Why Do Cats Knock Things Over? Are They Jerks?

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

why do cats knock things over

Every cat is unique in its set of traits, personality, and even in the way they show love to its owners. But all cats have this one common behavior– to knock things over.

Cats are legendary for tipping over just about anything they see on coffee tables, bookcases, kitchen counters, and maybe even vanities. It’s almost as if that’s the main purpose of their… well, nine lives.

Cats are inquisitive about everything under the sun. But really, why do cats knock things over? Is there a deeper explanation to it than simply just being naturally curious?

Reasons That Your Cats Often Knock Things Over


1. Predatory by nature

Although many cats are domesticated from when they were still kittens, their innate behavior is to hunt. Cats are instinctive predators of anything that piques their prey drive, including inanimate objects on shelves.

Cats put things to the test and see if it is alive or playing dead. They want to know if the object is a potential prey and use it as an outlet to release their hunting impulses.

Cats are intelligent animals. They know the difference between a live mouse and a computer mouse. But once their prey instincts are stimulated, their predatory disposition is boosted to a greater extent. This gives them the urge to knock stuff off tables.

That is why we think that our cats are playing with a computer mouse, mistaking it for a live mouse. The next time you see cats knocking things over, you already know that it could be to investigate the condition of their prey.

2. Attention-seeking behavior

If human beings exhibit introversion or extroversion, animals do too. Let’s focus on cats here. They aren’t always one or the other. But most cats show introversion patterns, such as shyness, being more reserved, and being more subtle in their movements.

This can be closely linked to how they try to get your attention. Unlike dogs, cats are less expressive and less straightforward in wanting your attention.

Instead of forthrightly jumping on you and wagging their tails, cats like to knock things over to see if they could get a reaction from you.

They find out that their owners react every time they push things off ledges or shelves– and so they do it again. Attention to them could mean positive or negative reactions. From being given their favorite cat food for behaving or being scolded for causing destruction at night, they want any kind of attention!

3. Cats just want to have fun!

Cats are like children. They get bored easily and try to find something interesting to do. Cats like to fiddle with objects that kindle their curiosity, so oftentimes they intentionally knock things off counters. That’s all there is to it!

Cats become bored if they do not get enough stimulation throughout the day. Apart from food and water, cats require some activity to stay emotionally, mentally, and physically satisfied. Develop a habit of investing not less than 10 minutes each day playing with your cat to keep them healthy.

Otherwise, they might just knock things down for their own enjoyment.

Cats are also naturally more energetic during nighttime and therefore seek nocturnal activity. Enough stimulation during the day, however, will tire out younger cats, and less likely be active at night.

How Do You Minimize This Behavior?


Since knocking things over is a bred-in-the-bone behavior for cats due to their instincts, it might be challenging for cat owners to train their cats to stop or lessen this behavior. But it is possible. You can try doing these three methods:

1. Keeping objects that may attract your cat

Cats are easily enticed to fidget with things that draw their attention. These are usually dangling, droopy, pendulous things on tables and shelves.

Therefore, keeping items like these would help prevent cats from tipping things over.

2. Redirecting the cat’s attention

Cats push things off tables when these objects catch their attention. As easily as cats are attracted to one thing, they also get distracted by another.

Reinforce playtime with them and use toys that necessitate cats to apply their hunting instincts, like cat wands and laser pointers.

3. Ignoring the act

Cats do naughty things, like tipping objects over and destroying items, to get a reaction out of their owners. Therefore, ignoring these behaviors might be helpful. Doing this now and then will make your cat realize that knocking things over won’t grab your attention.

There is no guarantee that any of these tips will help you succeed in lessening the frequency of this behavior from your cat. But there’s no harm in trying, right?

When Do Cat Behaviors Get Alarming?

Cats are comical companions that go hand in hand with naughtiness. They do questionable things that confuse you, yet these things make you laugh.

This is probably why we see a collection of memes related to cats on Reddit— like the cat getting yelled at by a woman, the cat picture with knocking gestures at the door, and of course, the infamous tipping things over.

However, their behaviors might be the signs of their mental condition.

Predators want easy conquests; that’s why felines in the wild instinctively hide their discomforts to avoid being vulnerable prey to other creatures. In the same way, it is also common and natural for domesticated cats to repress any signs of pain or stress in their bodies.

It can be complex to tell if your cat is in pain or stressed. But identifying behavioral patterns that can be telltale signs of stress is essential to know if you should get professional help for your cat.

Problematic behaviors are caused by being emotionally or physically unhealthy due to pain and stress.

Some behaviors that may indicate that your cat is undergoing stress or pain are excessive meowing, hissing, growling, overemphasized swallowing, scratching furniture, and a reduced appetite.

Look out for things your cat does not typically do. Maybe cats knock things off tables or pounce on you more often than before because they are trying to tell you something.


Cats make us as curious as they are. Sometimes we find ourselves stopping and wondering, “why do cats knock things over?”.

We do not certainly know why our cats push things off tables, but we learned that it could be due to their predatory instincts or because they just want to get your attention… or perhaps they’re just bored to the core.

Nonetheless, we end up tolerating any mischievous acts these little troublemakers do because we love them for who they are!

5/5 - (2 votes)