Why Do Cats Like to Knock Things Off Tables?

At times, our cats can be funnyand weirdcompanions. They like to sleep on our heads, play with boxes and bring home that dead mouse they recently killed. Some like to sprint and jump off of couches and counters and rest in nooks behind toilets and on top of cabinets. Another strange-to-us behavior that felines seem to favor? Knocking things over. And while the habit can be funny sometimes, other times it leaves us with a shattered glass, vase or [insert your latest broken item here] and a mess to clean up.

Whether you find it amusing or frustrating – or a little of both – the fact is if you own a cat, they are going to knock objects off any elevated surface, such as your desk or a table. Are they simply trying to be annoying, or is there a reason for this behavior? Dog people will use this as an example of how cats are not intelligent and a reason not to like them. Even some cat people may not understand this behavior and find it frustrating. However, there are several reasons that contribute to why cats do this. Lets explore this cutely problematic behavior to figure out why cats do it, and what can be done to prevent it.

Your cat knows the difference between a mouse and the paperweight, but their hunting instinct is too strong and they need to investigate things with their paws. One option to try to help satisfy your cats instincts and get them to leave your paperweight alone (at least some of the time) is to provide them some catnip mice toys.

Food puzzles are another option that can present a challenge to your cat and give them the fulfillment of getting a reward for their efforts.

A cup, a picture frame, or a succulent, if its in the right spot your cat might decide to knock it over or push it off a ledge. Cats do all sorts of silly things and this particular behavior might just be one the most entertaining for them.

When your cat is feeling frisky and wants to explore, he may discover random objects in high places present an interesting opportunity (just like a human toddler). It’s in their kitty DNA to climb and hide in small places off the ground, so your unsuspecting shelf quickly becomes a favorite spot.

If your home doesn’t offer lots of chances for both mental and physical enrichment , cats are left to their own devices to find means of fun stimulationand that can include sliding your glass across the table until it just happens to fall. Your cat also wants to play with you, and pushing your “World’s Greatest Dad” mug to the floor may finally grab your attention.

You might think your kitty has reached peak cattiness level when she refuses to stop batting objects off your tables and countertopsbut its not all malice on her part. Cats like to knock things over for several reasons, starting with the deep-seated need to toy with their prey. Meow!

Simply put, she has you trained to jump up and run over to her the moment you see her start to bat at an object. Beyond wanting to keep your precious paperweights intact, you should consider the unsanitary hazards of Kitty hanging out on your counters and dinner table.

Because of the risk of bacteria or toxoplasmosis spread through fecal-oral contact, its best to keep her paws off counters, stovetops, and tables, says Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, DABT. And as we mentioned earlier, make sure you give your cat playtime every day so shes less likely to invent new ways of amusing herself.

Why Cats Knock Things Over

Whether you find it amusing or frustrating – or a little of both – the fact is if you own a cat, they are going to knock objects off any elevated surface, such as your desk or a table. Are they simply trying to be annoying, or is there a reason for this behavior? Dog people will use this as an example of how cats are not intelligent and a reason not to like them. Even some cat people may not understand this behavior and find it frustrating. However, there are several reasons that contribute to why cats do this. Let’s explore this cutely problematic behavior to figure out why cats do it, and what can be done to prevent it.

Hunting Instinct

Cats are natural born hunters, and their prey instinct is a big contributor to this behavior. Let’s take that paperweight sitting on your desk. If that paperweight was a mouse, your cat needs to investigate it. She needs to bat it around to test it out and make sure it’s something of interest to eat. She needs to test it for movement and see if it’s alive or dead. She needs to figure out how she is going to kill it and eat it, or if it’s too dangerous and may fight back and cause her injury. Is it sick or rotten?Your cat knows the difference between a mouse and the paperweight, but their hunting instinct is too strong and they need to investigate things with their paws. It doesn’t matter if your cat is an indoor pet and has never seen a mouse before; they all have this prey instinct.One option to try to help satisfy your cat’s instincts and get them to leave your paperweight alone (at least some of the time) is to provide them some catnip mice toys. Food puzzles are another option that can present a challenge to your cat and give them the fulfillment of getting a reward for their efforts.

Connecting With You

Another reason for this behavior is to seek your attention. They learn from experience that any time they knock that pen or cup off the table, you react. This is attention for them. Whether the reaction is positive, such as getting food or water put in their dish, or negative, such as you scolding them, it’s attention.To help alleviate this, try to spend some more time with your cat in other ways to encourage other attention-seeking behavior. This can be with chin scratches, brushing, or some play time. If they do knock things over, try not to react to them at all.

Curiosity and Fun: Fighting Boredom

Any time there is a change in your cat’s environment, she will want to explore these new changes. Did you just get a new candleholder? Your cat wants to know what that new object is all about and will explore it with her paws. Did you recently tidy up and rearrange items in your office? She wants to check out these new changes to know what’s going on. Cats are very smart and curious animals, and any changes to their environment, no matter how subtle, they will pick up on and investigate.Investigating various objects on your desk also becomes a game for her. What will happen to this pencil when I swat it? How about this business card? These objects become a form of mental stimulation for her.Both this curiosity and need for fun can be signs of boredom. There are steps you can take to help alleviate your cat’s boredom. Put some of her toys around the house to explore so she becomes interested in those instead of your pencils. Cycle these toys, putting some away for a while and replacing with different ones so the toys become “new” again to her. This creates new items for her to explore instead of the items on your desk.Give your cat lots of things to do, such as a perch with a view of the bird feeder. Again, treat or food puzzles are a great form of mental stimulation. Look into other toy options, and most importantly, try to schedule playtime with your cat.There is no guarantee that these tactics will completely stop your cat from knocking things off of your desk, but they could definitely help.

2. Your cat wants to play.

We recognize that our dogs love to play but sometimes forget that our cats do too. If your home doesn’t offer lots of chances for both mental and physical enrichment, cats are left to their own devices to find means of fun stimulation—and that can include sliding your glass across the table until it just