Chasing their owner's feet, attempting to eat tape, and scratching mirrors — cats have a long list of quirky behaviours that leave us puzzled! One cat habit I really can't seem to figure out, though, is why they love to knock things over. Why do they seem to find enjoyment in pushing items to the edge of the table and watching them fall as their owner (aka me) looks on in frustration? What gives!? As two experts explain below, this behaviour is common in felines and has some pretty interesting motives behind it.
Cats knocking things over is nothing out of the ordinary, and as it turns out, there are a few good reasons cats may act out this (sometimes infuriating) behaviour. One of the reasons, according to Maureen Murithi, DVM, registered veterinarian and veterinary spokesperson of online pet resource SpiritDog Training, is that cats are natural hunters and their desire to knock things over may be rooted in prey drive. "They normally use their paws to test unfamiliar objects in their environment," Dr. Murithi said. "Cats' paws are highly sensitive, and therefore they use them to test if unfamiliar objects are safe."
Another motivation cats may have to knock things over is they are trying to get their owner's attention. Ever set down a glass of water on the table and walk away, only to have your cat push it to the edge and knock it over? Yup, it may be because they are trying to catch your eye. "Cats love attention and are keen to notice your reaction depending on their behaviour," Dr. Murithi told POPSUGAR. "Your reaction following an accident around the home, such as knocking over a flower vase, can condition them to associate it with attention." So it is important to act nonchalant when these situations come up.
Last, but not least, cats may be knocking things over around the house because they are curious and, quite simply, bored. "Cats are very curious," said Jeff Werber, DVM, chief veterinary officer for Airvet. "Their natural inclination is to touch things, which becomes a problem if what they are touching is not well-anchored." Dr. Werber cautioned that if your cat is knocking things over continuously, they may be bored.
Because indoor cats are kept inside and not able to go out and fulfil their innate curiosity with outdoor stimuli, Dr. Murithi advised to schedule a play time with moving objects to help remedy any boredom or desire to be entertained associated with knocking things over. "To avoid such accidents, scheduled playtime is advised, aimed at finding a release from pent-up energy," Dr. Murithi said. "Moving objects offer a nice distraction, especially for indoor cats as they lack the freedom to explore the outdoors and exercise or play."