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Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

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Why do cats knock things over? It seems really funny and somewhat naughty as we watch videos of cats knocking things off tables and other surfaces.

 A swipe, maybe a few swipes and the object is gone, over the edge and onto the floor. We do laugh when watching a video but maybe it is not so funny if it is happening in your home.

Why does the cat do it?

It is part of normal cat behavior and our reactions from outrage to delight make no difference at all to the cat. Interestingly our agile cats can expertly navigate around things so this is not just clumsiness on their part.

Hunting from bygone days

This behavior may be related to how cats hunt for small animals. Of course our indoor kitties are not hunting for small animals but those survival instincts are still there. 

When cats attack small prey often they don’t kill it at first. They inflict enough damage that then allows them to softly bat the creature around using paws to see if there is any reaction. 

Cats’ paws are very sensitive as you may have discovered if you have ever touched the paws of your cat. It’s usually a no go area and hands off please. Cats use their paws to touch and feel and work out what an object is and what it is likely to do when it is touched. 


A similar thing happens with ornaments. The cat may half swat an ornament to test for movement and then thwack, over the edge it goes.

They want to see if the object will bounce or roll away so that they can chase it if it does just happen to show some movement.

Cats just about always have a quick look over the edge of the table at the object they have just swiped to see if it is moving.

cat pushing object over
Just a little push. There it goes.

If the cat gets a reaction from us,  he will quite likely repeat the procedure. Cats quickly learn that this is something they can do to get the attention of their human owner.  

Many people report cats knocking reading glasses and other objects from bedside tables to encourage the humans to get up to feed them.

The cat may like the attention he gets from you particularly if you repeatedly replace the object.  It then becomes a fun game.


Your cat may just be bored and is looking at a way to play that matches up with his stalking prey instincts.

He gets to touch and discover new objects and the inevitable fall when the item is pushed over the edge. 

It is no longer prey and the cat may move on to something else to swat or may just carry on his merry way as though nothing has happened.  By the way, not all cats display this behavior.

Make sure to allow for some playtime every day. Much like you need to schedule dog walking if you own a dog.  There is just no way around it, cats need some playtime devoted to them need to be stimulated through play to alleviate boredom.

How To Stop Cats Knocking Things Over

1. Put The Valuables Away.

If the behavior has now become attention seeking and you don’t wish to participate in the cat’s game,  the best move is to ignore the behavior.

This will mean that you will also have to put away valuables just as you would if you have a toddler on the loose.  

It is our sanity we are trying to save here. Sometimes saving sanity requires a bit of work. It is really up to you.

2. Use PetSafe SSSCAT (Spray Dog and Cat Deterrent, Motion Activated Pet Repellent.)

Place the repellent where you don’t want the cat to go, eg, kitchen benchtop, sideboard, bookcase and so on. It is motion activated and battery operated.

When the cat gets too close, within about 3 ft, the repellent emits a blast of compressed air. The cat quickly learns that this is undesirable. Full disclosure here that I have not used this product.

Reading some of the reviews is actually hilarious as the cats get the message very quickly and in a safe way. Some cats learnt so quickly that they only had to see the can and they avoided the area. 

I would certainly be willing to give it a go if needed.

The spray repellent can does have an on/off switch. You can decide when you want it turned on. Cats often get up to these shenanigans at night. 

3. Buy Museum Wax

If you really value a particular object, and want to leave it where it is on display, and it is within swiping range then using this wax is a great alternative.

It is called Museum Wax and you guessed it, it is actually used in museums to keep ornaments in place.

You have nothing to lose at the point and it may well save something precious. Try it out on some less precious objects first to see if it will survive the cat swiping.

wax to hold objects in place
Sorry kitty! No more swiping!

cats knock things over
I’m not liking the sound of the repellent.  What is the world coming to?

Cat behavior can be mysterious. For example – Why do cats stare at the wall or into space? One thing there is plenty of is – Funny Cat Sayings.

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