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Why Does My Cat Knock Stuff Over?

One of my all-time favorite cat videos ever is the infamous Thug Life clip. There are so many factors at play here that just get me, EVERY time. The nonchalant, curious way this fluffy Persian knocks the remote off the table. The exact moment her ear twitches when she realizes she’s being scolded. The cold, dead stare she gives the camera as she goes for the final kill. Of all the cat videos I’ve watched, this is the most quintessentially “cat” thing I’ve ever seen.

Which leads me to today’s question: WHY do cats love knocking things off tables? Of all the cat behaviors, knocking your priceless family heirlooms off of high places seems to be The One that transcends all backgrounds and cat breeds. And for some especially plucky pusskins, they’ll make direct eye contact with you when they do it, too.

Basic Instinct

In order to truly understand cats, we must first acknowledge that they are creatures of instinct. All cats are born hunters, and yes, that includes your fat orange tabby who sleeps for up to 20 hours a day. Even Mr. Tubbs has that deep-seated urge to chase things. But why so?

Well, first of all, the ability to hunt and kill rats and other “vermin” is what spurred the domestication of cats, to begin with. Even today, cats are rewarded for their hunting skills with food, shelter, and praise in places throughout the world. Therefore, it’s only natural that this skill would still be a part of how they’re hardwired.

Potential Prey

Image: yoppy via Flickr

But what does that have to do with why your baby insists on tossing all your expensive Sephora make-up all over the place? Simple: in your kitty’s weird little brain, she’s looking for an excuse to exercise her hunting skills. She sees your $30 bronzer and thinks to herself, “Oh man, this could be like, a frog or something, I better check it out, you know, throw it on the floor and see what it does”.

Of course, much to her disappointment, 99 times out of 100, that thing she just threw on the ground ends up being the thing that it actually is, and nothing more. Thusly, she loses interests and moves on to your blush. Then your mascara. And so on, until all your VERY EXPENSIVE beautification tools strewn about your bedroom, compliments of Madame Pussyfoot.

Attention Seekers

Reason number two for why cats do the weird stuff they do is probably no surprise to any cat owner. Cats are very intelligent creatures, and once they realize that knocking stuff off tables will get a rise out of you, they’ll do it just to get your attention. Surprised? Yeah, me neither.

My girl Marzipan loves to do some “redecorating” especially when she’s decided it’s dinner time. Or if she’s just bored. Or if she’s realized, much to her horror, that it has been exactly 1 hour since I last paid attention to her. “I cannot BELIEVE you have gone this long without admiring me. Say goodbye to your favorite mug, you blasphemous heathen!” Is there literally anything that could possibly be more cat-like than that?

Break The Habit

But how does one stop their cat from destroying all their stuff? Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between having a cat and having nice things. If your kitty is flagrantly tossing your stuff all over the place, whether it’s for attention, for fun, or to impress you with her hunting skills, the message is clear: she needs something to do. In some cases, if your babe is particularly restless, he might just need a playmate! Consider adopting a new pet who can match his energy and distract him from your collection of Faberge eggs.

Unable to invest in a new family member? No worries! Setting up some new kitty toys can just as likely do the trick as well. It may take a few attempts and some trial and error before you find something that really catches your cat’s attention – and refined taste in recreational activities – but simply giving your cat something to direct his energy into is a step in the right direction.

Lastly, try focusing on allocating some time for just you and your cat! Quality kitty time will ensure that your cat feels like she’s still The Most Important Thing In The Universe. And really, to a cat, there’s nothing more important than that.


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