Cats Licking Windows: The Psychology Behind It

While typing away at the computer, I remember looking over at my cat by the windowsill to find him licking the window. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing, and after a while of watching him, I decided to ask the veterinarian if he was okay. Here’s what I learned…

Why do cats lick windows? Your cat may lick windows to drink the condensation off the glass. Even if you give him plenty of water, your cat may like the water on the window better because of how it tastes fresher than the water stagnating in a bowl and the glass feels cool to his tongue.

If you’d like to learn more about this phenomenon behind cats licking windows, we invite you to keep reading because we will cover some of the other reasons that your cat may be doing this.

Understanding Cats and Water: The Reason behind the Window Licking

Your cat doesn’t drink much water because cats were originally desert creatures and evolved without the need for much water. In fact, your cat only requires 3.5 to 4.5 oz of water per 5 pounds of body weight.

Most of the moisture that a cat receives comes from its prey with high water content. That’s one of the reasons that you can give your feline wet cat food, and it will give him most of his daily requirements in water. If you’re interested in wet cat food, try Friskies Oceans of Delight. It mimics their natural environment better so that kitty feels more at home.

Even licking a window for condensation will give him some of the water requirements that he needs. To be clear, cats still need water, but they have a low thirst drive in comparison to other animals.

Why Would a Cat Drink Water off the Window Rather Than in a Bowl?

Out in nature, stagnating water goes against your cat’s wild instincts to drink it. Stagnant water hides parasites like Giardia, a single-celled protozoal organism. Worse, Giardia is a zoonotic disease, which can spread to cats and humans who get it from their cats.

The symptoms of Giardia include severe diarrhea and stomach cramps. Symptoms of Giardia can persist for weeks.

Due to these dangers, cats often seek water from other sources first before they drink from the stagnant water bowl. If you want to know of a healthier way to give your cat water, you might check out the Catit Senses 2.0 Flower Fountain. It offers running water. Cats find running water irresistible because of how this water has a lower risk of parasites, and it tastes fresher.

Your cat may lick the condensation off the window as a resemblance to in nature where they might take the water from the morning dew. Cats will often use different drinking sources in the home, and they prefer water away from the food bowl. This may be because of how cats smell the food next to it and see it as contaminated.

Licking the window is a fresh source of water unlike that in a water bowl.

Licking the Window for the Cold and Texture

Cats have been known to do this with other surfaces to lay on, such as on sand. I wrote about that here if interested in learning more about that. Your cat may like the feel of the cold window and the smooth texture of it on his tongue.

Some textures like sticky surfaces, heavy plastic and aluminum foil are all surfaces that most cats don’t like. Your cat has sharp senses, and he may increasingly feel the texture even better than what humans might.

Cats don’t understand glass or the texture, which may fascinate them and cause them to lick it. In addition, if you have ever felt the tongue of a cat, you understand how it differs from human tongues. They may experience the texture of the glass in a way completely different from how we would experience it.

Perceiving Something on the Window?

Cats and humans have the same number of cones in their eyes at three cones, but humans can see a broader spectrum of color than cats. The number and distribution of each cone vary. With that in mind, your cat may lick the window because he perceives something that isn’t there due to the light passing through it.

Most cat experts have observed that cats appear to be nearsighted, which means they can’t see objects from afar. They can’t focus on anything less than one foot ahead of them, but their whisker may help them to feel the glass of the window even if they can’t see it clearly.

Licking the Window to Chase Bugs

Bugs often go toward the natural light on a window because they perceive it as a way to get out. Cats will go after the bugs on the window because they see it as a hunting opportunity, and cats love to hunt. In terms of food value, bugs don’t present much value to cats, but their natural instincts tell them to hunt.

During the hunt, your cat may discover the interesting texture of the window and decide to lick it in response. If he likes it, he may continue licking it.

Will Licking Windows Harm My Cat?

You shouldn’t worry too much about your cat and this behavior because it shouldn’t cause too much trouble. This depends on the window cleaning methods, however, and you will want to abstain from using dangerous chemicals on your windows.

Expert Tip: Beware particularly of commercial window cleaners because products like Windex will contain solvents and ammonia. A small ingestion of it can cause throat, mouth and stomach irritation. It could also cause vomiting.

If you find that he licks the windows a lot, you can switch to something like a vinegar or water mix. Many people report good results with it. An older home may pose an additional danger because of how it may have lead paint. Many houses before the 1980s used lead paint.

Cat Licking Windows: Symptoms of a Bored Cat

Anyone who has been around cats for any length of time understands how cats don’t need much reason for the things they do. Licking the window may simply show you the latest in your cat’s experiments around the home.

