How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

Does your cat knock things over? Of course he does. Is it frustrating? Most of the time, yes. We’ve all seen the funny compilation videos of cats swatting various objects onto the floor, but just why do cats knock things over? Are they simply trying to annoy us? Nope. There are actually a few reasons why cats knock things over.

1. Why Do Cats Knock Things Over? It’s Prey Instinct.

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

Why do cats knock things over? Prey instinct plays a part! Photography ©FedotovAnatoly | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Cats are natural hunters. Even indoor cats who have never seen a real mouse have the instinct to go after prey. When a cat does capture something, he uses his paw to test for any movement and make sure it’s dead. Cats could be demonstrating this behavior when they swat your pencil or lip balm off your desk and onto the floor. They obviously know the difference between a pencil and a mouse, but their instinct kicks in and they explore the object with their paws.

2. Why Do Cats Knock Things Over? It’s Playtime.

Sometimes cats are bored and they might playfully knock an object over. If it falls and rolls, it’s automatically a toy! When kitty wants to play, he will find a way to do it — even if it means all of your pens wind up underneath the sofa.

3. Why Do Cats Knock Things Over? It’s an Attention-Grabbing Behavior.

Another reason why cats knock things over or swat objects is because they want to capture your attention. We all know kitties are smart little cookies, and they know — based on experience — that if they knock over your cup of water, you’re going to come running. They may choose to employ this attention-grabbing move if their food or water bowls are empty, they want you to interact with them or even if you decide to sleep later than you usually do. Cats do not have a snooze button!

So, How Do You Stop Cats From Knocking Things Over?

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

Cats knocking things over can make a mess — and be dangerous for all involved! Photography ©jeffadl | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Cats will be cats, and they’ll probably always find a reason to knock stuff over, but you can definitely take some steps to lessen the number of knick-knacks you lose to the sofa.

1. Make sure your cat’s needs are met.

Don’t let your kitty’s water bowl get too empty, feed him on a pretty regular schedule and keep those litter boxes scooped!

2. Make sure your cat isn’t bored.

To help with boredom, keep your cat’s toys in rotation so he regularly has “new” playthings. Have you tried puzzle feeders? You place treats inside the puzzle toy and the cat has to work to release the goody. It’s also a good idea to schedule playtime with your kitty. What a great way to release some energy and have fun after a long day of work!

3. Remove the temptation to knock things over.

Take away the temptation by placing any fragile items far from kitty’s reach. Cat behaviorist Pam Johnson Bennett advises, “Even if you don’t mind that your cat engages in the behavior, it can pose a risk to him. Glass objects knocked over can shatter. Pill bottles that aren’t securely sealed can spill their contents when knocked on the floor. There are many objects on tables that, if knocked over, can create danger for the cat.”

Let’s face it: Cats are little manipulators. If your cat seems to have developed the toddler-like behavior of acting out in order to gain your attention — and all his needs are being met — it’s best to simply ignore the behavior.

Thumbnail: Photography ©vgajic | E+ / Getty Images.

Read more about cat behavior on Catster.com:

  • What Are the Cat Zoomies and Are They Ever Anything to Worry About?
  • 10 Common Cat Noises — and What They Mean
  • Tags: Behavior

Angie Bailey

Angie Bailey, an award-winning writer, podcaster, and humorist, is the author of Texts from Mittens and Whiskerslist: The Kitty Classifieds. She’s written cat humor for over a decade, and lives in Minneapolis with her fiancé and two cats — Phoebe, a sassy senior and Janet, a teenage kitty with tons of tortitude.

Cats love to knock stuff over and push things off tables, which can lead to a lot of broken items. Are they mean-spirited goblins that hate your stuff? Sort of—but not exactly. Here’s the truth about this annoying behavior and how you can prevent it.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that cats knock stuff over because it’s fun. That’s it—that’s the whole explanation. If you want to stop it, you need to know why this particular hobby is so enjoyable so you can give your cats better, less destructive outlets for that energy.

It’s everything cats love in one activity

As this video from the Grady Veterinary Hospital YouTube channel explains, cats like to jump up on things. They also love to investigate potential prey—which could be any small object, as far as cats are concerned—by nudging it with a paw and watching what happens. If it moves, great; if it makes a noise, even better; if it does both, jackpot. Once they’ve found something that’s fun to bat around, they’ll keep at it until the prey finally dies or they get bored and move on to their next victim.

Knocking stuff off a counter or table combines all three of these activities in one, like CrossFit for cats. They get a change of elevation and a veritable buffet of stuff to poke and prod, and all the better if it rolls around in an exciting way and makes fun noises when it hits the ground—then they get to play with it some more.

It gets them attention

It doesn’t take long for cats to figure out that sending an item tumbling to the floor makes a lot of noise, which may send a human caretaker running to investigate. As veterinarian and author Dr. H. Ellen Whiteley explains in a HowStuffWorks article, this is incredibly valuable information for a cat:

[O]nce a cat learns that knocking something to the floor will bring humans on the double-quick, she may actually do it on purpose to get your attention, particularly if she feels that a meal is long overdue.

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Getting you to leap up from your comfy reading chair to hoot and holler about another broken water glass might be part of the point for your cat—so don’t give them the satisfaction.

How to stop them

Stopping this behavior is pretty easy, but you will have to modify your environment somewhat. Since the elevation change is at least half the fun of the knocking-stuff-over game, give your cats something else that’s more fun for them to climb on that your side table or bookcase. Cat behavior specialist J ackson Galaxy recommends devising a cat superhighway —a route that gets them up off the floor and around the room without having to come back down. If that’s a little too involved, try giving them a couple of lounging spots at a variety of elevations.

Tired cats don’t get into trouble , so play with your cat—a lot. Choose toys that offer the same paw feedback they get from batting stuff around on the counter, like wand or wire-based toys, ball-and-track toys, or motorized animals. A laser pointer will definitely tire them out, but since cats can’t catch light, it might not satisfy their prey drive enough to keep them away from your stuff.

You’ll also have to change your behavior. Don’t leave precious breakable items out where your cat can get to them; if they’re really into water glasses, switch to plastic or metal until they settle into their new digs and play routine. And remember: Your cat probably loves being able to summon you from another room just by making something go crash. Don’t drop what you’re doing and sprint to the scene of the crime every single time (or worse, feed them to shut them up). Give it a couple minutes for things to blow over, then clean up the mess quietly. Over time, you’ll have to do it less and less.

This article was originally published on December 11, 2015, and was updated on May 6, 2021 with new links, updated information, and to reflect Lifehacker’s current style guidelines.

Most of the time, cats send things crashing to the floor in the course of vigorous play; a wild run up the front hall culminates in a ricocheting leap from floor to couch to end table, sending the intervening lamp crashing to the floor in the process. Sometimes, though, a cat will deliberately nudge an item over the edge of a shelf or table, then gleefully dash away from the resulting chaos and infuriated humans.

Is it nature or nurture? "Toying" with prey is a common behavior in feline hunters. When your cat nudges a small, stationary object with her paw, she’s practicing the same behavior. Your cat’s instincts tell her that paperweight or knickknack could turn out to be a mouse. Her poking paw would send it scurrying, giving her a good game (and possibly a good lunch).

