats and, reluctantly, the human holding it. But if it eyes itself, it is at the outset and seemingly by accident. It may notice its paws dangling over my arm. Perhaps, its chest. But if it meets its own eyes, there is a brief intensity, a question asked, recognition, then its eyes avert and it refuses to acknowledge its reflection again. Why?

Dogs, if they notice themselves at all, have a fleeting interest, then find other things more appealing: things with scent. Birds, on the other hand, are fascinated by their image. I once had a love bird who would fly to the mirror and hover in place, watching herself fly. She did this often. But cats… ?

Is the perception of self a terrifying thing? Until its first encounter with its mirror image, for a cat, self is always within and looking out. Does being outside looking back so disturb its reality it recoils, turns away, denies?

And doesn’t that behavior mirror our own when we must face ourselves and confront some startling truth? Our reality is upended, our way of looking at things permanently altered if we acknowledge what we see. Do we recoil, turn away, deny?

Oh! And isn’t drawing parallels a nice way to enter the heart of our protagonist?

I know this is an odd post, but as a writer I frequently look at odd things from an odd perspective.


6 responses to “Why Won’t Cat Look At Itself In the Mirror?

  1. I guess that’s another indication my cats are really strange (even for cats) because they will look at themselves in mirrors all day long.

    When we moved into the new house the master bedroom has mirrored doors on the closet and for the first week we were here all the cats wanted to sit in front of those doors and stare at themselves. 😀

    But then I’m still firmly convinced one of my cats is an alien in a cat suit … so no big surprise he’d stare at himself in the mirror, he’s just making sure his disguise is looking good!


  2. Cats are such individuals – Raymond’s cats not interested; KB’s cats engrossed. That’s what I love about them.


  3. I too find cats to be individuals. We had 3 cats in the house at one time, two females (Bob, a Manx & Mittens, a Tabbie) and one little male (Fraido). Bob and Mittens liked to watch TV but had no interest in mirrors. But Fraido was enthralled with the large (nearly floor to ceiling) wall mirror that hung next to the patio slider leading to the backyard and the back corner of the house.
    He would sit for hours, trying to get the cat in the mirror to play or fight, or he would just hang out with it, napping and sunning. One day, while I was watching him, he walked up to the mirror, it was summer time and the patio slider was open, stood looking at it, unmoving for a long instant, and then he sprinted out the door into the back yard and around the corner of the house. I followed to find him sitting in the side yard, staring at the side of the house–which would have been directly behind the mirror. Of course the cat in the mirror was not there and from that day on, Fraido payed not the least bit of attention to the cat in the mirror. Go figure!

    Nice post, Raymond.

    • Thanks, Wally, although I was hoping someone would pick up on the writing cue at the end of it all. Ah, me. I do love the kitties, though. BTW, It was Toni who gave Sophia the parasol and the futon.

  4. I always thought you were odd, Raymond – now I have my confirmation! I think that’s why I like you – as a person and a writer. 😉


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