They may also lick for fun because they enjoyed the attention given to them from it. To give you other examples of what cats might do when bored, it includes:

  • Chewing on socks
  • Knocking things off shelves
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Overgrooming
  • Overly aggressive with other animals

How to Stop a Cat from Licking Windows

Considering how this behavior won’t harm your cat, it may be better to ignore it. Training cats isn’t the same as training dogs. As long as you teach them simple things such as using the litterbox, you won’t have much for problems. However, the second you try harder things, you may find that you have an uphill battle ahead of you.

If you wanted to get your cat to stop licking windows, you might find that you will have more success if you redirect his energy toward another endeavor. You replace the behavior with something else while encouraging better habits.

Also, understanding the reason for him licking the window can help you to stop the behavior. For example, if he licks it for the condensation on the window, a common reason for many cats, you might provide him with extra water sources. Many cats like to drink from multiple water sources.

You might put a water bowl next to the main window that he licks. Along with that, you can close the blinds or pull the curtains to keep him from licking the windows.

Disorder Causing Your Cat to Lick Windows?

In some cases, your cat may lick the window because of a disorder known as pica. This behavioral urge compels cats to try to eat inedible things. Dogs can also have this disorder. I once knew a dog that would eat pop cans all day long. If you didn’t give him pop cans, he would start nibbling on you.

Mild cases of pica may mean that the cat sucks or licks inedible objects. You may see him do this with objects attached to the window. In severe cases of pica, the cat will consume the object.

Some of the other symptoms of pica besides window licking include:

  • Listlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Oral ulcers and redness
  • Constipation

You may want to treat your cat by taking him to the vet because severe cases of pica can kill.

In most cases, you don’t need to worry about your cat licking the window, but this shows you the one example of when it may be more serious.

Here’s a video demonstration of what pica in cats will look like from Jackson Galaxy (the stars from one of my favorite shows of all time):

Possible Smell on the Window?

In some cases, your cat may like the smell on the window. This could come from what you used to clean it previously. To give an example, cats feel naturally attracted to bleach. Cats have a highly developed sense of smell, and some cat experts believe that bleach and chlorine mimic the smell of pheromones in cats. This triggers a hormonal reaction in cats.

While most people clean the windows by diluting the bleach, you may want to switch to a cat friendlier cleaning solution if he’s licking the windows. If this was the case, you will want to encourage your cat to drink water as a way of diluting it.

Plastic Windows: Secret Reasons

Your cat may lick the windows because of a beef tallow-based lubricant. Many cat experts believe that the cat’s strong sense of smell makes it possible for them to detect a faint fatty smell on the window, and they may lick it for that reason. They could be licking the window because of this.

Plastics, in fact, in general, may be a cat favorite because of the many foods found on them. For example, plastic shower curtains may contain cornstarch. You may think that cats wouldn’t like cornstarch, but many cat foods like Fancy Feast and Meow Mix.

Expert Tip: The canned cat foods don’t contain cornstarch, which some pet owners may like. The reported digestibility of starch is between 40 to 100 percent, but it can prove problematic for cats with a corn allergy.

Another reason that your cat may lick a plastic window is the same reason that they love bleach. Plastics contain chemicals that may mimic the pheromones that cats experience. While one cat may have no reaction, another’s response is to lick the plastic.

Will His Tongue Get Stuck to the Window?

Especially in the winter season, you may have experienced getting your tongue stuck to the pole as a kid. Will that prove a danger with your cat licking the window?

Overall, you shouldn’t worry too much because the inside of the home isn’t the same as the outside. This happens because the saliva sticks to the frozen surface and freezes as well. However, it happens more commonly on metal than glass. While windows do have some metal on them, cats most commonly lick the glass, rather than the metal.

If you live in a climate with cold temperatures, you may still want to consider taking precautions.

Cats Licking the Window Blinds

Along with licking the windows, cats will sometimes lick window blinds as well. The licking can calm them down because the licking process feels relaxing. Your cat may also lick windows for the same reason. It calms them down.

Why do cats lick curtains? Cats may lick the curtains for several reasons, but it may have something to do with liking the texture of the fabric. Something in the curtain may have also awakened his feline instinct. Sometimes bugs hide in curtains.

Why do cats like windows so much? While it may seem boring to us, cats may find this activity more interesting because of the many strange things outside. Indoor cats will especially find them interesting for the strange things outside.

Conclusion

Sometimes the reasons why a cat does things can seem mysterious, but they often have fascinating purposes for it. We have to remember how cats think differently from us since we’re not the same animals. Licking the window has reasons that we as humans may not fully understand. On top of that, they may smell things on the window that we can’t. Cats have up to 14 times a stronger nose than what we do.

If you liked this article and would like to check out others, check out an article I wrote here on why cats roll in the dirt.

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