However, once a cat learns that knocking something to the floor will bring humans on the double-quick, she may actually do it on purpose to get your attention, particularly if she feels that a meal is long overdue.

Give her something else to do. A bored cat will find her own ways to amuse herself and shoving things off high places to watch them drop is often one of them. Ample appropriate toys, climbing and hiding places to call her own, and a playmate — preferably another cat — can provide her with better options.

Take temptation out of her way. Low shelves, countertops, or tables lined with knickknacks, collectibles, or small easel-backed picture frames are an invitation to disaster in a home with cats. Anything that won’t survive a trip from whatever surface it’s on to the floor should be put somewhere else or surrounded by a cat-proof barrier, such as putting porcelain figurines in a glass-front case rather than on open shelves.

When to Call the Vet

This type of behavior usually doesn’t require any veterinary attention. However, keep an eye on your cat to make sure she doesn’t knock anything down on top of herself.

A cat who is having litter box accidents can be both frustration and messy. Learn how to curb this behavior in the next section.

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

Do you have a cat that seems to think it’s great fun to climb on your desk and knock your glass off onto the floor? Are your knick-knacks at constant risk of being pushed off your shelves by mischievous feline paws?

You’re not alone. Most cat owners have experienced this less-than-adorable feline trait.

Cats Love to Play

One reason cats may like to knock things off of high surfaces is that they love to play. Indoor life can get a bit boring for some cats. After all, when they were wild, they had something to do most of the time: hunt and catch food.

It might be interesting for a cat to knock an object off of your desk and watch it fall. It may even be a way for him to create his own play because now he can chase the object down and bat it around the floor for a couple of minutes.

Cats Love Attention

Another reason cats might learn to push items off of surfaces and onto the floor is that it gets their humans’ attention. Again, indoor cat life can sometimes be boring, and if your cat thinks you’re not giving him his fair share of your attention, he may seek out ways to attract it.

The first time your cat knocks something off of your desk or counter and you come running to see what happened, he learns that this activity gets your attention. Even if it’s bad attention, it’s still an interaction, and your cat may be craving that.

How Can You Keep Your Cat from Knocking Things off High Surfaces?

Knocking things off of shelves and countertops can be a dangerous pastime for cats. If your cat breaks glass and then jumps down to check out it, he could end up with glass in his paws. Not to mention the expense that replacing broken items can lead to for you.

So how can you train your cat to stop knocking things over?

  • The first step to treating most feline behavior problems is to ensure that your cat is getting enough physical and mental stimulation through appropriate channels. Increase your interactive play time with him so he’s getting enough attention from you and getting out any pent-up energy.
  • Try to make the high surfaces in your home unappealing for your cat to jump onto by using double-sided tape, so he lands on something sticky when he jumps up there.
  • Museum wax can be helpful for anchoring items into permanent positions on your shelves.
  • If you see your cat eyeing something before pushing it off a desk or counter, make a noise to startle him. Placing a few coins in a soda can and taping the opening shut can work well.

For more information about keeping your cat off counters in the first place, see this article: “How to Keep Your Cat off the Kitchen Counter.”

Your cat isn’t trying to make you angry by shoving things off the kitchen table, so try not to take it personally while you work toward training him to keep his pushy paws to himself.

At times, our cats can be funny—and weird—companions. They like to sleep on our heads, play with boxes and bring home that dead mouse they recently killed. Some like to sprint and jump off of couches and counters and rest in nooks behind toilets and on top of cabinets. Another strange-to-us behavior that felines seem to favor? Knocking things over. And while the habit can be funny sometimes, other times it leaves us with a shattered glass, vase or [insert your latest broken item here] and a mess to clean up.

Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

Some of our cats’ strange habits can be easily explained, but this is one habit that leaves us scratching our heads. So, while trying to better understand your cat and prevent a future mess you may wonder: Why do cats knock things over? “It depends, says Amy Shojai, CABC, certified animal behavior consultant (CABC) with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and the author of several books about cat antics. “There could be multiple reasons why cats knock things over.”

Could cats knocking things off tables and shelves have something to do with your cat’s prey drive? “Probably,” says Adi Hovav, senior feline behavior counselor at the ASPCA Adoption Center. “Cats are hardwired to hunt for their food, so knocking things over may be a manifestation of this instinct.” Further, Shojai explains, “Cats use their paws to test and explore objects, and the movement, sound, and touch or feel of the object helps them understand what might be safe or not.” Your cat’s paw pads are very sensitive, so when they pat, swat, and knock something down, it helps them better explore the objects around them.

How you react after something is knocked down can also influence whether or not the behavior continues. “Humans make great audiences,” explains Hovav. “Who doesn’t jump up when that glass starts to go over the edge of the table?” When cats want attention, they learn very quickly what gets your eyes on them.

“Cats are incredibly adept at finding ways to manipulate what they want,” says Shojai, “which often comes down to: Look at me, feed me, play with me.” She explains that since even bad attention is better than being ignored, knocking over objects provides another way for cats to get a reaction out of their owners. So as hard as it may be, if your cat is in the habit of knocking things over to get your attention, the best thing to do is to ignore the behavior (and put away any breakable valuables).

Another explanation? Your cat may knock things over simply because it’s fun. “A moving paw-patted object combines all of the best aspects of stalking and prey chase with the movement and tactile feel of the patted object, and the final escape rush of the falling item,” explains Shojai. To prevent accidents, make sure your cat has plenty of appropriate toys around and rotate them in and out of service to keep them exciting and new. And schedule play and exercise time with your cat every day. The combination of boredom and pent up energy will always send cats searching for “trouble.”

Knocking objects over or off of shelves and tables may be a way for your cat to express his prey drive, explore his surroundings, and get your attention, but cat behaviorists agree that there could be other undiscovered reasons behind this common cat behavior. “The research just hasn’t been done yet,” shares Hovav.

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

Why do cats knock everything over or off onto the floor? If you are a cat owner, you probably know all about your feline companion’s love of knocking things over. Are your treasured knickknacks and breakables put away? Have you set down your glass of water just to watch your pal send it floorward? What’s with this destruction? Are they doing it from spite?

The reasons why cats knock everything over is the subject of many social media memes, but we at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services understand the frustration. We are here to explain this behavior and what you can do to curb it.

Help! They Just Broke Another Glass

At first, a young kitten who enjoys batting things around is amusing. Over time, though, this cute instinct can turn into trouble for an owner who wants to keep heirlooms, vases, and other breakables unbroken. Kitty will find these items irresistible. But why?

  1. It’s their hunting instinct — Your cat is a carnivore whose behaviors are akin to wild cats. Yes, they hunt. Part of this hunting instinct means practicing from kittenhood the skills of the hunt, like investigating and pouncing. What they are doing as they scoot curiosities around is considering whether the object is dead or alive. They do this by pawing at the object to take a closer look.
  2. To get attention — If your cat has learned that batting at the glass or pen results in a quick, “No, kitty”, they have learned that they get attention. Negative versus positive attention makes no difference to your feline friend because they end up getting your response. If you have been busy and not giving them adequate playtime and snuggles, redirect your cat with the right sort of rewards, like a 5-minute petting session.
  3. They are bored — Without enrichment, many indoor cats succumb to simple boredom. That shiny piece of jewelry or the pad of paper next to the desk can become an object of their attention when there is little else to play with or pay attention to.
  4. It’s fun — Your cat is endlessly curious, as you probably know. They love to explore everything around them and find certain aspects of play, like batting at the curtains, entertaining to them. One of the biggest components of quality of life is pleasure, and your cat receives untold rewards by knocking things over.

