Why Does My Cat Knock Things Down?

Cats are notorious for knocking over anything that isn’t nailed down. If it’s full of liquid, all the better. They’ll even go out of their way to clear your desk for you. Why do they compulsively knock things over? Here are a few possibilities:

For the reaction. What positive reinforcement does your cat receive when she knocks something over? Is there a crash? A splash? Do you stop what you’re doing and come running? Is it fun to watch you pick things up? If you change the response, you may change the action.

Instinct. The little predator may be pretending that your pens or cute ceramic bunny are prey. To save breakable things without dampening her natural instincts, try placing your drink, for example, in a high-sided, heavier container with a wide base, so it’s hard to move, and your drink can’t tip over. Be creative. A colorful flower pot on the table next to your favorite chair can serve as your beverage fortress. Try keeping stationary items like knick-knacks in place with museum putty that helps them adhere to the surface. Replace some kitchen cabinet doors with glass ones so you can still enjoy the beauty of your china and crystal. 

Curiosity…oops! Dogs experience everything with their noses. Cats are compelled to touch things to learn about them. Give your cat something at ground level to explore, such as opening a low kitchen cabinet to investigate, or letting her play with some harmless tactile objects such as plastic cookie cutters. Cats can pick these small items up with their paws to examine the shapes, or fling them and give chase.

Testing physics. They’ve seen the same water bottle every day, yet the game continues. Will it fall again today? It may be time to give your kitty something more to challenge her thinking skills, like a puzzle feeder or muffin tin with ‘buried’ snacks that must be pried out. Or hide various objects on each level of her cat tree that she can investigate.

Plain rudeness. Cats don’t seem to care whether they knock over things on their way from Point A to Point B. So you’ll have to either move your things or re-route the cat. Maybe she could use more vertical means to get to the window than your furniture, for example, so moving her cat tree or a small table next to the window could divert the traffic.

Stressed out. Sometimes upset or anxious cats become fixated on doing a particular activity as a coping mechanism. If your cat appears upset, angry or distressed, and is swatting at your things, she’s sending you a message. Either she doesn’t feel well, or something in her environment needs to be changed to provide relief. If you have a new schedule, a new person or new pet in the house, she may be having trouble adjusting. Help her out.

“Take a break!” Often, your cat simply wants your attention. Stop reading, writing, watching the screen, tapping keys and give her some special time. She wants you to feed her, play with her and spend time bonding. You might be able to include her in your activities. How can you say no? We have our little friends for only a short time, so every moment with them is precious.

Heron’s Crossing provides end-of-life care for pets in the Metro Atlanta area. In-home appointments with compassionate vets are available. If you’d prefer a home-like setting away from your home, our Decatur office is also available by appointment.