Why do cats knock things over?

If you have ever owned a cat, you have likely noticed how chaotic they can be. Are cats actually clumsy, or do they knock things over on purpose? If so, why?

Cats often knock over household items – but why?
Cats often knock over household items – but why?  © IMAGO/Pond5 Images

Cat owners can all agree on a few things – cats can be vindictive, purposefully clumsy, and absolutely hilarious for no apparent reason. Yet, it's the clumsiness that stumps us all.

Why do cats seem to love dramatically knocking things over for no clear reason? What could possibly explain this common but nonsensical behavior?

Why do cats knock things over all the time?

Cats can be grumpy, playful, and incredibly clumsy little devils. There are a number of possible reasons why your kind kitty has decided to wander around the house knocking things over here and there. Some are purposeful, while others are not – but all are extremely common and not really anything to worry about in the long term.

Ultimately, cats will knock things over either for attention, out of boredom, or because they are feeling playful and curious – or due to simple clumsiness.

Cats often knock things over when they rub against shelves and furniture.
Cats often knock things over when they rub against shelves and furniture.  © Unsplash/Tucker Good

4. To get attention

If a cat wants to get your attention, it will likely do something to elicit a response out of you. When something breaks or gets knocked over, you likely react to it in a very strong and sudden way – it's only natural. As a result, your cat might just simply be looking to get your attention for hugs, cuddles, food, or something completely different.

3. Out of boredom, for fun

Inside cats often get very bored, and outside cats made to stay inside will get even more bored and likely to become quite naughty. When this happens, the likelihood of chaos in the house increases. It's not just a socializing thing either, as some cats are simply predisposed to being a little bit more aggressive and chaotic.

2. Basic clumsiness

As delicate as some cats can be, others can be complete balls of lazy clumsiness. Such fur balls are often responsible for chaotic behavior simply because they are a little bit more wobbly on their feet than they may want to be. This is not their fault, but it is something to look out for. If your cat gets excessively clumsy, it could be sick. That's when going to the vet becomes very important.

1. Curiosity and play

It's worth noting that young cats will be particularly likely to knock things over. This is due to both a sense of curiosity and a need to play. This is a totally natural behavior and not something to be worried about. Your kitty might simply be curious to find out what happens when it pushes a pot over, or may even find it funny and amusing.

How to prevent cats from knocking things over

Be careful when your cat is in the kitchen, so that it doesn't knock over something dangerous.
Be careful when your cat is in the kitchen, so that it doesn't knock over something dangerous.  © Unsplash/Nick Karvounis

There is no real way to guarantee your cat won't knock things over. Here are a few tips to help you mitigate the impact of such behavior and lessen the likelihood it will become a common and destructive habit. Knocking things over is normal, and just part of looking after these fluffy little dudes, but it's also not something you have to accept willy-nilly.

Here's how to prevent your cat from knocking things over all the time:

  • Pay attention: Keep an eye for what your cat is doing, why, and what patterns you can identify in its behavior. Where is your cat always jumping and knocking things about? Why does it keep doing that? Is there anything you can do to reduce the risk that this behavior imposes?
  • Respond appropriately: The first step was, of course, to notice what's going on and why it's happening. Now, you need to make sure to respond forcefully but not inappropriately when your kitty knocks things over. Get agitated but don't yell. Be firm, and make sure your kitty knows that what it did was wrong and is not allowed.
  • Look after the home environment and keep things safe: Now it's time to make your home safe. Focus on the kitchen first, as it is the highest risk area of the house. You don't want knives being knocked over, after all (all cat owners should train their fluff balls to never jump on the counter tops). Move breakable things away from where your cat likes to climb and play and well away from edges.
Ultimately, looking after a cat is all about keeping it safe and well-fed. By making sure the environment around your cat is appropriate, you will reduce the risk of things getting knocked over and enrich your pet's life in the process by opening new opportunities for safe exploration.
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Do cats knock things over on purpose?

In many cases, but not all, cats will purposefully knock things over. They can be chaotic creatures, and the reality of your cat being a little messy sometimes is something you need to accept before adopting it and taking it into your home. It is natural and completely okay that this happens from time to time, whether on purpose or not – it's just part of the job!

It is incredibly important for you to be calm and collected when your cat behaves badly. Overreactions will only hurt your relationship, so when your cat knocks something over, take a deep breath and respond appropriately.

Cover photo: IMAGO/Pond5 Images

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