How You Can Redirect the Behavior

If you are feeling frustrated by your cat’s tendency to bat everything to the floor, we can sympathize. It’s a common complaint and concern. But there are 5 ways you can minimize the cat batting drama.

  1. Make sure your cat has several toys and enrichment puzzles.
  2. Move cherished breakables off of the desk, counters, and tables.
  3. Create a cat-free area where you can display those things that might get broken by curious whiskered ones.
  4. Redirect your cat to better behavior if they start to seek attention through batting and knocking things over.
  5. Spend at least 20 minutes each day snuggling and playing with your cat to curb the attention-seeking destruction.

Why Do Cats Knock Everything Over, and More Questions

The team at OVRS is available to you to answer any questions that concern your fur friend. If the bad behavior turns noticeably destructive, it may be something to address at your pet’s next veterinary wellness check.

If you would like to chat with us or schedule an appointment, please do not hesitate to call.

Cats have a reputation for knocking things off the table, the countertops, and even shelves. In fact, you can search the Internet and find countless videos of cats all doing the same thing—using their paws to bat everything from mugs to expensive vases off the edge to the floor. But why do they do it?

The reason behind it is surprisingly simple: "Most cats knock items off the tables and counters to get attention or to simply play with the item," explains Cathy Bosley, certified feline training and behavior specialist at the Best Friends Animal Society.

Ask yourself, are you meeting your cat’s needs?

If the behavior is frequent, make sure that your cat's needs are being met. Maybe you slept in late one morning and your cat wants to remind you that it is your job to feed her. Maybe you have been working from home for a few hours and haven't given her the amount of attention that she wants. So, Kitty will do what she can to make you notice her. And that may involve pushing your favorite coffee mug to the floor or rolling a pen off the top of your desk.

Cats use their paws to test and explore objects in the world around them. To help with boredom, keep your cat's toys in rotation so she consistently has new playthings. Try puzzle toys and games that contain treats hidden inside.

Try these techniques to stop the behavior.

Still, there are a few things that you can do to curb this attention-seeking behavior. "The first thing you want to do is to make the counter or table unappealing," suggests Bosley. "Make sure there are no items on the table or counter that will attract his or her attention." That translates to any number of things from dangling items in a centerpiece to napkins fluttering in the breeze to serving platters full of food.

Then, if you're trying to do something on the table and she still pushes it off the table, add a deterrent. "There are some deterrents that will emit either a sound or a puff of air when there is the motion of the cat jumping on the counter or table," explains Bosley. "This will be unpleasant and automatic so that the cat will not associate that with you." Another option is to use Sticky Paws on a Roll ($8, chewy.com), which you can find in pet stores, to discourage her from being on the table.

Deterrents aren't the only way, though. You can redirect her attention when you see that she is about to jump onto the table or knock something off. "She is most likely doing this to get your attention and if you notice her getting ready to jump, distract her with a toy. Play with her for about five minutes or so to redirect her thoughts," explains Bosley. "If she's already on the counter, simply leave the room. Do not pick her up and put her on the floor, do not say anything to her; both of these will be giving her the desired reaction, even if it's not a positive reaction."

Of course, if your cat is playing with an item on your table that could hurt her, remove the item from her paws and get your cat to safety.

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

Cats have a reputation for knocking things off counters and shelves. In fact, a quick search online will bring up many a video and comicstrip about cats breaking things by doing exactly this. This can be frustrating for any cat owner. Why do cats insist on breaking our knickknacks? Well, as with most pet behaviors, there are several different reasons your cat likes knocking things over.

Predatory Instincts

Cats, even indoor only ones, have deeply ingrained predatory instincts. This is because they are considered to be “true” carnivores. In fact, cat toys such as wand toys, laser pointers, and kick sticks are fun for your cat because they are an outlet for these instincts. By knocking your pen around your desk they are trying to determine if the pen is potential prey. Cats will also explore their environment with not just their nose but their paws as well. So even things that don’t even remotely look like a mouse or bug might get a perfunctory nudge from your cat.

Boredom

Cats are smart—a lot smarter than some give them credit for. If cats aren’t given proper mental stimulation they can quickly become bored. Many so-called “nuisance” behaviors can arise simply because your cat needs more stimulation. If your cat doesn’t get stimulation through active play, he may start tearing up your furniture, climbing your drapes, and playing with things that aren’t meant to be cat toys, such as things left laying around on counters.

Attention Seeking

A cat only needs to knock something off a counter a few times for them to realize that when they knock something over, their owner comes running. If your cat wants attention from you, they may start to knock things off counters to get your attention. In order to not reinforce this behavior, try not to immediately run over when your cat knocks something over. Obviously, if your cat breaks a coffee mug or knocks over a package of food, make sure they don’t hurt themselves, but fallen pens and keys can be picked up later.

How Can You Deter This Behavior?

Since this behavior stems from a natural instinct, it’s not recommended to scold your cat for knocking things over. That being said, there are several things you can do to help minimize your cat’s destruction by knocking things off counters. Having scheduled play times, especially with toys that utilize their predatory instincts, like wand toys and kick sticks, can help stave off boredom. These toys offer an appropriate outlet for your cat’s instincts and provide mental and physical enrichment. Making sure you play with your cat on a regular basis can help break them of their fascination with knocking things off counters. It’s important that this playtime is more than just a few minutes, though. Most cats will benefit from 20 minutes of active play each day. In addition to scheduled playtime, redirection can also help. If you see your cat getting ready to jump onto a counter or table that has things on it they may want to knock over, you can distract them with an impromptu play session.

Another way to keep your cat interested in their toys and not your stray pens is toy rotation. It's important to provide your cat with a variety of toys to play with, but it's equally important to rotate those toys so they don't get bored with them. To rotate your cat's toys, you simply need to keep half of them in a plastic storage tote with some dried catnip sprinkled on them. Each week, collect all the toys that are out and swap them for the toys in the storage tote.

Finally, puzzle feeders can be a good tool to utilize as well. If your cat is already knocking things off of your countertops, utilizing puzzle feeders, especially the kind that get knocked around so that the kibble can fall out, can be a good outlet for them. You can also minimize their instinct to knock things over by minimizing their access to things. If you like to keep knickknacks out on display, keep them in an enclosed curio cabinet or on high shelves that your cat can't reach.

You can't stop your cat from instinctively pawing at things. However, if you understand why they are compelled to do so, you can give them appropriate outlets for this behavior.

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

It’s the topic of endless internet memes—cats casually and callously knocking breakable things off high spots.

When cats do this, are they purposely trying to break their owners’ stuff? No, they aren’t. They have decent reasons for what they’re doing, but don’t worry. You can train them to stop.

