why do cats knock things over cat trying to knock down side

Why Do Cats Knock Things Over? 4 Reasons to Know

If you own a cat, you must have watched it knock things over elevated surfaces like a desk, counter or table several times. It may be amusing to watch, but when that item is breakable or full of water, this feline habit could become quite frustrating.

So why does your cat often push something off a table? Is it trying to ruin your stuff, or is there a genuine reason behind this behavior? Dog lovers typically use this habit as a reason to not like cats and label them as unintelligent creatures. However, there are several reasons why cats may do this. 

Why Do Cats Knock Things Off Tables?

why do cats push things off tables cat trying to knock above table

So why do cats push things off the tables, and how can you deter them? There are several reasons behind this type of cat behavior.
The following list will help you identify the one you’re dealing with so that you can find a suitable solution easily:

Hunting Instinct

Hunting Instinct

Although domestication has made cats adopt new habits and behaviors, they haven’t forgotten their natural predatory instincts.

Even if your pen or paperweight doesn’t look like a bird or a mouse, it’s still a target for your cat to bat around and touch with its paws. A cat’s paws are very sensitive and by touching objects with its paws it’s able to gather information about it. Is it something to eat or just to play around with?   

Seeking Attention

Seeking Attention Cat Trying to get seeking attention

Another reason why cats like to knock things off tables is because your cat wants to grab your attention. They know from experience that whenever they nudge that cup or lamp off the table, you’re going to react.

Whether the reaction is negative like you scolding them or positive like getting a treat to distract them, it’s attention for them.

Fighting Boredom

why do cats knock things off 2 cats are fighting

Cats with little or no mental stimulation in their environment may look for ways to entertain themselves. If you leave your cat alone for hours with no one to interact with and nothing to do, there’s a high chance that your favorite vase may end up on the floor.


Curiosity cat looking tab with interest

Cats are curious by nature. Any change in their environment can prompt them to investigate these new changes. Did you place a new mug on your table, rearrange the items on your shelf, or made some other changes around your home?

Your kitty is sure to jump up on the shelf or table and use its paws to knock your stuff around. 

How to Stop Your Cat From Knocking Things Over?

How to Stop Your Cat From Knocking Things Over Cat looking mouse with curiosity

We know that it can be quite frustrating as pet parents when cats knock things off counters. However, refrain from punishing and scolding them, as this can make your feline friend anxious and stressed.

Using negative actions and tones can not only damage the bond between you and your pet but also make them more aggressive.    

The following are some tips that will allow you to redirect your kitty’s behavior more suitably:

Give Your Cat Plenty of Toys

Give Your Cat Plenty of Toys A Cat Looking for His Toys

You need to keep your cat entertained so that it doesn’t come after your precious things. Provide it with a variety of toys to knock around so that its hunting instincts are fulfilled.

It’s also important to rotate these toys at least once every week, as cats can get bored quickly. You can keep half of the toys in a bag and sprinkle some catnip on them. Every week, swap the toys with the ones you stored.  

In addition to cat toys that engage, there are other items that your cat can use to explore its hunting behavior. Climbing towers, horizontal scratchers, tunnels, scratching posts, cat trees and mats are all more fun for your cat than the stuff on your table.

High-up cat shelves and tall cat condos aren’t just ideal for a catnap, they also encourage your pets to climb and exercise. Placing them next to your living room window will keep your cat entertained, as it will be able to watch the birds while basking in the sun.

Manage the environment

Manage the environment cat wearing black sunglass with stylish hat

It’s best to keep items that are fragile in cabinets, cupboards, and areas that your cat can’t reach. Things made of glass, when knocked down, can be dangerous for your cat.

Avoid placing sharp objects near the edge of the shelves or tables, and remove all items from different elevated surfaces that pose a threat to your cat. Keep potted plants in sturdy containers to make it difficult for your cat to push them over.  

Schedule More Playtime

Schedule More Playtime Cats are doing Fun Together

According to behavior specialists, cats need multiple play sessions every day, especially with toys that mimic hunting and fulfill their drive to hunt. Kick sticks and wand toys are excellent at relieving boredom in cats, as they offer mental and physical enrichment while providing an appropriate outlet for your pet’s instinct.

Playing with your cat regularly is a great way to break their fascination with pushing things off counters.  

Make sure that you play with your cat for more than a couple of minutes, though. Multiple play sessions of 20 minutes throughout the day are beneficial for most cats.

In addition, redirecting your kitty’s attention when it’s about to jump onto the table with impromptu play sessions is also a good ploy to distract it from knocking something off the table.

Be Careful Of How You Respond

Be Careful Of How You Respond finger on cat mouth

Try not to show any emotion when your kitty swats your breakables off countertops, as you’ll be unknowingly reinforcing her behavior.

This will be difficult but keep reminding yourself not to pay any attention. Pick up the item your cat has knocked down, calmly, without acknowledging it. It’s also beneficial to redirect its attention proactively by giving it stimulating things to do before it jumps up on the table.

Invest in a Puzzle Feeder

Invest in a Puzzle Feeder cat playing with multiple color puzzle

According to cat behavior experts, puzzle feeders are an excellent way to mentally stimulate your furry little friend. They help in reducing stress, aggression, and attention-seeking behaviors. If your cat loves to knock things over, puzzle feeders that get knocked around for kibble to fall out are best for it. 

Final Thoughts

It’s impossible to stop cats from touching things with their paws. That’s why you need to understand why cats like to move things and knock them off. And once you understand their motivation, you can provide them with appropriate outlets.

Is it bored or just wants to get your attention? Buying plenty of toys and scheduling more opportunities to play can help alleviate your cat’s boredom. Be sure to contact your veterinarian if you have any behavioral questions about your cat.


Picture of Evelyn Baxter, Writer and Cat Expert

Evelyn Baxter, Writer and Cat Expert

Evelyn is an animal advocate, cat expert, and the proud mom of 2 rescue cats, Sugar, a beautiful fluffy tabby and Beebee, a black, fluffy beauty. Evelyn has studied animal care while volunteering at her local shelter. She loves all animals and wants to share the animal knowledge she has been lucky enough to gain together with knowledge from other experts with cat parents across the world.