Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

why do cats knock things over - grey tabby kitten trying to tip over a goldfish bowl, isolated on a white background

“Watch your glass, the cat is an asshole”: I’ve got coasters with that printed on them as a reminder because my cats WILL knock any and every glass over if they can!

Cats are notorious for their curious and sometimes mischievous behavior, and one of their most perplexing habits is knocking things over.  But why do cats knock things over? 

Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

There are several reasons why cats may knock things over, and it often boils down to a combination of instinctual behavior, environmental factors, and even individual personality traits.

Let’s break it down!

Instinctual Nature

One primary reason is their innate hunting instinct. In the wild, cats are skilled hunters, and knocking objects around mimics the actions they would take when stalking prey. 

This behavior allows them to practice their hunting skills and engage their natural instincts, even in a domestic setting where food is readily available.

Playful Behavior

Furthermore, knocking over objects can simply be a form of play for our feline friends. Much like human children, cats enjoy engaging in activities that stimulate their senses and provide entertainment. 

The act of swatting at and toppling objects can be immensely satisfying for them, offering both mental and physical stimulation.

Seeking Attention

In some cases, cats may knock over objects as a way of seeking attention from their human companions. If they feel ignored or neglected, they may resort to attention-grabbing antics in an attempt to regain your focus. 

After all, any reaction from you, whether positive or negative, reinforces their behavior and satisfies their craving for attention.

why do cats knock things over - a white cat and an orange tabby cat on a bookshelf playing

Curiosity and Exploration

Cats are naturally curious creatures, and their insatiable curiosity often leads them to investigate every nook and cranny of their environment. 

When they encounter unfamiliar objects, their instinct is to touch, prod, and yes, occasionally topple them over. It’s their way of satisfying their curiosity and asserting their presence in their territory.

Testing Objects for Viability

Moreover, knocking over objects allows cats to assess their surroundings and test the viability of various objects as potential prey. 

From a cat’s perspective, an object that moves or makes noise when knocked over may be perceived as more interesting or worthy of further investigation.

Lack of Stimulation

In a domestic setting, cats may resort to knocking over objects out of sheer boredom or frustration. 

Indoor cats, in particular, require mental and physical stimulation to prevent behavioral problems and promote overall well-being. When their environment lacks sufficient enrichment, they may resort to destructive behaviors as a means of alleviating boredom.

Territory Marking

Knocking over objects can serve as a form of territorial behavior for cats. 

By rearranging their environment or displacing objects, they leave behind scent markings that signal their presence and ownership of a particular space. It’s their way of asserting control and marking their territory within the home.

Stress and Anxiety

In rare cases, excessive knocking over of objects could be a sign of underlying stress or anxiety in cats. 

Changes in their environment, such as moving to a new home or the introduction of a new pet, can trigger feelings of insecurity or unease, leading to destructive behaviors as a coping mechanism.

What Things Do Cats Knock Over the Most?

Cats have a penchant for knocking over a variety of items, but some objects are particularly enticing targets for their mischief. Commonly knocked-over items include:

  1. Cups and Glasses: Knocking glasses of water off tables is one of the most iconic “cat” things that cats do!
  2. Houseplants: Cats are attracted to the greenery and may enjoy swatting at leaves or digging in the soil, leading to toppled plants.
  3. Breakable Objects: Glassware, vases, and fragile decorations are vulnerable to a cat’s playful swipes and may end up shattered on the floor.
  4. Board Game Pieces: The small size and intriguing shapes of board game pieces like chess make them irresistible to cats, who may enjoy batting them around like toys.
  5. Knick-Knacks and Figurines: Small, delicate items like figurines or knick-knacks are particularly vulnerable to a cat’s inquisitive nature and agile movements.
  6. Books and Magazines: The rustling sound of pages turning can pique a cat’s curiosity, prompting them to investigate by pawing at or knocking over books and magazines.
  7. Trash Bins: The tantalizing smells emanating from a trash bin can tempt a cat to knock it over in search of discarded treasures or scraps of food.
  8. Electronics: Cords, cables, and electronic devices can attract cats with their dangling wires and blinking lights, posing a risk of damage if knocked over or chewed on.

How to Stop Your Cat from Knocking Things Over?

While it may be difficult to completely eliminate a cat’s penchant for knocking things over, there are several strategies you can try to minimize the behavior:

Providing Adequate Playtime

Ensuring that your cat receives plenty of interactive playtime and mental stimulation can help channel their energy into more appropriate outlets. 

Investing in toys that encourage natural hunting behaviors, such as wand toys or puzzle feeders, can keep them entertained and engaged.

Securely Storing Valuables

For items that hold sentimental or monetary value, consider securely storing them in cabinets or display cases where your cat can’t access them. 

By removing temptation and limiting your cat’s access to potentially hazardous objects, you can help prevent accidents and preserve your cherished belongings.

Redirecting Behavior

When you catch your cat in the act of knocking over objects, avoid reacting with anger or punishment. Instead, gently redirect their attention to more appropriate activities and reward them for engaging in positive behaviors. 

Consistency and patience are key when teaching your cat what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.

Training Techniques

Using positive reinforcement techniques, such as clicker training, can be an effective way to modify your cat’s behavior and discourage them from knocking over objects. 

By rewarding desirable behaviors with treats or praise, you can encourage them to engage in alternative activities that are more conducive to a harmonious household.

why do cats knock things over - a grey cat and a brown tabby cat looking at a glass of water, brown background


The behavior of cats knocking over objects can be attributed to a combination of instinctual drives, environmental factors, and individual personality traits.

By understanding the underlying motivations behind this behavior and taking proactive measures to address them, we can create a more enriching and fulfilling environment for our feline companions.


  • Cat BYTES Team

    The Cat Bytes Team is a dedicated group of authors who pour their passion and expertise into the pages of Cat Bytes. As proud cat parents and devoted feline enthusiasts, this team brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the world of cat health and care. The Cat Bytes Team's collective love for their own cats inspires them to provide reliable and well-researched information on cat care, ensuring that every cat parent can give their furry companions the best possible life. Whether it's tackling behavioral issues, understanding cat health concerns, or simply sharing heartwarming cat tales, this dedicated team is here to support cat lovers on their incredible journey with their feline friends.

    View all posts