Why Cats Knock Things Over

Why Cats Knock Things Over

Dedicated cat lovers know well the amusing cat habit of knocking objects over. Coupled with their trademark nonchalance, a cat knocking ornaments off a shelf produces wild cackles from cat enthusiasts and slapstick fans alike. We take a look at why cats knock things over, and solutions to stop it.


Cats are endlessly curious creatures. Without stimulation and enrichment, a cat may succumb to boredom. A shiny set of keys on the edge of a table may elicit the attention of a bored cat when there is little else to do. And the resultant clatter when the object hits the ground is interesting for them. It’s scientific cause and effect – and it passes the time for a bored cat.

Solution: Ensure your cat has plenty of stimulating toys. Make one yourself out of a chopstick, 70cm of strong string and attach to a pompom, a knot of fabric or a bunch of tightly bound feathers. Encourage them to play just before mealtimes for maximum impact on behaviour. Read 9 Ways to Make Your Cat Happy for information on the importance of play before meals.

Clearing a Path

While cats are masters of stealth, those on the lethargic side may not care to tip toe through the obstacles. Something small and light enough to bat away will soon find the floor if it’s in a cat’s way.

Solution: If your feline meets this description, keep the path to their favourite resting spot clear. You’ll need to find a new home for your display items.


For a cat, any attention is better than none. Your cat may have learned that batting your keys off the table brings an instant result. Watching their guardian rush in, pick them up and put them back is entertaining. Cats will learn how to get attention, just as they know that meowing at the top of their lungs will result in a refilled food bowl. The antidote is quite simply the opposite of giving attention, but it may take time.

Solution: If you suspect your cat is knocking things off shelves for attention, refrain from reacting. Ignoring this behaviour will in time teach them that knocking things over won’t work. Additionally, take the hint. You need to carve out some time each day for your furry friend. Cozy cuddles and playtime are essential for your attention seeking cat.

Predator Instinct

The most agreed upon reason why cats knock things over is their predator instinct. We may sometimes like to forget that cats were built for the hunt. But domestically, this was their primary function; to keep homes and properties free of vermin. Compared to dogs,  selective breeding for companion traits has been minimal. Domestic cats aren’t too different to their wild ancestors.

The act of searching is the first step in hunting, which is why a cat is always ready to spot potential prey. Small figurines, matchboxes or little bottles light up their predatory brain. Playing with such objects using their sensitive paws is how they test them for prey.

Solution: Playtime with your cat. Renowned cat behaviourist, Jackson Galaxy, is a big advocate of daily structured play. His mantra is to always follow the ‘raw cat’ behaviour: hunt, catch, kill, eat, groom, sleep.

Cats need to play. Provide plenty of stimulating toys for them to ‘hunt’ throughout the day, and play with them just before meals. Not only does playing with your cat keep their hunting skills sharp, it also strengthens your bond with them. Spend time playing with your kitty cat every day. And if all else fails, admit defeat and try Blu-tack, museum putty or any sort of non-toxic mounting putty. But keep up the playtime and cuddles for a happy life with your cat.