I live in an apartment complex with some stray cats. I have multiple sets of scratch marks on the side doors of my car. I am unsure if these are from cats or from someone keying my car. Is it possible for cats to scratch car paint?

Here are some of the pictures.

Image 1

Image close-up

I have more pictures but stackexchange will only let me post two links.

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    @earlyriser01 Nice flip-flops :)
    – tlhIngan
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 20:22
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    The first picture looks like a cat's failed jump -- basically they didn't go up as high as they'd hoped, and were scrambling to stay up. Not all the claws will dig in hard enough to scratch the paint, which is why you only see maybe two lines per hind foot. What looks like a third line in the middle is probably a front paw. The second picture looks more like accidental scratching from (backpack, purse, whatever) as others have suggested.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 6:48
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    I wanted to write this as an answer but apparently I don't have enough Internet Points. The answer is Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness. Calcite can scratch Talc but Talc cannot scratch Calcite. Diamond can scratch everything and nothing can scratch diamond. According to Google, cat claws have a hardness of between 2.5 and 3 whereas most of the car paintings have a hardness over 6. But... The carbon black pigment has a hardness of 2 so, if your car has this kind of pigment, you are out of luck because it can be scratched by cats.
    – Daniel
    Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 13:51
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    How can I find out the hardness of the paint? @Daniel Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 14:35
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    I guess that this will involve some research. With the model of the car, the year and the color, you may be able to know the exact kind of painting. And knowing the painting, you may find the hardness. In any case, all my knowledge about car paint comes from this search google.com/search?q=car+paint+hardness+mohs ;)
    – Daniel
    Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 14:42

5 Answers 5


Yes, they technically can, but no, it's not the case in your pictures.

A cat does have sufficient power to scratch a car (given certain criteria are met), but it will not do that unless the cat lands from high up and tries to 'claw' the car to get a support point. In the presented case, the marks are inconsistent with any type of cat scratch, so that excludes any for being at fault in this case.

  • Okay, thank you. I appreciate your insight. So it's probably the case of what @Nick C Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 12:55
  • My apologies - it's could be the case of what @NickC said. Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 12:56
  • From what I see the scratches look more intentional than accidental.
    – Overmind
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 6:50
  • Could be. I have an angry ex. I found new scratches yesterday, both vertical and horizontal. Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 13:44
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    Well, put up a temporary spy-cam and see who the author is.
    – Overmind
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 6:16

It's hard to be sure, but that looks like single-stage paint (without a hard-wearing clearcoat).

If so, it is relatively soft paint that could easily be scratched. Judging by the angle of attack (and prior knowledge of feline behaviour), I would say that those are scratches made by cats that went into hill-descent-control mode.


My experience with cats is that they do enjoy sticking their claws into something soft to sharpen them. Cats will completely destroy furniture this way. The scratches you are showing are on hard metal surfaces, so not likely to be cats sharpening their claws.

Also, the pattern of the scratches makes it unlikely that they were left behind by a cat climbing on the car and using their claws for grip. The scratches are too long, the wrong number and too far apart.

Finally, in my experience, someone keying your car would usually make the scratch mark horizontally on the door, and they would press enough to dig into the paint. These look like surface scratches that are on the paint, not all the way through to the metal.

My conclusion is that these are scratch marks from someone or something rubbing against the car. It is probably unintentional.

  • I have both side ways scratches and scratches up and down all around my car. I checked the other cars at my apartment complex and none seem to have similar scratches. I rarely drive my car and if I do it's early in the morning (like 6 am) and often don't park next to other cars. I do have an ex that could've done it in retaliation but I have no way of proving it. Thank you for your insight. Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 20:42
  • Those certainly aren't scratches from a climbing cat or a scratching cat but look at Zaid's answer--I could believe them from a cat that was falling. Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 3:32
  • I'd agree, certainly the second set look like the sort of scratches you get from someone leaning on the car with something scratchy, like jean rivets, bag buckles, etc...
    – Nick C
    Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 8:01

I saw my sisters cat attempt to jump up on my car and then slide down the side leaving scratch marks where there were non previously, so to answer your questions, yes, without a doubt cats can scratch car paint with their claws...unfortunately :(

  • okay, Thank you. Is there any form of repellent for keeping the cats off? They're strays and very sweet cats but I am on a budget and don't have funds for a new paint job. Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 12:53
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    @earlyriser01 Please see this question: mechanics.stackexchange.com/q/28503/675
    – Zaid
    Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 13:24

In India where I live there are many stray cats in the area and I have seen them scratching the roof and bonnet of our car, but like in the picture their scratch patterns are different and usually on our car it is generally 3 or 4 nail marks, and as many suggested that these seems like they might be fighting each other and they slipped or they are terrible in jumping or in falling

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