Cats Are Curious

Cats are curious creatures, and probably, the first time they bat at something while they’re sitting on a table or shelf and it goes flying down to the floor, crashing and possibly breaking, it’s an accident. However, the whole process will intrigue many cats and make them want to do it again. And again. And again.

The chain reaction of pawing, falling, crashing, and breaking can be a curious kitty’s own entertainment.

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

We Can Accidentally Teach Our Cats to Knock Things Down

When your cat knocks over something breakable or valuable, it’s common for you to go running for the area, sometimes sputtering and shouting. Then you spend some time cleaning it up, perhaps muttering the whole time.

This is quite the spectacle for your cat, and that attention, even though you consider it negative, can be its own reward to your cat for knocking something down. Doing it again can be an enticing proposition for an indoor kitty that might be experiencing some boredom.

Cats Love Playing

Cats love to play. They’re hunters, so much of their play involves stalking, chasing, and pouncing. Sometimes, they learn that they can create their own prey-like movement in an object by batting at it. This is the case with balls, but it also happens when a cat knocks something off a shelf or table.

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

How Can You Curb Feline Knocking Over Behavior?

Here are some ways to get your cat to stop knocking things over or keep the objects stable.

  • If your cat uses furniture to climb onto high spots where they can knock things down, try rearranging furniture until your kitty can’t get to those areas.
  • Museum wax is excellent for fastening things to their shelves. Make sure you test the surface in an inconspicuous area first to make sure the wax doesn’t discolor or mar the surface.
  • Use double-sided tape to make it unappealing for your cat to jump on the surfaces containing things you don’t want to be knocked over. Cats don’t like having sticky paws. Again, check in an inconspicuous spot first.
  • Don’t yell at or punish your cat for the behavior. This could make it worse because a reaction of any kind might be what the cat is after. It also could result in stress and a decreased bond between the two of you. If you see your cat gearing up to knock something over, throw a toy the other direction and praise him when he chases it instead.
  • Increase the interactive playtime you have with your cat to make sure she’s getting plenty of opportunities to blow off steam and engage in hunting behavior.
  • Use puzzle toys when you aren’t home to keep your cat occupied. You can also try automatic toys that have settings allowing for the toy to come on periodically throughout the day when you’re gone, so your cat can “hunt” and be occupied.
  • As much as possible, keep counters and tables clear of breakable items.

You can learn more about keeping your cat off counters and tables in the first place. Check out this article, “How to Keep Your Cat on the Floor and Off the Counter.”

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

Have you ever been minding your own business when your cat starts tossing items off your counter left and right? This can be annoying when you’re in the middle of something, and it can be even more frustrating if your cat starts to knock over things that are easily breakable.

While both your home and the internet are full of cats knocking things over, cats actually have reasons for this quirky habit.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Marci K. Koski, a certified feline behavior and training consultant at Feline Behavior Solutions, to find out why your cat knocks everything over.

He’s bored

Just like people, cats can get bored if they don’t have enough to do. And while cats are often thought of as lower-maintenance pets, that’s not exactly true since they need a lot of mental and physical stimulation.

“Things like knocking objects off tables, chewing plants, attacking your feet, playing with the window blinds and other activities indicate that your cat needs more environmental enrichment,” Dr. Koski told The Dodo.

He wants your attention

If you tell your cat “No!” every time he knocks something over, he’ll learn that doing it will get your attention — and even negative attention is better than nothing. When you react, you’re reinforcing the behavior.

So if your cat wants to be fed or wants to play while you’re in the middle of a Zoom call, he may start knocking things over.

He’s expressing his prey drive

Cats could be expressing their prey drive when they’re knocking stuff over.

“People mistakenly think that cats just lay around and sleep all day, and while this may be true for some cats, we must remember that our cats are small, predatory beasties who evolved to explore and interact with their environment!” Dr. Koski said.

Cats explore their surroundings, and one way they do this is by testing things with their paws. So your cat could be trying to see if the object is safe for him as he would similarly investigate other things in the wild before eating them.

Cats will often toy with their prey when they hunt as well, and knocking things over may be a similar activity. They could also be trying to figure out if the object is dead or alive as they would with prey.

It’s fun

Knocking things over also might just be fun for your cat.

Cats can be really curious, and your cat may just enjoy knocking over objects because he finds your reaction amusing, he wants to see what the object will do or the activity is interesting to him for whatever reason.

So while you might think it’s weird that your cat likes to knock over your glass of water, he could just be trying to play with it like a toy.

How to get my cat to stop knocking things over

There are ways to prevent your cat from constantly knocking stuff over, and you don’t have to just live with your cat knocking over all of your breakables.

Keep your cat entertained

Give your cat lots of activities to keep him busy.

“Give your cat daily play sessions with a wand toy to let them express their predatory instincts and provide them with opportunities to do what cats do,” Dr. Koski recommended.

This wand toy earned The Dodo’s Paw of Approval. You can get it from Chewy for $3.32.

Fun and rewarding activities — like food puzzles, cat grass, clicker-training, teaching your cat to use a harness, self-play toys (like catnip toys), cat perches and hiding spots — allow cats to explore and engage their brains for a mental workout and keep them from getting bored.

“Try giving your cat something new to discover every day — even if it’s not a hit, at least it’s something new,” Dr. Koski said. “And novel experiences are the best thing in the battle against boredom.”

This interactive Ripple Rug received The Dodo’s Paw of Approval. You can get it from Amazon for $40.11.

Don’t react

And when your cat does knock something over, the best thing to do is to ignore it. By scolding your cat, you’re likely giving him a reaction that he’s looking for, so it may encourage him to keep doing it in the future.

Move objects out of your cat’s reach

You should also move objects away from areas where your cat likes to hang out. That way, your cat won’t be able to knock over anything breakable. It’s also safer for your cat in case he manages to knock over something sharp or dangerous, like glass or a poisonous plant (but try not to bring poisonous plants or other toxic substances into your home at all, just in case).

So cats actually knock things over for a reason — and it’s not to annoy you. But you should try to keep your cat busy so he doesn’t feel the need to constantly knock stuff over.

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  • How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

As numerous hilarious Internet videos show, our cats seem to love to knock things off high places. Why do they engage in this funny — but also sometimes annoying or even dangerous — behavior?

Anyone who has cats knows they are very adept at using their paws. Watching cats play, you can see them bat at objects, paw at others and sometimes, with a twist of their little paws, hook items and toss them in the air. I know one feline patient who places his paws together to catch the little fake mouse toys that his owner tosses to him. Cats are also curious creatures, highly attracted by rapid movement. One of my cats is an expert flycatcher, while another will do somersaults in the air trying to catch the feather at the end of the fishing-pole toy. Knowing the nature of cats, it is not surprising when I hear people ask why their cats appear to enjoy knocking items off desks, tables, bookshelves, mantles, etc. I think a number of factors about this activity appeal to cats.

Part of the appeal may be linked to play-related behavior and the other part may be an expression of exploratory behavior. I think most cats start off just being curious about an object. They paw at the object to see if it moves or how it moves and inadvertently knock it off the desk. Once the cat has seen the object fall, he may be attracted by the speed of the falling object, the sound the object makes when it hits the floor and maybe even the attention, both good or bad, he receives from his owners.

