Why Do Cats Knock Things Over All the Time?

(Last Updated On: June 5, 2022)

Everyone who has befriended a cat knows what it’s like. Your cat jumps on top of a table–or maybe you walked into the room and your cat was already on the table. Then you make eye contact and try really hard to tell them “no” with just your eyes. Too bad your cat doesn’t care, and then proceeds to knock everything off of your kitchen island either one by one or a giant sweep. Now you’re annoyed and picking up stuff off the floor–which might have you wondering: why do cats knock things over?

They’re Actually Just Hunting Your Table Items

Cats get up to a lot of killing when given the opportunity. While they’re going out and absolutely destroying the local wildlife, they also like to play with their food. It can be their kibble or whatever, but cats will 100% do it to animals that are alive. Then maybe leave them there–the average outdoor cat only brings home about 18% of what they kill. A study on the population of gray catbirds in Maryland found that after leaving the nest some 79% of birds were killed by predators. Most of those predators were cats, which they identified from uneaten and decapitated bird bodies. Anyway, the point is outdoor cats like to kill stuff and play with the stuff they kill (but not necessarily in that order). 

Toying with food is something most cats do, even if they’re not out hunting. They’ll do it with inanimate objects like their own kibble. That also includes whatever it is you’re putting on your tables. Giving something a poke and having it run away is a means for your cat to not only get some food, but also give them something to chase. 

It gets your attention

Your cat might spend all day eating hair ties, but cats are pretty smart on average. Which means your cat definitely picked up on “if I knock over the expensive plate the human will come running.” Remember that your pets–especially when they’re young–don’t really know the difference between being praised or scolded. Without that frame of reference they just know that doing something will get a reaction out of you. If your cat destroys stuff instead of meowing for your attention, have fun with that.

Cats Explore

Your cat’s paw pads are super sensitive, and often are one of the primary vectors they use to explore the world. So your cat is going to whack at stuff to see if it’s safe–which might be fun for your pet. Significantly less fun for you though. 

Cats also get… really bored. Just like you messing with random things when you need to twiddle your thumbs, so too will your cat. Except it’s their paws, and the random things are your things. On the bright side, if your cat is knocking stuff over out of boredom you might curb their behavior if you have something else to entertain them?


Maybe your cat is knocking things over because they’re books and your cat hates reading? See if you know which books cats do and don’t like here.

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About Kyler 727 Articles
Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.