Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

Growing up, our two Siamese cats lived with an invisible cat by the name of Gravity. Gravity was responsible for all cat-related accidents in the home, but due to his invisibility, the Siamese cats were unfairly blamed.

Most cat lovers are familiar with the sound of things crashing to the ground, compliments of the cat. But why do cats knock things over? Are they just trying to wind us up or is there an actual reason?

Well, it is the latter, cats aren’t doing this to annoy us, there is a scientific reason for this behaviour.

Prey instinct:

Have you ever watched a cat toying with a live animal such as a mouse? It drops it to the ground, and if there is no response, it will bat the poor animal to check that it is dead. A live animal could potentially bite the cat or scurry away.


Even if the cat knows the object is not a potential meal (or at least game), all cats investigate objects in one of two ways (often both)…by sniffing and gently tapping at the object with the paw. Will it make a noise, move, how does it move, what does it feel like? What would we do if we found a strange object say on the beach? We might tap it with our foot or poke it with a stick to see what happens.

Attention seeking:

What happens when a cat knocks something over, we screech at them to stop it, giving them attention in the process. This might be the motivation you need to take your attention away from the iPad, laptop, television, get up and feed them!

I have a cat, Norman,  who will knock objects off my chest of drawers if he’s in my bedroom when I’m trying to sleep and wants to be let out. Another cat, Monty, doesn’t knock things over when he wants to be fed, but he will walk around and around the coffee table flicking me with his tail every time he passes until I get up.

Because they get into places they shouldn’t:

We have a wooden cat statue which sits next to the television. Not one day goes past that I don’t have to pick the statue up off the floor or stand it back up. Of course, the solution would be to move it somewhere else, but I just sigh and stand it up. There’s a whole new topic on why cats like to sit next to or in front of (no space for them to do that) the television; I suspect they don’t like being ignored in favour of the news, or a movie which is taking away our attention.


Even if the cat knows an object isn’t a mouse, many cats knock things over and start to bat them along the floor to play with it, particularly if the object moves (many a time I have found my lip-balm in random locations on the floor). Most of our cats are well-fed enough not to need to hunt, but many still partake in hunting-like behaviour if given the opportunity. It provides mental stimulation and a way to burn off energy.

How to stop cats from knocking things over?

Cats will be cats, and I don’t recommend you sit your priceless Ming vase or Faberge egg in a place your cat can deliberately or accidentally knock it over. We can provide our cats with enough mental and physical stimulation by tapping into their prey drive. This will hopefully reduce their need to make their own entertainment.

Schedule play:

Make the time to play with your cat every day. Tap into the cat’s hunt, kill and eat drive. Provide toys your cat can hunt (wand toys are great for this), and let your cat chase, pounce and jump at the toy. Towards the end of the play session, let the cat catch and kill the toy, and follow up with a meal.

Provide an enriching environment:

We can’t be at their beck and call all the time, but we can provide enough stimulation to keep our cats happy and occupied even when we aren’t playing with them. Cats love to be up high, so if space permits, provide tall cat trees or shelving your cat can sit on and watch the world go by.

Food puzzles which as the name suggests, provide food, but in a way your cat has to work for it can keep him entertained.

We all know how much cats love the simple things in life like boxes, a paper bag (remove the handles first, so the cat doesn’t get tangled) or a scrunched up piece of paper. It doesn’t cost much money to provide interactive entertainment for our beloved felines.

We can’t stop cats from knocking things over, and I always recommend keeping breakables in places your cat can’t get at.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio