Behavior
Man working on a desk with a naughty cat about to knock things over.

Why Do Cats Knock Things Over? 3 Reasons and How to Stop the Behavior

You're not the only cat parent who's lost multiple pens to the abyss underneath the couch. So, why do cats knock things over? Let's take a closer look.

Angie Bailey  |  Mar 7th 2018


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.

A cat knocking chess pieces 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?

A naughty cat who has just knocked over a vase and made a mess.

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.

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