why cats knock things over
Behavioral Problems

7 Reasons Why Cats Knock Stuff on The Floor

Cats are prone to knocking breakable items from tables and shelves. This can pose a safety risk, and it’s bound to be noisy. However, cats aren’t always acting with destructive intent when they behave this way.

Cats knock things over to attract attention. For example, it’s hard to ignore the sound of broken glass. In addition, cats push things off tables to stimulate hunting instincts. The cat watches an item move and wants to see if it can be chased. The cat may be curious about the noise this activity makes, or it could just be clumsy or farsighted.

If your cat is constantly pushing things over, you may assume that it’s misbehaving. It’s true that cats act destructively as an act of rebellion, but that’s not always the explanation.

Why Do Cats Push Things on The Floor?

If your cat knocks things over, monitor its general demeanor. This will provide insight into why it acts this way. Your cat may be experimenting with the laws of physics, so it could have been a game that went wrong. It’s also possible that your cat is clumsy or has poor eyesight.

Attention Seeking

The cat is looking for attention that you are not providing. This will rarely be a cat’s first way to seek your consideration. Look out for other signs first, such as circling and verbalizing.

If you miss these signs, the cat will feel justified in knocking something over. If a cat knocks over a glass or ornament, you will come running. The cat will notice this and remember it for future reference. By creating a mess or a noise, the cat knows a reaction is coming.

It will be tempting to express frustration at this behavior. Tough though it may be, keep a lid on this anger. If you betray any emotion, you are setting a dangerous precedent. The cat will understand that knocking things over is always going to result in your presence.

Calmly clean up the mess, continuing to ignore your cat in the moment. If you immediately provide attention, the cat will again forge a connection between behavior and reward. Make the area safe and return to what you were previously doing.

You will need to assess why your cat was looking for attention. Have you missed a scheduled meal or playtime? Cats love and need routine. If you start to deviate from a pre-established schedule, the cat will grow perturbed and stressed.

You should also assess whether your cat has been more attention-seeking than usual recently. There may be an explanation for this. Common reasons for cats to become clingy include:

  • Pain or sickness
  • Entering a heat cycle
  • Boredom and loneliness
  • Anxiety provoked by changes to routine or unexpected events

Offering cats appropriate attention is a balancing act. Making a cat the center of your universe means it may become dominant. If you regularly ignore a cat it will grow insecure, though. Get a cat into a routine that includes play and petting. This provides reassurance.

Hunting Instinct

Knocking items over is also a way for cats to sharpen and hone hunting instincts. This is most common in young cats, but it may apply to senior felines. All cats are defined by their desire to hunt.

At first, this is a simple case of mistaken identity. The cat saw an unfamiliar object, potentially somewhere the cat feels it does not belong. This encourages the cat to hunt it, in case it is prey. The cat will keep its distance, then pounce when considered appropriate.

Part of the hunting process for cats is playing with prey. This involves batting and tossing the victim around. This is so the cat can exhaust and injure its quarry, making the killing blow easier. The cat may knock the item off a table of shelf here, hoping to stun it.

how to stop cat from pushing things off table

The cat will watch the item fall and follow it. Even if the object remains inanimate, the cat will not be immediately deterred. It just assumes it is dazed. The cat is prepared for the pursuit to start over again. When it does not, the cat grows bored.

Sadly, the damage to your property is already done and likely irreversible. All the same, it is important to remember the distinction between instinct and willful wickedness. Cursing a cat for hunting is not fair and unconstructive. The cat cannot control this disposition.

The behavior is also easily resolved. You’ll just need to play with your cat. Pick your moment for this so you are not rewarding unwanted actions. Eventually, reach for the fishing rod or laser pointer. The more hunting games your cat plays, the less it will knock things over.


Some cats will knock items over as a way to claim territory. This is common in dominant cats that are unwilling to share anything within your home. If an item is in an area the cat wants to own, it will be knocked over. The cat is clearing a path to claim territory.

Never place items in locations that cats have previously claimed. This is asking for trouble. If your cat likes to nap atop a closet, for example, this is now feline territory. Placing an object here will not end well. The cat will immediately knock it to the floor.

This serves two purposes. Firstly, the cat is cleaning up. Cats are neat and fastidious. They do not want clutter in their space unless they put it there. In addition, the cat is sending a reminder. You are not to tamper with its carefully arranged territory.

You may also find that your cat knocks over items that you pay particular attention to. Your cat will watch you dusting ornaments, for example, or watering flowers. This will pique the cat’s curiosity. It wonders why these objects are so important to you.

Once a cat learns that something matters to you, it immediately grows in significance. While independent, cats are also insecure. Anything that attracts your attention is competition, in the mind of your cat. The item may then be dubbed an enemy to be eliminated.

This behavior can be managed by providing your cat with appropriate territory within the home. If possible, give your cat an entire room. This way, the cat will always have somewhere that it feels safe. Couple this with a routine of attention and your cat will relax.

Curiosity and Play

Cats are led by curiosity. Felines conduct a range of experiments in the home, just to see what will happen. This can sometimes lead to undesirable results. Knocking things over is a good example of this.

If your cat is on a table and encounters a glass, it will be curious. As far as the cat is concerned, the glass does not belong in this position. The cat also notices distance to the floor. What would happen if it pushed the glass off the edge of the table?

