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Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

Amparo Lopez
Written by
Amparo Lopez
Written by
Amparo Lopez
Researcher and Writer
Amparo is the mom and spoiler of Misato and Scully, two talkative, cuddly cats. Curious and carer, she is always on the lookout for the best tips and trustworthy information for Protect My Paws.
James Booth
Edited by
James Booth
Edited by
James Booth
Senior Writer
James is the managing editor of ProtectMyPaws and his main focus is to ensure every article on our site is backed by trustworthy research and written in a clear way. He is a self-proclaimed cat person after growing up with grumpy Hemingway and later taking in feral Louie.
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TL;DR: Cats’ playful and curious nature makes knocking things over irresistible. They usually do so to seek attention, satisfy their predatory instincts, or out of boredom.
To discourage this behavior, it’s essential to keep cats engaged and mentally stimulated. Furthermore, reacting can reinforce it, so it’s best to refrain from responding.

Understanding why they enjoy knocking things over comes in handy to deter this pastime while allowing cats to satisfy their instincts and curiosity.

If you are a cat person, you know firsthand how their playful antics can brighten your day. Moreover, living with cats has been shown to reduce negative emotions like anxiety and depression in their human companions.

However, they might put you on edge when they throw your stuff off your desk. From videos and memes to personal experiences, we have all witnessed cats casually and callously knocking things off high places. But what’s behind this behavior? 

This article will explore the reasons behind this quirky habit and ways to prevent it. Let’s get into it!

Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

Cats are the ultimate masters of mischief. As random as it may seem to knock something over, there’s usually a method to their madness. 

As it turns out, there are three main reasons for this behavior:

1. Hunting instinct

Cats are natural-born hunters and part of their hunting process involves investigating. To them, toying with an object is like batting around prey. Because they love a good game of chase, they might poke it to see if it runs. 

Plus, batting things around is a great way for cats to learn about the world around them — they can figure out how heavy things are, whether it’s something harmless or dangerous, or what kind of noises it makes.

2. Reinforced behavior

Yes, your cat may be intentionally knocking things over to get your attention. Cats have an exceptional ability to read and follow human gaze, making them quite wise when it comes to figuring out what might capture your attention.

 If they sense you haven’t acknowledged them lately, they won’t hesitate to throw that pencil to the floor and make you notice them. By reacting to their behavior, even if it’s negative attention like scolding, cats learn they can get what they want by acting out. Bad attention is still attention and they love it.

3. Boredom

Cats are undeniably curious, playful creatures. They have a natural desire for amusement and games. They’ll find other ways to stimulate their minds if they need more playtime or exciting toys and puzzles.

That’s where the last decent mug in the house comes in — what’s not to love about the way it wobbles and clatters when it hits the ground? It is just too amusing to resist. When they’re feeling bored, nothing is off-limits to their playful paws.

How To Stop Your Cat From Knocking Things Over

We have learned that throwing things off high places is rooted in cats’ instincts. Scolding them may not be the most effective solution. However, there are some strategies to curb their behavior.

Here are some tips for dealing with cats’ tendency to knock things over:

🏠 Cat-proof your home

Some objects are better off stored in areas your cat can’t reach, like cupboards or cabinets. Be mindful of where you place fragile or breakable objects to prevent mishaps. Sharp or dangerous objects, such as delicate glass or lit candles, should not be placed near the edges of tables or shelves. Additionally, sturdy containers for houseplants can prevent tipping.

🎢  Enrich the environment

Make your cat’s environment stimulating, with more entertaining things to do than throwing things off surfaces. This can include toys, scratching posts, hiding spots, climbing structures and interactive games. Keep things fresh by rotating the toys and changing up the layout of their play area.

🎯 Redirect their attention

Get ahead of your cat’s knocking spree by redirecting their attention. If you can spot them before they move, try tempting them with a toy or treat to divert their focus. Call them over for some playtime, cuddles, or a treat. And if you see them staring down at a surface, start a fun play session to keep them entertained.

🧶 Schedule frequent playtimes

Play with your kitty more often! Spending quality time playing with your cat daily can go a long way in curbing its desire to knock things over. Regular and spontaneous play sessions can provide mental and physical stimulation, satisfying their attention and entertainment needs.

⛔ Do not react

By doing so, you will only encourage the behavior, reinforcing the idea that knocking things over gets their attention. Try ignoring them instead and wait for them to lose interest. Not reacting teaches them that this behavior won’t get them the attention they crave.

💥 Use deterrents

Make the surfaces your cat likes to climb unappealing by placing items they dislike, such as aluminum foil or double-sided tape. These will create noises or sensations that your cat will want to avoid.

Final Thoughts

It can be frustrating when your cat insists on knocking your things over, even more so in the middle of the night. But remember that this is part of their natural curiosity and fun-loving nature.

Rather than getting upset, try understanding why your kitty does it and giving them more ways to channel their energy. 

Don’t take it personally; focus on making their space safe and exciting for them. After all, nothing beats the feeling of a purring cat and the sight of their cute, kneading paws.


Cliffin, G. (2023). Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?
Henning, J. S. L., et al. (2023). Cats just want to have fun: Associations between play and welfare in domestic cats.
Krieger, M. (2023). Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?
Turner, D.C. (2021). The Mechanics of Social Interactions Between Cats and Their Owners.
Whiteley, E. H. (2006). How To Solve Cat Behavior Problems: Dealing With Cats That Knock Things Down.

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