Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

From the innocent poke of a paw to the full-blown swipe that sends your favorite mug flying, our feline friends are renowned for their seemingly inexplicable desire to knock things over. It’s an endearing, if sometimes exasperating, trait that leaves us bewildered, our floors littered with fallen objects, and our hearts filled with the kind of fond frustration only a cat owner would understand. This mysterious behavior, while providing us with countless humorous anecdotes, also raises a question that has puzzled cat parents for time immemorial: why do cats have this irresistible urge to knock things over? Let’s explore.

why do cats knock things over?

The Instinct to Knock Things Over

Cats, those lovable little tyrants of ours, are natural-born hunters – it’s hard-wired into their DNA from their wildcat ancestors. Even though our pampered pets have never had to stalk and hunt for their meals, the instinct remains strong. When your kitty bats at your precious porcelain figurine, she’s not doing it to test your patience or because she has a personal vendetta against fine china. Think of it as a mini hunting expedition. In the wild, cats rely on their keen senses and quick reflexes to catch their prey. The erratic movement of inanimate objects triggered by their paw taps, mimics the unpredictability of prey. In essence, when your feline friend sends your objects flying, she’s honing her hunting skills, keeping them sharp in case a rogue mouse decides to invade her territory.

Communication through Play

When you find your cat knocking things over, understand that it could be their way of saying “Hey, human, pay attention to me! I’m bored.” And a bored cat is a destructive cat. These natural entertainers, in their struggle against ‘the blahs’, may resort to batting at your knick-knacks to stir up a little action in their otherwise peaceful world, or to remind you that they’re ready for their next play session. Just like toddlers, they have a knack for knowing exactly how to push our buttons (or in this case, our stuff off the table) to get our attention. So, the next time your cat sends your pen flying, consider it an open invitation for playtime. It’s also their way of socializing with you, their beloved human. Their playful antics might leave you with a few broken items, but remember, it’s their quirky way of strengthening the bond with you. Don’t we all love them for that!

Territory Marking

cat knock over coffee mug

You might be surprised to know that your cat’s seemingly destructive behavior could actually be their way of saying “This is my turf!” Cats have scent glands in their paws that release pheromones – chemical signals used for communication between members of the same species. When your cat swats at objects or walks across your keyboard mid-zoom meeting (we’ve all been there), they’re not just being naughty. They’re actually depositing their unique scent, marking their territory, and subtly stating, “I was here, and this place is mine!”. So next time your adorable furry dictator sends another object flying, remember, it might just be their way of adding a personal touch to your shared living space.

Seeking Interaction

One of the hidden reasons behind your cat’s ‘vase-off-the-table’ football league could be their secret ploy to interact with you. Yes, you read that right! Our feline companions, in their sly, cunning way, have figured out that knocking over your prized possessions is a surefire strategy to engage their favorite human – you! It’s their unique version of a poke on the shoulder or a tug on your sleeve, a call for you to put down your work and engage in some fun playtime. After all, who can resist those bewitching eyes and the playful swat of their paw? Although it may seem they’re wreaking havoc, they’re actually offering an invitation for some much-needed bonding time. So the next time you find your cat eyeing your bookshelf, get ready for an engaging game of ‘cat and mouse’. Just remember to keep your precious breakables out of paw’s reach!

Curiosity and Exploration

why do cats knock things over?

Let’s not forget, our feline friends are naturally curious creatures. The world is their personal playground and every item, a potential toy to investigate. This curiosity often leads to a systematic exploration of their environment through touch. Yes, that includes batting your favorite ornament off the shelf or the random paper clips on your desk. The joy of discovery and the thrill of the unpredictable bounce, roll, or crash an object makes when it meets the floor, is simply too tempting for our little investigators to resist. So the next time you find your cat’s paw tentatively reaching for your sunglasses, remember, they’re not trying to be mischievous, they’re probably just curious about the sound your sunglasses might make when they land! To safeguard your important items, try providing alternative toys that can satisfy your cat’s playful curiosity and keep them entertained.

Problem-Solving and Intelligence

Beyond the simple pleasures of play and exploration, cats knocking things over can also be seen as a testament to their intelligence and problem-solving abilities. They possess a keen understanding of the physical properties of the world around them, and knocking things over can be their way of conducting ‘experiments’. By batting at objects and observing their movement, they’re testing the laws of physics, exploring cause-and-effect relationships, and utilizing their innate intelligence in a hands-on (or rather, paws-on) manner. In essence, your kitty could be doing its own version of Newton’s apple experiment every time it sends your coffee cup tumbling! This action is also a testament to their remarkable dexterity and control over their paws. Understanding this behavior can help us appreciate our feline companions on a deeper level, cherishing their eccentricities as signs of their intriguing and lovable personalities.

cat flower vase

Practical Tips for Cat Owners

Now that we know some of the possible reasons behind our cats’ love for knocking things over, let’s explore some practical tips to redirect this behavior and save our breakables from becoming collateral damage.

  1. Provide alternative toys and playtime: As mentioned earlier, cats may knock things over as a means of seeking interaction and playtime. To redirect this behavior, make sure your cat has plenty of toys to play with and set aside some dedicated playtime each day.
  2. Use puzzle toys: Puzzle toys can help satisfy your cat’s natural curiosity and problem-solving skills. Fill them with treats or kibble to keep your cat entertained and mentally stimulated.
  3. Provide vertical climbing space: Cats love to climb and perch, so providing vertical space such as cat trees or shelves can give them an outlet for their natural behaviors.
  4. Use deterrents: For items that are particularly precious or breakable, consider using deterrents such as double-sided tape or aluminum foil on surfaces where your cat tends to knock things over. The unpleasant sensation will discourage them from returning to that spot.
  5. Keep breakables out of reach: To avoid any accidents, make sure to keep your valuable items out of paw’s reach, either by storing them in enclosed cabinets or placing them on higher shelves.
  6. Reward good behavior: When you catch your cat playing with their toys instead of knocking things over, be sure to reward them with praise and treats. This positive reinforcement will encourage them to continue this behavior instead of destructive habits.

Remember, understanding the reasons behind your cat’s behavior is key to effectively redirecting it. With patience and consistency, you can help your furry friend develop healthier play and interaction habits that both of you can enjoy. And who knows, maybe in time, they’ll learn to leave your breakables untouched…


In conclusion, our feline friends’ tendency to knock things over is a fascinating display of their playful curiosity, intelligence, and desire for interaction. While it can be mildly frustrating finding your belongings scattered or broken, remember, these adorable creatures aren’t doing it out of malice. With a little understanding, patience, and by following the practical tips outlined above, you can create a positive environment that caters to their natural instincts. It’s all a part of the joyous (and sometimes surprising) journey of living with these wonderful companions. After all, a world with cats is one filled with love, laughter, and the occasional toppling trinket!

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