Why Do Cats Knock Things Over? 4 Possible Reasons

posted by Andrew Magnotta -

No one really knows why cats seems so compelled to knock things over, but people who study feline behavior have a few ideas.

Cats are the most popular pets in the world (not counting fish because c'mon), yet they're not truly domesticated.

Historical evidence suggests cats first bonded with humans thousands of years ago after following humankind into the age of agriculture. Cats ate rodents and other pests that raided human pantries, and humans never minded the adorable volunteer exterminators, so it was (and is) a good situation for both species.

But no co-habitation is perfect. So we need to take into account the inherent nature of felines.

Modern day house cats aren't much different instinctually than their ancestors of a few thousand years ago. Cats are pound-for-pound one of nature's most efficient and ruthless land-based predators

Cats can see in the dark, their ears can pick up high-pitched frequencies of rodent and bird sounds and their whiskers help them sense movement all around their bodies. 

Cats can sprint over 30 mph. They have exceptional balance and flexibility. Their jaws and teeth are adapted to crush bones. The reason their claws retract into their paws—unlike those of a dog or a mouse—is to keep them super sharp, which is handy for climbing and murdering.

The point is, cats don't really need to lay around your house all day, but it is easier than killing stuff all the time. But given their instincts, it makes sense that when they're awake, those urges to exercise and kill manifest in some unpredictable ways.

So here are some of science's best guesses as to why cats must knock things over.

1. Cats Are Driven to Explore.

"Cats use their paws to test and explore objects, and the movement, sound and touch or feel of the object helps them understand what might be safe or not," says Adi Hovav, a feline behavior counselor with the ASPCA.

"Will this fall if I push it? Yup? Okay, neat."

2. Just Making Sure.

"Your cat's instincts tell her, 'That paperweight or knickknack could turn out to be a mouse," writes Dr. H. Ellen Whiteley.

And what does a mouse do when you prod it? It runs, and your cat gets a snack. But cats are also smart, so after a couple years, they probably understand your vitamin bottles aren't food. So what else?

3. How Will You React?

People tend to react when their best friend starts destroying their apartment. When your cat starts knocking over your stuff, you pay attention to it. 

“Cats are incredibly adept at finding ways to manipulate what they want,” says certified animal behavior consultant Amy Shojai, “which often comes down to: Look at me, feed me, play with me.” 

If you make a point to give your cat some exercise and attention every day, he might be less inclined to smash up the place. 

Many cat behaviorists suggest ignoring some of your cats more destructive attempts to get your attention to remove the attention incentive.

4. It's Fun!

Cats are pretty mysterious and there's a lot we don't know about them. So try knocking something over with them. Maybe knocking stuff over is fun?

No, of course it's fun!

Photos: Getty Images

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