That’s because, no matter what hits the ground, when we hear a noise, we all invariably come to see what happened. Some cats have learned that they can get our attention through this behavior. Sometimes the louder the bang, the quicker the owner’s response time. Sometimes watching the object fall and chasing after it on the floor is rewarding to the cat all by itself. While this can seem like big fun to your cat, it can be bothersome for you and can sometimes even be dangerous for the cat. For example, if a cat knocks over a glass object, he can injure his paws when he jumps on the floor and lands on or walks through the glass shards.

How to Redirect the Fun

If this behavior is a problem in your household, how can you stop your cat from doing this? The easy solution is to not leave anything on your desk, shelf, table, etc., that is light enough to be batted around and knocked over. Learn to live a minimalist life. Easier said than done, however! While you work on a solution for this issue, I do advise not leaving anything that is fragile on your table or shelves. If the problem area is limited to a single room, you can always try just closing the door and keeping kitty out. If that’s not possible, one quick option is to apply double-sided sticky tape to the desk, table or shelf. When your cat jumps on the table, his paws will stick a little to the tape and that sensation can deter most cats from jumping back on the table. If you can prevent your cat from jumping on the table, you will be more successful in stopping the problem.

If your cat has already jumped on the table, however, instead of getting up and yelling at him or chasing him away, make a noise to get his attention and redirect him to more appropriate behavior. The more positive techniques do take time but better provide your cat with appropriate outlets for mental and physical stimulation. Once you get your cat’s attention, you can give him something else to do, whether it is performing some behavior such as sit or come or chasing after a toy. Using clicker training to teach your cat fun activities and behavior can be very rewarding and will help keep him mentally engaged and out of trouble. Another way to redirect your cat is to give him a job. Use multiple puzzle toys and have him work for some of his food. Keep in mind that cats in the wild may spend 40 to 60 percent of their time hunting for food. Our cats who are kept in the home do not have enough activities to keep them engaged so they devise other ways to keep busy!

So, bottom line, your cat probably likes to play with your stuff because it’s fun. If you consider this behavior to be bothersome or dangerous, I’ve given you a few initial tips on how to try and redirect his attention. If you need additional advice, consult with your veterinarian, who may refer you to an animal behavior specialist.

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

Q: My cat likes to knock things off my desk, the bookshelves, the kitchen table—basically any flat surface. Why do cats knock things over? Is that normal?

Yes. It could mean that they just need their own place to climb.

There’s no better sign that something has been accepted as a universal fact than seeing a meme about it. If you’ve spent more than 15 minutes on social media, you’ve scrolled past memes about, like, the struggle of eating spaghetti while wearing a white shirt, about the eternally questionable decision to put pineapple on pizza, and about cats’ willingness to knock literally anything over.

If you share your home with a cat (or cats), you don’t need to see a clever pic to tell you that they’re all-too-eager to knock your coffee mug off the kitchen table, to push a plant off the windowsill, or to casually shove . everything … off the bookshelves. Why do they do that? Because those mugs and plants and magazines are there, basically.

“I think it’s a combination of primal [instinct] and curiosity,” says Jennifer Van de Kieft, a Certified Advanced Feline Training Professional (CAFTP) in Brooklyn, New York. “These objects are typically located in high locations. Cats love vertical space, so that’s the first thing they’re attracted to. As hunters, they use their paws to manipulate prey and forage for food, so they may start by exploring the objects on the shelf with their paws.”

Your cat might accidentally knock something over while they’re putting their paws on it—but what happens next could be why they’re so enthusiastic about doing it again.

“It may be that cats like the sound when something hits the floor, which can be reinforcing enough for them to continue,” Van de Kieft says. “Or it could be the guardian’s reaction that reinforces it, and it becomes an attention-seeking type of behavior. You can tell the difference based on whether the cat does it when the guardian isn’t around.”

Aside from sheer curiosity, cats knocking things over is generally a result of boredom, explains Certified Feline Behavior and Training Specialist Heather Alvey, with Felidae Behavior Consulting in Minnesota.

“The cat is often seeking some excitement, either through your glass figurine crashing to the floor or through the attention that it gets [afterward],” she says. “When you’re bored, getting chased or yelled at can be an exciting way to break up the day! Once a behavior has been reinforced, the cat knows that they can repeat the behavior and get the desired outcome.”

Both younger and older cats can do this—as can those who don’t have their own stuff to climb around on. “Cats who don’t have access to their own designated vertical spaces are more likely to climb onto cabinets and shelves that have pictures and knick-knacks displayed,” Van de Kieft says, providing a pretty solid cause-and-effect scenario.

How to Prevent Cats from Knocking Things Over

If you’ve noticed that your cat has been keeping themselves busy by knocking things over, that could be a sign that they need a more cat-friendly way to keep busy.

“In a natural outdoor environment, a cat would be hunting, exploring, marking territory, sniffing—all kind of interesting things,” Alvey explains. “When a cat is put inside an apartment with no opportunities to express their natural behaviors, that’s when they will start looking for alternate ways to entertain themselves.”

Both behaviorists recommended having daily playtime with your cat, and ensuring that they have their own toys to push around, as well as a food puzzle or other interactive game to provide some mental stimulation. Giving them a cat tree or vertical wall shelf that they can climb can also keep them from scaling the bookcases. (Get tips on how to make small apartments cat-friendly.)

If you see your cat eyeing a picture frame or raising their paw toward the alarm clock, you can redirect their attention with a toy or a puzzle. You might also need to train yourself not to react if they do push something over. “If your cat learns that they can get your attention by knocking things off a shelf, you’ll have to ignore them until they learn that knocking things over doesn’t get them what they want anymore,” Alvey says.

Again, the important thing is just ensuring that your cat doesn’t have the opportunity to get bored enough to start looking around the room, deciding which of your things might make the most satisfying thud. “Each cat is going to cope with boredom in their own way,” Van de Kieft adds. “It might be knocking things off tables or it might be pica (the eating of non-food items), overgrooming, excessive vocalization, or aggression. Boredom can also lead to higher levels of anxiety, which could lead to more serious behavioral problems.”

So basically make sure that your cat has engaging toys, a place to climb, and gets plenty of face-to-face playtime with you. Also, we swear this wasn’t written by a cat.

My cat loves to push, lick, bite, and chase all sorts of things, but her favorite thing to do, it seems, is to knock over anything that is really breakable. It's as if she enjoys the sound of glass shattering or the crack of ceramic hitting the floor—and my audible gasp from the next room. Maybe she's doing it just to mess with me? To tell me my decor isn't her style? 

Nope. Cats don't care what your color scheme is or that that vase was a wedding present. (Shame on me for not putting that potted plant in a different spot!) Cats just enjoy discovering the world around them … and testing out things that might move. They are intelligent, active creatures and the reasons behind why they love to knock things off counters, tables, and shelves has nothing to do with evil intentions.

Here are three reasons your feisty feline might unintentionally push your buttons … and deliberately push things off your counter.

