Purr 🐱 Cats & Kittens

Swat. Nudge. Crash! Why Do Cats Knock Things Over? 

Why Does My Cat Knock Things Over?

Has this ever happened to you? You’re hanging out at home, watching Netflix, or maybe you’re working. Out of nowhere, your feline friend jumps on the coffee table and starts knocking things off. 

Maybe your kitty gently pokes at your knick-knacks or books first. Or maybe, he goes for the sweeping gesture of knocking things over as he sprawls on the table. If you’re a cat owner, you’ve probably witnessed one of both of these actions. 

It doesn’t take a cat behaviorist to tell you that knocking things over and off your tables and counters is a house cat’s instinct. But why do cats knock things over? 

Why are they so delicate in some ways yet act like it’s their job to clear the surface at other times? I mean, you know your cat can leap on your desk and position themselves in the tiniest space possible if they want to (see: Why Do Cats Love Boxes). 

We looked into this odd cat behavior and came up with a few reasons why Fluffy enjoys knocking things over. You might be surprised. 

Your Cat’s a Hunter

why do cats knock things over

Despite the time spent lounging on your sofa and store-bought food offered at regular intervals, your cat’s natural instincts still exist. Even fully domesticated house cats who never go outside still have a hunting instinct. This is part of the reason why cats knock things over.

As you might know, outdoor cats indulge their hunting instinct by preying on lizards, mice, and other critters. Your indoor cats don’t often have such an opportunity, so they look for other amusements. The hunting instinct is often as much about mental stimulation as anything else. 

In other words, your cat enjoys knocking things over. You’ve seen your kitty leap to your countertops and start pawing at a glass, a pen, a paperweight. This behavior is similar to the way they treat prey in the wild. 

If you’ve ever seen a cat “toy” with prey, you know what I mean. Most likely, they know your pen or notebook isn’t alive yet; maybe we should just give it a nudge and see what happens. 

Your reaction may be to leap forward and rescue the item and put your cat on the floor. This brings us to another reason why cats knock things over: attention-seeking behavior. 

They Want Attention

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Your indoor cat gets bored. They’re looking for playtime and mental stimulation. Guess what? Knocking things off countertops and tables gets your attention (especially if they’re breakable items). Therefore, it’s a fun activity for your kitty.

They might consider it an entertaining and interactive game. “Hmmm… if I start pawing at these breakables…” 

If your kitty does this regularly, it’s probably time for more stimulating cat toys or even a tall cat tree in your home. Your kitty is sending a clear message that they aren’t getting the enrichment they crave. Cats get bored, too! 

That, and yes, they like that you jump to their “assistance.” 

Why Do Cats Knock Things Over? Exploration!

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In addition to seeking your attention, stimulating their natural instincts, and being bored, cats knock things over because they are exploring their world. Their paw pads are sensitive, and they use them to test surfaces and objects. 

If you’ve ever watched a cat walk on a new surface that they’re not sure about, you’ve probably seen them put a paw in front and tentatively place it on the surface in front of them. They want to make sure it’s stable and will hold their weight before they step forward. Sometimes they even do this when they’ve lept onto a railing because they want to correctly calculate the distance or width. 

So yes, they’ll paw at your pen, glasses, and post-it notes to see if they move. Or, maybe they’re conducting a physics experiment where they want to see how fast the item will fall to the floor. 

No matter why your cat enjoys knocking things over, there are some ways you can redirect this pent-up curiosity. 

How Can You Kitty-Proof Your House?

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Your indoor cats need attention, toys, and playtime. Believe it or not, pushing things to the floor isn’t meant to annoy you. Your cat is simply following their instincts. It’s a natural cat behavior. 

As a cat owner, though, there are some ways you can deter this behavior and strengthen your bond with your feline friend.

For example, if you see your cat gathering himself to leap on your countertops, you can swoop in and redirect his attention.

One way you could do this is to grab a laser pointer and sweep it across your kitty’s vision. Most likely, he’ll be distracted by the glow and movement. Then, you can play with him for a few minutes. 

Even though they are fairly independent animals, cats need daily playtime. They can play with other cats, by themselves, or with you, but they need interaction. You can play with them by using the laser pointer, dragging a feather wand across the floor, or throwing a catnip mouse around. Many cats also enjoy scratching posts and interactive food puzzles

Depending on whether you have a kitten or an older house cat, everyone needs a place to nap, scratch, sniff, and play. Find your feline friend a new toy here

If You Can’t Distract, Create a Barrier

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Besides playing with your kitty and offering them new cat toys, what else can you do to kitty-proof your home?

Obviously, you’ll want to move breakables. Whether that means putting them in a closet or drawer for a while or moving them closer to the wall and further from your cat’s reach, you’re the best judge. 

Then, you can decide how to handle your cat’s behavior when they do jump up on a surface where you don’t want them. For example, your dining table. If you can’t close them off from the room, you can put them back on the floor when they jump up.

You can also make an obstacle course of items close to the edge so your kitty can’t judge if there’s a way for them to jump up safely. You can also try double-sided tape to deter your kitty. 

Hopefully, if you offer your cat more attention and upgrade the kitty toys, you’ll find your cat is less likely to get its kicks by knocking things off your tables and desk. 

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