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Why Cats Knock Stuff Over – Science Explained

Why Cats Knock Stuff Over – Science Explained

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Our cats have all kinds of funny quirks. They sleep on our heads, squeeze into tiny boxes, and give us dead animals as gifts! But it seems like they’re particularly fascinated with knocking things over.

We’ve all seen videos or had personal experiences where we see cats deliberately push something off a table – it DEFINITELY wasn’t an accident!

And although this can be cute at times, it might leave you with some shattered glass and a mess to clean up.

But why do cats do this? Science can now tell us why. Keep reading to find out!

There are a couple theories on why cats knock things over. The leading cause has to do with the fact cats are hardwired to be predators.

We often forget this because we’re distracted by how cute and cuddly they are! Since there is a shortage of gazelles and zebras in your home, their predatory instincts tell them to hunt your ankles instead.

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1.  They think the object they knock over might be food. 

Even a house cat who has never seen a mouse has strong instincts to find prey.

Your cat thinks that vase or picture frame on your dresser is potential prey. Poking it might it cause it to scurry away and start the chase.

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2. They’re exploring.

Cats are curious, and they are constantly exploring their environment. A cat’s paw pad has millions of sensory cells that help them learn about the objects they swat. By knocking your things over, they are able to learn about the sound, movement, and behavior of objects that are potential snacks.

3. They want attention. 

Cats have learned that knocking something over is a good way to get your attention – even if it’s negative attention. Think about it: as soon as you witness your cat knock over your glass, you rush to the scene. They won! It’s almost like they are punishing you for ignoring them.

4. They’re bored. 

Cats do some crazy things when they have pent up energy. This is especially true for house cats.

It’s possible that they knock things over because they experience excitement from seeing objects move or fall. It gives them an opportunity to stalk and swat what they think is prey.

5. They don’t like clutter. 

In case you haven’t noticed, cats love to perch – particularly on elevated surfaces. There’s a reason for this.

Wild cats perched in trees to hunt the small creatures that lived in the trees and also to hide from bigger predators.

Doing so required an availability of space so they could easily move around. These ancient instincts might be the reason your cat likes to knock over objects on your table or shelves. It needs room to pounce or run away!

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How to Prevent Your Cat From Knocking Things Over

Now if you’re a cat owner who struggles with your cat knocking important items off your shelves or tables, there are a couple steps you can take to reduce these events.

1. Keep them occupied. An occupied cat is less likely to use your shelf ornaments as a toy. Keep plenty of toys and distractions around your home to prevent your cat from getting bored.

Toys don’t always have to be purchased – cats are just as content with paper wads, paper bags, and thick (minimum of 1 inch width) strips of fabric.

RELATED: Why Yarn & String Is Dangerous For Cats

2. Schedule playtime with your cat. At times, cats may seem oblivious to us, but they really depend on our attention. We’re their favorite companions and they need an outlet for all of their energy.

3. Keep your expensive or fragile items out of reach from your cat. Perhaps putting your items in a display case or high shelf far from reach will do the trick.

4. Reward your cat for positive behavior. That way it doesn’t have to resort to negative behavior for your attention. Treats and chin rubs are an excellent way to reward your cat for being good.

If your cat knocks something off the table, put them in a closed room for time-out so they know you’re unhappy. Never hit your cat – there are more effective and humane ways to address negative behavior.

So whether your cat is knocking your stuff over for attention, seeking excitement, or tapping into its predatory instincts, there are ways to manage it.

You have to admit, it’s pretty funny when they knock stuff over that isn’t yours! If you want a good laugh, check out this video of cats knocking things over.

SUMMARY: Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

  1. They think the object they’re knocking over might be food. 
  2. They’re exploring.
  3. They want attention.
  4. They’re bored.
  5. They don’t like clutter.

QUESTION: Does your cat like to knock things over? Leave your answer in the comments below!

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Saturday 3rd of August 2019

Actually they do not knock things over. I have had cats who did but never as a regular thing. I guess that is why I could watch the video and laugh.

Loretta Holaday

Monday 29th of July 2019

One of my cats is a little devil when it comes to knocking things over or off of a shelf or table. Sometimes I feel like he does it for spite. Especially my glass of water I keep by my bed at night.