3 Reasons Why Your Cat Knocks Things Over

The research surrounding the exact function of knocking things over or off shelves hasn't been explored yet and so we can't say 100% why cats do it. However, there are a few likely reasons for this behavior that leaves you scratching your head and cleaning the floor.

1. Your cat wants to climb and objects are in the way.

When your cat is feeling frisky and wants to explore, he may discover random objects in high places present an interesting opportunity (just like a human toddler). It's in their kitty DNA to climb and hide in small places off the ground, so your unsuspecting shelf quickly becomes a favorite spot. If your home doesn't offer things to climb, your shelves, desk, and countertops are the only options. And if those spots are full of "dust collectors'' (as my husband calls them), your cat may see them as a roadblock.

To prevent having to clean up messes from fallen objects, provide your cat with climbing options like scratching posts and cat trees and put them near windows so they can watch the birds outside (cat TV!). Or get creative and build or purchase shelves designed with your cat in mind.

2. Your cat wants to play.

We recognize that our dogs love to play but sometimes forget that our cats do too. If your home doesn't offer lots of chances for both mental and physical enrichment, cats are left to their own devices to find means of fun stimulation—and that can include sliding your glass across the table until it just happens to fall. Your cat also wants to play with you, and pushing your "World's Greatest Dad" mug to the floor may finally grab your attention. Play with your kitten! Buy interactive cat toys that engage their natural instincts to pounce, chase, catch, and scratch. Leave open boxes (should be easy to come by after all the late-night online shopping) around your home for your cat to jump and hide in. Providing your cat lots of opportunities to play will keep her happy and healthy and prevent a lot of broken pottery.

3. Your cat has a natural desire to investigate.

Cats, instinctively, like to hunt and creep up on prey. Their natural tendencies to be curious but cautious aid them in the hunting process, helping them to determine what is safe to pursue and what isn't.

They are also natural investigators, analyzing and testing-out things that are novel. A cat's paw is crucial to their ability to "be a cat"—with their paws they scratch, touch and feel, knead, and slowly move things that pique their interest. Ever touch something, just barely, really fast to see if it's hot? Yep, that little, fast cat paw is testing things out too. This includes objects that you may treasure or that happen to be near the edge of your table. And since cats are more active and see exceptionally well at night, you may find items "mysteriously" on the floor when you wake up in the morning.

To support your cat's natural desire to inspect new things, make sure you keep items away from the edge of your table or desk or anywhere your cat is likely to jump. Offer them things they can safely push, like empty plastic cups, balls, or small toys.

The things cats do that make us roll our eyes and smirk are some of the very things that make cats so amazing. Be sure you are appreciating the "catness" of your feline family member and offer them lots of opportunities to engage with the world around them. If your cat finds pleasure in pushing your coffee cup to the limits of your desk, don't get frustrated. Instead, enjoy the natural curiosity of your kitty, providing them lots of chances to be an active feline.

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

Why do cats knock things over? Are they being ornery or do they just want attention? Why do they do it? As a cat owner, you already know how many quirks and antics your fur friend displays. Like cats sleeping in boxes that are too small or perching atop the bookcase or counter . Cats are indeed unique and mysterious in their behaviors but Union Lake Pet Services can help explain the reasons behind this curious cat behavior.

My Cat Knocks Over Everything!

Did your cat just break another drinking glass? Have you switched to non-breakable decor? Do you wonder why they like to scoot things off of the table with their paw , just as soon as you sit an item down? You are not alone . We are all in agreement that cats knock things off tables , countertops and desks with abandon, but the question is why? Here are a few explanations.

They’re Expressing Their Predatory Drive

Just because your kitty might have a few extra pounds or likes to lounge on the couch all day, doesn’t mean they don’t retain some of their wild instincts. Cats are predatory, even domestic cats, and they have the drive to stalk and hunt prey. Your small hunter probably needs more things to chase, pounce on, and bat around. Without things to stalk, they may resort to pens, knick-knacks, and other things on tables.

Another way to help your cat express their predatory behavior is by giving them birds and other critters to look at (but not eat). Just open up curtains or shades and give them a perch or cat tree. Place feeders and bird baths in the yard, so you’ll attract watchable birds and wildlife. You will know by your cat’s tail flicks and the verbal “chirps” and tongue clicks that they’re enjoying themselves.

Give Me Attention!

Cats will often do things to get your attention. In most cases, it is because they need more to occupy them. Boredom is a problem for many indoor kitties, because they require playtime and challenging games that are sometimes overlooked. Cats, as much as dogs, need plenty to do during the day, so you can avoid the spilled water glass and broken vase.

Some ideas for mental and physical enrichment for your cat might include:

  • Cat trees
  • Scratching posts
  • Window perches
  • A catio, a screened in porch made for kitties
  • Catnip and catnip filled toys
  • Electronic or robotic toys
  • Feather wands, laser pointer, and other interactive toys

The other important thing about certain behaviors you don’t want from your cat is whether you’re encouraging them. If your cat wants cuddle time or food, or anything else, they may learn that if they knock stuff over, they get an immediate scolding or other reaction. This serves to reinforce the behavior and can lead to getting additional rewards for it.

Instead, ignore the attention-seeking behavior and redirect your cat to something else. Then reward them with what they are really after, which is your time and attention. Reward them for being a great kitty while you brush them or play a game.

It’s Just Fun

Cats will spend hours batting around a wadded up piece of paper or plastic rim from a milk jug. For them, this imaginary game of cat and mouse gives them exercise and enjoyment. Knocking things off of tables or moving items is likely fun for them. So give them an alternative like appropriate toys and activities to inspire. (And, to keep your belongings intact.) Cycle toys in and out occasionally to keep them fresh for your cat since cats can get bored quickly.

Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

Why do cats knock things over? You may never know exactly what is going through your cat’s brain, but we think our reasons can help. Is your cat particularly fond of knocking your things over, off or around? You probably have some funny stories to share. Tell us about it, or give us a call with any questions you have about your cat’s behavior.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that cats are mischievous, but why do cats knock things over? (especially off of high surfaces & seemingly on purpose) Could there be more to it than instinct, skill, and enjoyment? Could it be that cats understand physics, specifically the laws of gravity?

According to a group of researchers in Japan, the answer is. maybe.

Lab Cats

In a study published in the journal Animal Cognition in 2016, researcher Saho Takagi and her co-authors set up a test to determine whether cats could predict the presence and behavior of an unseen object based on the noise it made in a container. That is, they wanted to know if cats could recognize the relationship between a sound (the cause) and the appearance of an object (the effect).

The researchers enlisted 30 cats for the experiment, 22 of who lived in cat cafés. (The Independent gives a good overview of the history of this cuddly coffee shop craze, which is wildly popular in Japan.) In addition to a few volunteered pet cats, these animals were chosen because they typically are very social and comfortable with new humans.

For their experiment, Takagi and her colleagues created an opaque container with an electromagnet in the center. They placed three iron balls inside this container and, with the flip of a switch, could turn the electromagnet on and off, holding back or releasing the iron balls from the box.

The group performed four experiments with the cats and the container:

  1. The iron balls rattled around and then fell out of the container.
  2. The balls were silent and did not fall out.
  3. The balls rattled and did not fall out.
  4. The balls were silent and fell out.

