Why Do Cats Always Knock Things Over?


No matter how many shades of cute they are, cats can sometimes make weird housemates. When they’re not pouncing on our feet, they’re sitting on our heads or leaving unwelcome gifts on our doorsteps. And then there’s that whole business with knocking things over. If there’s one thing every cat owner will be all too familiar with, it’s the sound of breaking glass. If you’ve spent one too many mornings brushing up shattered glass, collecting scattered pencils, and cleaning up messes after your cat, it’s time to get to the bottom of their behavior once and for all. Here’s what you need to know about why cats knock things over… and what you can do about it.

Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

Most cat loves swatting things onto the floor, but why exactly do they do it? As it turns out, it could be down to one of a number of reasons.

Prey Instinct

As PetMd.com says, prey instinct is one of the main explanations for why cats knock things over. Ultimately, cats are natural-born killers. Years of domestication may have given them a taste for the finer things in life, but no amount of meals on tap and cushy beds can change their basic makeup. They’re hardwired to hunt, and unfortunately, that comes with certain consequences for your ornaments. If a cat wants to find out what something is, whether it’s safe, and (in the case of prey) whether it’s dead or not, they use their paws to test it out. Obviously, cats aren’t stupid – they know the difference between a mouse and a vase without having to feel it out – but the instinct to explore, pat, and swat things with their paws is too ingrained in their DNA for them to resist.


Cats might have a reputation for being independent, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like to hog the limelight from time to time. Fortunately for them and slightly less fortunately for us, they also know exactly how to get our attention. If they want us to feed them, play with them, or maybe just look at them, they’ll know from past experience that upsetting a glass or knocking over a jar is guaranteed to get us to come running. The more we reward the behavior with attention, the longer they’ll keep doing it.


Cats are smart cookies who like to know the what’s, why’s, and how’s of everything around them. Introduce something new to the house, and not only will they notice, but they’ll want to check it out. As they’re way too curious to simply eyeball it, that’ll usually mean they give it a poke or two with their paws.


As Catster.com says, if a cat gets bored and wants to play, they’ll find a way to do that, regardless of the consequences for your nice, neat home. Knocking over an object combines the tactile pleasure of exploring something with their paws with the thrill of the hunt when it falls to the ground. After that, they can either declare it dead on sight or turn it into a toy to be batted around the place. Either way, it’s a lot more fun than sitting around doing nothing. Every cat can get bored from time to time, but cats who aren’t given plenty of scheduled playtime and exercise throughout the day will tend to display the behavior the most.

How To Stop Cats From Knocking Things Over

It might be a perfectly natural instinct for a cat to use their paws to poke and bat things over, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.. or dangerous. Knocking over a pencil might be harmless enough, but knocking over and shattering a glass vase or china cup could have much worse consequences. Although you’re unlikely to be able to stop the behavior completely, there are several ways you can reduce it. This includes…

Ignoring Them

As cats will often knock things over as a way of drawing your attention, the best thing you can do is keep any breakables out of sight and ignore them whenever they try to grab your attention in that way. Even negative attention can still be rewarding, so avoid looking at them, scolding them, or doing anything other than staying focused on what you were doing before you heard the crash (unless something has broken, in which case it’s best to get to it before any accidents happen). Once they learn their behavior won’t get them what they want, they’re less likely to do it.

Tricking Them

If you can stop your cat from jumping on certain surfaces, you’re several steps closer to stopping them from knocking things over. Hepper.com recommends putting a layer of aluminum foil or double-sided tape over the surface you want to keep them off. Most cats won’t like the feeling of the tape or foil on their paws, so will keep away from the surface in the future.

Sticking to a Schedule

If your cat’s needs aren’t being met, you can’t blame them for trying to draw your attention to the fact. If their water bowl is empty or if it’s two hours past their usual lunchtime, they’ll do whatever it takes to jumpstart you into action. Keep their water bowl topped up and stick to the same feeding schedule each day so they don’t panic about going hungry. Some people also find it helpful to keep a bowl of kibble down so their cats know they always have access to food.

Playing With Them

Cats spend most of their day in the land of nod, but in the brief time they’re awake, it’s important to give them plenty of meaningful interaction. Mental stimulation via games like puzzle feeders, along with toys that tap into their instinct to stalk and hunt, will help them burn off enough steam to keep boredom (and destructive behavior) at bay. As well as scheduling time out of your day to play with them, keep enough toys and scratching posts around for them to entertain themselves when you’re not around.

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