Why Do Cats Knock Things off Tables? 7 Reasons Why!

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Collection of amusing images capturing cats knocking various items off tables, highlighting their playful and mischievous behavior.

If you have a feline family member, you’ve probably felt the frustration when they knock an object onto the floor for no reason. You might even have caught them in the act, told them no, and then despaired as they make eye contact with you and do it anyway!

It seems to be a universal cat behavior that most cats do. But why do cats knock things over? Are they just being annoying, or is there more to it? Let’s find out.

Why Do Cats Like To Knock Things on the Floor?

If your cat has broken many priceless vases or brand new coffee cups by doing this behavior, you’re probably keen to find out why. After all, it’s pretty frustrating, especially when it seems like they’re doing it for no reason at all, just to be irritating. Here are some reasons that might explain your cat’s unwanted behavior.

1. It’s Natural Cat Behavior

Your cat’s instincts will have a huge influence on their behavior, and although knocking things over might seem pointless to us, it’s actually normal cat behavior. Cats are naturally curious and explore their environment for threats. They are also prey-driven, which means their hunting instinct might have them practicing on inanimate objects!

2. They’re Attention-Seeking

This is a big one! If your cat wants your attention, they’ll do almost anything to get it! Perhaps your cat fancies some cuddles on your lap, or you just haven’t acknowledged them for a while when you’ve been working from home. Whatever the reason, they might just want to be noticed.

3. You ‘Rewarded’ Them Last Time

On the same note, negative attention is still attention. So, if the last time you caught them batting objects off the shelf, you came over to pick up the remnants and told them no, it might have actually rewarded their behavior. This might be the most likely reason if your cat raises their paw to knock something, but looks at you for a reaction before doing it.

4. It’s Playtime

Energetic cat gleefully playing on a table, showcasing its agility and enthusiasm in exploring its environment.

Try offering your cat more interactive toys to keep them from knocking over your possessions.

Perhaps your cat is just feeling playful and doesn’t have enough to keep their cat paws busy! Even if they have cat toys, puzzles, and cat trees, they might still find the packet of rice you’ve unpacked from your groceries more interesting! If they’re looking at you, they might even be trying to start a game with you. Of course, you’re unlikely to want to start throwing things on the floor, so perhaps steer them in the direction of their toys!

5. They’re Hungry

If their tummy is telling them it’s dinner time, some cats won’t take no for an answer! If you’ve decided your kitty needs to be patient, they might be letting you know in no uncertain terms that it’s time for food! You don’t have to give in but perhaps talk to your veterinarian or veterinary technician about adjusting their feeding regime.

6. They Want What’s Inside

If you’ve left something exciting, smelly, brightly colored, or tasty on the countertop, don’t expect your cat to show any self-control! If they want what’s inside the bag, tin, bottle, or packet, they’ll do their best to get it! If this means smashing a container on the floor, they’re up for the challenge!

7. They’re Bored

It might be that your cat is bored, especially if they’re a house cat. If they don’t have many toys or have been left alone in the house for a while, they might start looking for things to entertain them.

8. They’re Just Being Naughty !

Okay, so although there are plenty of kind of understandable reasons why your kitty would enjoy knocking things over, there’s still a tiny possibility that they’re being naughty! Don’t fret, though. Why not use some of our tips to try to stop the behavior?

How Do I Stop My Cat From Pushing Things Off The Table?

Image capturing cats engaging in their playful habit of knocking things off a table, demonstrating their inquisitive and sometimes mischievous nature.

Surprisingly, punishment is not an effective way of deterring your cat from knocking over your things.

So, you’re a cat owner and your cat loves knocking things off the shelf, windowsill, or table. Do you have to put all your valuable items and knickknacks in the attic for safe keeping? Or is there another way? Well, while it might be best to protect any breakable items or possessions for a while, there are some things you can try to control this behavior.

Don’t React

This is an essential rule and is key to stopping the behavior. It’s important to ignore your cat if they go to knock something over. As tempting as it might be to rush in or scream ‘NO!‘ any reaction gives them the attention they’re craving, and they’ll remember this next time. Instead, busy yourself with other things, and wait a while before quietly going to clean up if it’s safe to do so.

Distract Them

While it’s important not to react if your cat is about to nudge something off the table, if you can catch them before they’ve made that decision, you might be able to distract them. If they’re playful, have a toy ready, or if they’re a foodie, maybe a small treat. When they look like they’re poised and ready to jump onto a surface, call them away for some playtime, a fuss, or a treat.

Positive Reinforcement

Each time you’ve successfully distracted your naughty kitty from their destructive plans, reward them with a fuss or some one-on-one playtime. You can even use a treat. That way, they’ll associate getting quality time and attention from you with other activities rather than knocking things over.

Spend Quality Time With Them

Remember, your cat may be acting this way because they want more time with you. Perhaps they are lonely or just want more attention. This is especially true for indoor cats. If you increase the amount of quality time you spend with them day to day, either playing, cuddling, telling them about your day, or otherwise interacting, they might stop craving your attention so much.

Provide Them With Activities

Adorable kitten enthusiastically playing with a yellow toy, radiating joy and youthful energy.

We can’t ask our cats for their favorite color and get a clear answer, but biology gives us a hint as to what color they prefer.

If your cat is bored and needs mental or physical stimulation, you might find that new puzzle feeders, cat toys, activity centers, or cat trees could reduce unwanted behaviors. Allowing them to burn some energy and use their brain power might leave very little enthusiasm for mischief!

Also Read: The 10 Best Cat Slow Feeders & Puzzle Feeders


It can be frustrating when your cat knocks objects over and generally acts like a jerk! But before you get annoyed, consider why they might be doing it. If one of the possible causes resonates with you, you might find the solution is simpler than you think. Good luck!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my cat keep knocking things off?

Cats can knock things off surfaces for many reasons, including boredom, playfulness, and attention-seeking. Make a mental note of the situations where your cat acts this way, and consider what they might really need.

Why do cats knock things over at night?

Cats are very active at night, unlike humans. Therefore, that’s when they get up to most of their mischief. Zoomies at 3am or crazy half hours are pretty common among cats because that’s when they would normally be hunting. It’s frustrating, but you might find adding more (quiet) toys and food puzzles, or helping them burn more energy in the evenings will help.

Why do cats knock things over for no reason?

If your cat is knocking things over for no apparent reason, consider whether they’re hungry, bored, or feeling sociable. If you’ve been in your home office all day ignoring them, it could be that they’ve found it’s the quickest way to get your attention. Even if that attention is a grumpy sigh or a raised voice, it’s still better than being ignored!

How do I stop my cat from knocking things off shelves?

Enriching your cat’s environment with toys, games, and puzzles and spending more quality time with them might help to stop your cat from knocking things over. You can also try distracting them or adjusting their feeding routine if you think they might be hungry. The most important thing, though, is not to react to their behavior because it'll give them the attention they desire, and they'll be more likely to do it again.

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About Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVETMED MRCVS

Hannah graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, UK in 2011 and began work straight away at a busy mixed practice. Initially, she treated all species, but as the small animal hospital became busier, she focussed on small animals. Hannah is an expert on cat behavior and nutrition.

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