The first two situations were considered “usual” circumstances, but the second two were considered anomalies. The researchers referred to these second two situations as the “expectancy violation procedure” because the cause didn’t produce the expected effect.

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

Mewtonian Physics?

What Takagi and her colleagues discovered is that the cats paid closer attention and gazed longer at the container when they heard a sound but no object appeared, or there wasn’t a sound but the objects did appear (the anomalies). The authors interpreted their results as an indication that cats have a basic understanding of gravity.

The experiment conducted by Takagi and her team is not without its critics, as the Washington Post points out. One researcher, John Bradshaw at the University of Bristol, tells the Post he thinks that in this particular experiment, the cats could have been “simply paying attention to the sounds of rattling and falling balls.” Bradshaw believes that our feline friends “have expectations” about what they see and hear, but he needs more evidence to be convinced that cats understand physics.

Pets in Purr-petual Motion

The evidence from the Japanese experiment isn’t foolproof, especially given cats’ proclivity for staring at things. However, it does open a door to the possibility of why cats knock things down. We might think cats are aware of gravitational pull — they seem to know the pencil they push off the desk will fall to the ground and not float in the air — but there’s more work to be done.

What is known is that kitties will go to great lengths to get their pet parents’ attention and causing trouble is one of them. But why do cats knock things down? Is it just that they know you’ll stop looking at your laptop once the coffee cup hits the floor? Or do cats understand Newton’s third law of gravitation: that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction? Or, is it just plain fun to watch things hit the floor?

Cats are very intelligent creatures, and given their love for batting teetering glasses off of tabletops, it’s not too far off to believe that cats understand physics. But until there’s more research and evidence, it’s safer to take note of where you place your glass of water and be sure it’s not too tempting for your feline friend.

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

Chasing their owner’s feet, attempting to eat tape, and scratching mirrors — cats have a long list of quirky behaviors that leave us puzzled! One cat habit I really can’t seem to figure out, though, is why they love to knock things over. Why do they seem to find enjoyment in pushing items to the edge of the table and watching them fall as their owner (aka me) looks on in frustration? What gives!? As two experts explain below, this behavior is common in felines and has some pretty interesting motives behind it.

Cats knocking things over is nothing out of the ordinary, and as it turns out, there are a few good reasons cats may act out this (sometimes infuriating) behavior. One of the reasons, according to Maureen Murithi, DVM, registered veterinarian and veterinary spokesperson of online pet resource SpiritDog Training, is that cats are natural hunters and their desire to knock things over may be rooted in prey drive. “They normally use their paws to test unfamiliar objects in their environment,” Dr. Murithi said. “Cats’ paws are highly sensitive, and therefore they use them to test if unfamiliar objects are safe.”

Another motivation cats may have to knock things over is they are trying to get their owner’s attention. Ever set down a glass of water on the table and walk away, only to have your cat push it to the edge and knock it over? Yup, it may be because they are trying to catch your eye. “Cats love attention and are keen to notice your reaction depending on their behavior,” Dr. Murithi told POPSUGAR. “Your reaction following an accident around the home, such as knocking over a flower vase, can condition them to associate it with attention.” So it is important to act nonchalant when these situations come up.

Last, but not least, cats may be knocking things over around the house because they are curious and, quite simply, bored. “Cats are very curious,” said Jeff Werber, DVM, chief veterinary officer for Airvet. “Their natural inclination is to touch things, which becomes a problem if what they are touching is not well-anchored.” Dr. Werber cautioned that if your cat is knocking things over continuously, they may be bored.

Because indoor cats are kept inside and not able to go out and fulfill their innate curiosity with outdoor stimuli, Dr. Murithi advised to schedule a play time with moving objects to help remedy any boredom or desire to be entertained associated with knocking things over. “To avoid such accidents, scheduled playtime is advised, aimed at finding a release from pent-up energy,” Dr. Murithi said. “Moving objects offer a nice distraction, especially for indoor cats as they lack the freedom to explore the outdoors and exercise or play.”

You must have seen those cat-knocking-things-over videos on that famous show called 'America's Funniest Home Videos' and found them quite interesting, but would you feel the same when your feline friend does something like that?

Have you ever wondered why cats knock things over? If yes, keep on reading with us.

Cats are known for knocking things off tables, shelves, and countertops. There are two reasons: they knock something either to get your attention or generally to play with them. Cats usually use their paws to test and explore objects, most of the times people keep their cat's toys in rotation, put treats in the game, and toy puzzles to make them calm and relaxed.

Cats can spend hours batting around a plastic glass or paper ball; an imaginary cat and mouse game is a source of joy. If your cat constantly annoys you by throwing objects from the desk on the floor, you just have to ignore this attention-seeking behavior and redirect the feline to something else.

Let's read more fun facts on why cats knock things over and if you find this article interesting, don't forget to check out other exciting articles on why do cats sneeze, and why do cats throw up on Kidadl.

Is it normal for cats to knock things over?

All cats have a well-known tendency to knock things off the table, ruin your curtains and sofa, scratch your picture frames among many other tendencies. Have you ever asked yourself if it's normal for your cat to knock things off surfaces?

Yes, it is totally normal if your cats are knocking things intentionally during day or night as they just tend to act foolishly. Cats know the difference between a paperweight and a mouse, yet they love to investigate things with their paws. They just want your attention or are feeling bored.

How to stop my cat from knocking things over?

You must have heard the proverb: 'old habits die hard'. The same applies to cats. They will somehow find several reasons to knock objects over, but you can take a few steps to reduce the tantrums of your cats.

The golden rule is to never keep your kitty hungry. So, don't forget to add water and food to your cat's bowl at regular intervals. It would be better if you keep the litter boxes away from your kitty. The cat would surely jump around the object when it's bored.

Also, to help with boredom, you can keep your cat's toys in rotation to make the playtime more enjoyable. People also place treats in toys and puzzles so that the cat will an make effort for the goody. Scheduling a play or game time with your kitty can also be a great option to make the cat engaged and involved in stuff. With lots of exercise and fun time, there is no chance your cat is going to annoy you. Cat trees, electronic and robotic items, scratching posts, catnip-filled toys, laser pointers, and many other interactive toys can also be used for the mental and physical enrichment of your kitty.

Apart from giving treats, a few more steps can be followed to kitty-proof your home. It would be better if you take away the temptation by moving cherished breakable items off of the desk, tables, and counters. If you have no problem with your cat playing with a pen holder or a glass, it still is important to remove such items from shelves, tables, and countertops.

After that, you can make a judgment of the behavior and all the places your kitties choose to jump or climb. People generally put them back on the floor when they do climb or jump on a surface they don't want them on, such as their table, sofa, and many more. Creating a course of items close to the edge would make your cat confuse and most probably can't judge if there is a way to jump safely. Also, trying double-sided tape could be a better option.

Lastly, this can be a result of physical or mental health issues if your cat is not responding to your attempts to stop it from knocking things over. The next best thing to do is to consult a veterinarian. The doctor may be able to identify some underlying problems and offer solutions. In rare cases, the doctor may refer your kitty to an animal behavior specialist.

Why do cats compulsively knock things over?

