Why Cats Knock Your Stuff Over—and How to Stop Them

Why Cats Knock Your Stuff Over—and How to Stop Them


A short-haired gray tiger cat reaches a paw out towards a lit candle that's sitting on a round black end table. There's also a gray mug, a black notebook, and a phone in a red case on the table.

Photo: Veera (Shutterstock)

Cats love to knock stuff over and push things off tables, which can lead to a lot of broken items. Are they mean-spirited goblins that hate your stuff? Sort of—but not exactly. Here’s the truth about this annoying behavior and how you can prevent it.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that cats knock stuff over because it’s fun. That’s it—that’s the whole explanation. If you want to stop it, you need to know why this particular hobby is so enjoyable so you can give your cats better, less destructive outlets for that energy.

It’s everything cats love in one activity

As this video from the Grady Veterinary Hospital YouTube channel explains, cats like to jump up on things. They also love to investigate potential prey—which could be any small object, as far as cats are concerned—by nudging it with a paw and watching what happens. If it moves, great; if it makes a noise, even better; if it does both, jackpot. Once they’ve found something that’s fun to bat around, they’ll keep at it until the prey finally dies or they get bored and move on to their next victim.

Knocking stuff off a counter or table combines all three of these activities in one, like CrossFit for cats. They get a change of elevation and a veritable buffet of stuff to poke and prod, and all the better if it rolls around in an exciting way and makes fun noises when it hits the ground—then they get to play with it some more.

It gets them attention

It doesn’t take long for cats to figure out that sending an item tumbling to the floor makes a lot of noise, which may send a human caretaker running to investigate. As veterinarian and author Dr. H. Ellen Whiteley explains in a HowStuffWorks article, this is incredibly valuable information for a cat:

[O]nce a cat learns that knocking something to the floor will bring humans on the double-quick, she may actually do it on purpose to get your attention, particularly if she feels that a meal is long overdue.

Getting you to leap up from your comfy reading chair to hoot and holler about another broken water glass might be part of the point for your cat—so don’t give them the satisfaction.

How to stop them

Stopping this behavior is pretty easy, but you will have to modify your environment somewhat. Since the elevation change is at least half the fun of the knocking-stuff-over game, give your cats something else that’s more fun for them to climb on that your side table or bookcase. Cat behavior specialist Jackson Galaxy recommends devising a cat superhighway—a route that gets them up off the floor and around the room without having to come back down. If that’s a little too involved, try giving them a couple of lounging spots at a variety of elevations.

Tired cats don’t get into trouble, so play with your cat—a lot. Choose toys that offer the same paw feedback they get from batting stuff around on the counter, like wand or wire-based toys, ball-and-track toys, or motorized animals. A laser pointer will definitely tire them out, but since cats can’t catch light, it might not satisfy their prey drive enough to keep them away from your stuff.

You’ll also have to change your behavior. Don’t leave precious breakable items out where your cat can get to them; if they’re really into water glasses, switch to plastic or metal until they settle into their new digs and play routine. And remember: Your cat probably loves being able to summon you from another room just by making something go crash. Don’t drop what you’re doing and sprint to the scene of the crime every single time (or worse, feed them to shut them up). Give it a couple minutes for things to blow over, then clean up the mess quietly. Over time, you’ll have to do it less and less.

This article was originally published on December 11, 2015, and was updated on May 6, 2021 with new links, updated information, and to reflect Lifehacker’s current style guidelines.



Source

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top