We know the answer to this. The glass will smash. The cat does not, though. Eventually, curiosity will get the better of the cat. It may also be fascinated by the results. The cat will watch the glass fall and acknowledge the resulting mess and noise.

How your cat reacts to this varies on a case-by-case basis. Some cats will be terrified by the noise of breaking glass and flee. Others will be fascinated and want to conduct the experiment again. It’s advisable to keep the area clear to prevent this from happening.

There is also the possibility that your cat was playing with an object. Cats like to bat items with their paws. In doing so, they release scent from glands in the paw pads. The cat may also sniff, and possibly lick, the item. This stimulates all senses.

In doing this, it’s quite possible that the item will topple and fall. Again, this will result in varying reactions. Some cats will flee, afraid they are in trouble or spooked by the noise. Others will consider their game unfinished and look for something similar to play with.


There is always the possibility that your cat is just clumsy. While cats are typically graceful and elegant, they do have uncoordinated moments. Your cat may have brushed against something completely accidentally.

Arthritic senior cats, for example, are not as mobile as they once were. The cat may have misjudged the distance of a jump. The cat may also need to back up further to make a movement. In doing so, the cat will encounter unexpected items.

Misjudgment of spacial awareness is particularly common in overweight cats. Felines do not weigh themselves or look in the mirror. As a result, a cat may not realize that it carries more body mass than before.

Cats judge space using their whiskers. If a cat’s whiskers do not touch something, it assumes its body is the same width. This can lead to a mishap as the cat brushes against an item. If this happens, the cat will likely flee. It is frightened by the sudden noise of a fallen item.

Cats are also governed by instinct in the moment. The cat may have found a location to relax, seemingly a safe distance from solid objects. The cat will then proceed to do what comes naturally.

This may include grooming, which will involve wriggling and maneuvering the body. During a particularly energetic grooming session, the cat may knock something over. Again, this will be a shock for the cat. It will immediately run away, likely avoiding the area in future.

If the cat happens to fall asleep, it may also end up knocking something over. As explained by The Journal of Sleep Research, cats can thrash and squirm in their sleep. This is common while dreaming. The cat may accidentally knock items over while doing so.

In any of these circumstances, retain your sense of humor. Ensure that your cat is safe and write off the experience as a learning opportunity. Keep anything potentially breakable away from parts of the home that your cat frequents.

Lack of Visibility

If your cat regularly knocks items over, question whether it can see them. A cat’s eyesight starts to decline with age. Medical conditions, such as hypertension, can also significantly impact feline vision.

If your cat wanders outside, it may experience short-range vision problems at any age. Wild cats are farsighted. This allows observation of prey and predators from distance. Cats that spend time outside retain this trait. Indoors cats tend to become nearsighted.

A blind cat may also knock items from elevated locations to ensure safety. By listening to the sound of a falling object, a cat can judge distance. It then knows if it’s safe to jump down from a perch or elevated position.

According to Vision Research, the point of accommodation for cat eyesight is between 9 and 14 inches. If your cat is prone to knocking into items at this range, check its vision is not failing. Ways to check a cat’s eyesight at home include:

  • Shine a light into your cat’s eyes and check for reaction
  • Dangle a hunting toy in front of a cat and see if it is chased
  • Drop a light, noiseless item in front of a cat
  • Place the cat low on a staircase and check how comfortable it is climbing down

If your cat is seemingly losing its sight, check there is not a medical explanation. If the declining eyesight is just down to old age, there is no need to panic. Many cats live fully, happy lives after losing their vision. They rely more on sound and scent anyway.

All the same, you will need to make some lifestyle adjustments. Do not place anything in your cat’s way or reorganize furniture. It will memorize paths to food, water and litter. You should also remove or protect anything breakable. Accidents can and will happen.

cats knock things off tables


Is your cat prone to knocking over glasses of water, but ignores other items? This could be because your cat is thirsty. The cat may also knock over a vase of flowers for the same reason. This sounds strange, but there is method behind the cat’s apparent madness.

To understand this behavior, we must understand the complex feline relationship with drinking water. Cats rarely drink enough. This is partly instinct, as cats are descended from desert-dwelling animals. It is also due to a cat’s distaste for still tap water, though.

Smell is all important to cats, even when drinking water. The scent of chlorine in tap water deters a cat from drinking. In addition, cats are hardwired to distrust still water sources. This makes moving water sources more appealing.

The cat wants a drink, but the water in its bowl is unsuitable. By knocking over a glass, the water moves. It is now considered safer. Obviously, water cannot be consumed once it hits the ground. Sadly, cats do not plan this far ahead.

Flowers in a vase will also make water smell more appealing. Cats often drink from puddles and other wild water sources. This is rarely healthy, and vase water is no exception. In addition, you may lose a priceless family heirloom if your cat breaks it.

Resolve this issue by investing in a water fountain. This will provide a constant source of running water. Your cat is likelier to hydrate using this resource. This will prevent the cat from growing thirsty. As a result, it is less likely to behave inappropriately around water.

There are numerous reasons why cats knock things to the floor. In many cases, your cat may just be looking for your attention. Do be mindful of how your cat is acting, though. There could be another explanation that merits further investigation.