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

There are several reasons that explain the intentional knocking behavior of the cat. Like their relatives, tigers, and lions, cats like to explore things. They are natural hunters and their prey instinct is a huge contributor to this behavior. A domesticated cat has a behavioral drive to hunt small prey such as a mouse, and the hunting instinct is so strong that the cat loves to investigate things with its paws.

Be it a mouse or a paperweight, cats generally investigate each and everything with their paws. They generally test whether the object is alive or dead, and if it is alive, they wonder 'how am I going to kill it?' or 'what if the object suddenly attacks and injures me?' It generally does not matter whether your cat is an indoor pet or not, it will possess the prey instincts, like other wild cats.

What does it mean when a cat knocks things over?

They generally don't have reasons to jump on the toys and knock things off surfaces. However, there can be a few thoughts going around in the mind of your pet. These are listed below.

The primary reason for such behavior is that your cat loves to seek your attention. The cat has learned that every time it knocks a toy or any other object over, you will react. The reaction is attention to them. You could either get some food or water and put it in its dish or scold the cat to behave properly. The cat could go to any limits if it wants to play with you and it generally does such things to prevent boredom.

Another reason for this behavior can be either your cats are getting bored or you might have made some changes in their environment. Did you just get a new mug or a pen holder? What is that new huge thing lying on the counter? Such are the questions cats generally ask themselves. They may attack these things and these objects become a form of mental stimulation for them.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do cats knock things over, then why not take a look at why do cats trill, or Siamese cat facts.

The internet is full of videos of cats knocking items off tables, which can be entertaining to watch. But, this behavior can be incredibly frustrating if your cat chooses to spend their day knocking over all your items.

How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

Cats bat objects off furniture because it is something fun for them to do! They like to use their paws to engage with and manipulate their environment.

Cats are prey driven and as the object falls off the table, it is moving. This may simulate a prey animal “jumping,” which can be interesting to chase or observe.

Cure for boredom

This may be even more apparent in cats who are bored. If the cat doesn’t have enough interaction with you or activities to keep them busy, they may search for creative ways to find their own fun.

It’s Reinforcing!

Cats may engage in this behavior more frequently if it is reinforced. Reinforcement is something that increases the behavior, the challenge is that the cat deems what is reinforcing to them.

Laughing while your cat knocks something off may be reinforcing to your cat because you are giving them attention.

Your cat may enjoy the outcome of this game. If the item that they push off is edible, they may be directly rewarding themselves for this action.

If your cat spills a glass of milk and then laps it up, they have just given themselves a treat for pushing the glass off the table. The more treats your cat gets while doing this, the more likely they are to continue.

Not every object that the cat pushes off will contain food. Unfortunately, this makes this behavior even more reinforcing because they are getting treats only some of the time. This is called intermittent reinforcement, which is like gambling. Most of the time you don’t get anything when you gamble, but sometimes you get a jackpot, and the uncertainty of reward makes you keep trying.

Even verbally punishing the cat for this may increase their behavior. Cats may knock items off to get your attention. When you scold them for their actions, you are still giving them the attention that they are looking for.

Negative attention is still attention.

What to do

Since the cat is creating their own fun, it can be hard for them to stop initiating this behavior. After all, they are self-rewarding themselves with a fun game! To combat this, you will need to make sure that you remove any object that they can knock off and clear the area. They will be unable to practice this behavior.

If you simply get rid of this game, however, they will continue to find their own fun with something else that you may not enjoy. It is important to give your cat attention with play or training sessions to give them mental and physical exercise.

In addition to attention, your cat will need enrichment opportunities that they can stay busy with on their own.

Each cat has their own preferences, but here are a few favorites:

Food puzzle toys so they can use their paws to engage with the toy to slowly release treats

Interactive toys, such as HexBug Mice or Bugs for cats

Toys that have pieces that dangle or roll so they can bat at them

Wheat grass or catnip plants for your cat to munch on and play with

Bird feeder outside of your window or birds on TV for the cat to watch

To see more enrichment ideas, click here.

Don’t punish!

Verbally or physically punishing your cat will do more harm than good. Your cat will likely continue to knock things off the table because they find your scolding reinforcing, especially if they are doing this behavior for attention. Remember, negative attention is still attention.

The other consequence of punishment is that your cat becomes fearful of you. The damage to the bond with your cat will make handling and stressful situations much more difficult if your cat doesn’t trust you. Once the bond is damaged, it can be difficult to regain trust.

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How to get your cat to stop knocking things over

There is no denying that cats are uniquely entertaining and inquisitive creatures with mischievous streaks that tend to continue long after their kitten days. These little rascals will go on the prowl for any source of diversion. Often resulting in broken items and shredded valuables within our home.

One behaviour that drives cat owners absolutely nuts is their determination to knock things over at any opportunity provided. It would seem, the messier and noisier the better. So, why does your cat seem to have an incessant fascination to knock and topple things over?

  • It’s a whole lot of fun! Gravity can be unpredictable and curious cats love to knock things and then watch to see what will happen. They delight in the fact that liquids and solids act differently. If they are able to smash a glass or vase, the resulting loud ‘Smash!’ and unexpected production of glass shards is an added bonus.
  • Following their instinct. Some experts believe that their love of pushing and shoving objects is hardwired and linked to their strong prey drive. Think of it as a form of practising or ‘honing their skills’. Their paws are very sensitive to touch and pressure and they relish the opportunity to practice their hunting whenever possible.
  • Attention seekers. What do we tend to do when we hear a bang or see our cat inching towards an object on a table ready to knock over? We react almost immediately; shouting loudly or rushing over. To a bored kitty, this is just that bit of excitement and attention that they need in their life. The fact that the attention is negative doesn’t seem to matter to most.

So, what can be done to stop this acting out and keep our possessions safe and intact?

  • As this sort of behaviour is commonly associated with boredom, we need to ensure we are providing our kitties with plenty to do. Not only to ensure they are exercising enough but also so that they are being sufficiently mentally stimulated. While every cat is an individual and will have different likes and dislikes, most are quite keen to play with food puzzles, especially if the treats inside are strong-smelling. Another fun game is ‘hide the treat’. This involves hiding a few pieces of kibbles or dried treats around the room in which they spend most time. Finally, why not offer some catnip for an hour or two, to really hold their interest and keep them well and truly out of trouble. For more ideas of games you can play with your cat >
  • It’s time to ‘toddler proof’ the home. If your house is filled to the brim with trinkets and ornaments, they may simply prove too tempting for an inquisitive cat. Consider displaying them in a cabinet or keeping them in a room in which the cat does not go.
  • Rein in that reaction. This may well be the hardest step to follow as it is only natural to react when our cat knocks something on to the floor. If you hear a loud bang or see your favourite photo frame fall to the floor, it’s time to take a deep breath and count to ten. Remember, your cat may well be waiting for your reaction. If you resist the temptation, they will soon lose interest in this little ‘game’ of theirs.
  • Avoid punishing your little tiger. Punishing a cat can result in stress or anxiety but may also be ‘fuelling the fire’ for those attention seekers.

While we may not be able to avoid every little accident or mishap, there are lots of things that can be done to protect our favourite possessions.