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Why Do Cats Knock Things Over? 3 Likely Reasons

Hallie Roddy

By Hallie Roddy

A Thai cat playing with a white mug

It feels like your cat has reached their peak sassiness level when they refuse to stop batting objects off of your dining table, nightstands, and countertops. Even if you tell them to stop over and over again, the chances of them listening to you are slim to none. What is it about this small act that they find so enticing? Do they get something out of it, or do they simply like frustrating you? There are a handful of valid reasons why cats do this, and it starts with their predatory instincts.

The 3 Likely Reasons Why Cats Knock Things Over

It may not make a whole lot of sense to you, but many cats behave in the same ways and enjoy knocking things over or pushing objects off elevated surfaces. What could possibly be so amusing about this? A lot more than you may think.

1. Predatory Instincts

Even though your cat is domesticated, their DNA still drives them to hunt small creatures that are running around their territory. The main difference between a feral cat and a domesticated cat, however, is that your cat has a lot of pent-up energy that she has to get rid of in one way or another.

Whether you think of your cat as a predator or not, their instincts tell them that any small object sitting around could actually be a mouse. Your cat poking and pawing at a small knick-knack is their way of trying to send things scurrying and the possibility of a delicious lunch.

Cats have sensitive paw pads that they use to explore the objects around them. Knocking things over is simply their way of testing the motives of anything they deem suspicious.

cat and dropped pot with houseplant on carpet
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

2. Seeking Attention

There is no other way to put it—sometimes cats are just jerks. Cats knock things over as a way of seeking attention. Although it can be annoying, you have to admit that it is kind of endearing. When cats are in the same room as you, that means that they enjoy your company, and they often find ways to demand your undivided attention.

Cats tend to pick up on your behavior, and they know that the second they cause a ruckus, you’re going to turn your head and do something to stop the behavior. Once they catch on, they might continue to do so just because they enjoy the interaction.

3. Being Playful

It’s always possible that your cat views your household items as toys. If your cat is bored of their everyday playthings, they could be on the hunt for something that is a bit more stimulating. Participate with your cat in vigorous play for at least 15 minutes every day. Cats enjoy toy mouses, feather wands, laser pointers, and crinkle balls. If you keep them stimulated, they are less likely to play around with your breakable.

playful british shorthair cat
Image Credit: Richard Stocker, Pixabay

Top 3 Ways to Make Your Cat Stop

Nobody wants to keep an eye on their small house items at all hours of the day. And even more cat owners prefer to keep their cats off of all tables in the house. Let’s not forget where those paws have been. How do you stop them in their tracks? There are a few things you can try.

1. Ignore Them

We already discussed that the behavior of knocking things over is to get some attention. The best thing that you could do is put away your breakable and ignore them. Every time you jump, turn your head, or yell at her, they could view it as a reward. Instead, stay focused on what you’re doing and they will learn that this isn’t the way to receive your affection.

A cat lying on bathroom floor
Image Credit: Danny Chang, Pixabay

2. Trick the Cats

Sometimes you have to take things up a notch and find other ways to deter your cats. Try putting some double-sided tape or aluminum foil on the counters. The sensation deters most cats from jumping back up once they learn that there isn’t anything good up there.

3. Set Aside Playtime

Some cats enjoy attention all day long, but the majority only want it in short bursts. Set aside some time to devote to your cat and play with them without being distracted. They are less likely to find new ways to distract themselves if they feel fulfilled by their playtime and the amount of affection they receive.

cat playing with owner
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock


It may not be ideal, but cats have been knocking things over and off of tables for years. This is a normal behavior. Even though there are always strategies to modify the behavior, most people learn to accept that their cats act in these ways for biological reasons that they can’t control.

Featured Image Credit: Ekaterina Kolomeets, Shutterstock

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