The Funnies

Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

January 24, 2023

If you have a cat you have probably noticed that they like to knock things over. Glasses of water, vases of flowers, knickknacks, nothing is safe from your cat’s little paws. But WHY do they do this?

There are three common reasons that cats love knocking things over and they all come down to instinct. They could be playing with the item, hunting the item, or trying to get your attention. 


Cats are very curious by nature and they like to investigate new things. If there’s a change in their environment, such as a new item on the table, they’re going to check it out. They may paw at it, sniff it, kick it around, or even give it some licks or bites to determine what it is and if it is a danger, a nuisance, or a toy. Exploring a new object can become a game for your cat. Remember that a cat’s world is quite small and contained so bringing something new into the home is a cause for some excitement for them. 

Cats use their paws to explore objects, and the sight, sound, and feel of that object helps them to determine what it is. The paw pads are also very sensitive so when your cat pats, swats, or bats at something new, they are learning what the object is in an effort to understand it. 

Prey Drive

Cats have natural predatory instincts. Wildcats have to hunt for their meals and your cat’s penchant for knocking things over may be an example of stalking and chasing prey. If they are pawing at an item on your shelf, they could be trying to determine if it’s friend or foe. In their mind, if the item reacts to them by running away, it’s potential prey. If it doesn’t react, it’s nothing to worry about. And if it swats back, it’s a predator that your cat won’t be bothering again anytime soon. 

Attention Seeking Behavior 

Your cat might be knocking things over to get your attention. If you are too busy to play with them, they may be acting out. If you’ve been working at your desk all day, for example, your cat may jump up and knock over some pens to get you to pay attention to them. Maybe they just want some pets or some treats. Basically, they are saying they need some love and affection. Remember this next time they try to walk across your keyboard!


To help fight boredom, make sure to provide your cat with plenty of toys. More importantly, be sure to play with those toys together. Toys and games are more fun when they are shared. Have plenty of toys at home so you can rotate them out after a few days. This will ensure that your cat doesn’t tire of the toy. Offer a variety of toys like wand toys, kicker toys, puzzles, jingle balls, and springs to keep them entertained. Turn on some cat TV or position the cat tree in front of a big window so your cat can see new sights and get some mental stimulation. Consider getting a bird feeder so your cat can enjoy birds and squirrels stopping by the yard.

If you catch your cat in the act, about to knock something over, try to distract them. Start playing with them with a proper toy to redirect their attention. This will show them that you play together with cat toys only. 

If you see them push something off the table, don’t even react. Don’t pick up the item until later, ideally when the cat isn’t in the room. Just ignore it so the cat does not get the reaction they are seeking. Cats learn very quickly what gets them the attention they are seeking, whether it is positive or negative. To them, any reaction is better than none. If you react when something is knocked over, say a mug of your morning coffee, the behavior could continue. Your cat was seeking your attention and they certainly got it!

If your cat seems to enjoy knocking things over just because it’s fun, consider keeping some of their toys on shelves. Keep a few little cat toys in different places - some on the shelf, some on top of the cabinet. They will have fun knocking them off and you won’t get frustrated. 

Remember to spend plenty of time with your cat. They want to spend quality time with you so make sure to play with toys, cuddle on the couch, and try out new games together. A satisfied cat with their needs met will be less inclined to seek your attention in destructive ways so you can both happily enjoy your time together. 

Love, Nala