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Science Explains Why Cats Like To Knock Things Over

Cats can be weird, but there’s usually a reason for their madness.

By Justyne Yuen-Lee

Kittens pounce on anything that moves too quickly.

My cousin’s new kitten can be quite a handful! When I go over, the cat immediately jumps on my shoulders, innocently stabbing me with her tiny claws.  

Her favorite game is to quietly slip away, and just when we believe she has settled into a nap, rocket out of thin air and into our laps. Since she is still a kitten, she doesn’t have the agility or skill to get up and knock things over, yet. But, apparently, this is something we should prepare for.

I’ve watched way too many hours of Internet videos featuring cats knocking things over in what appears to be motivated by pure mischief.

I’ve also seen videos of cats getting caught mid-knocking something over and then put it back! Which just reaffirms my suspicion that this is all about trouble-making.

Cats have a few strange and hard to interpret behaviors, like trying to  fit into small containers, purring, chattering at birds, head butting, and a host of others. Knocking things over definitely has the greatest potential to cause havoc.

But why do cats like to knock things over anyways?

According to Mikel Delgado, a cat researcher at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, “A lot of cats knock things over because they have learned it is a quick and easy way to get their human’s attention.”

There you have it. Basic toddler behavior wrapped in fur. They want the spotlight and have found the easiest way to get it – by messing with your stuff.

How do you prevent this behavior?

Could it be more pats?

If some of your favorite items have fallen victim to your cat’s calculated demands, there are two ways you can remedy this. One, you can prevent future losses by rewarding your kitty for good behavior.  

Every time your feline friend behaves appropriately, reward him or her with a little treat, a scratch on the head, and verbal accolades of “pretty kitty,” “good kitty,” and “such a smart kitty.”

Giphy / @cyndipop

Secondly, you must provide enough quality time (petting, scratching, grooming) to  your cat. Give your cat plenty of attention throughout the day to see less vendetta-like behavior of them knocking things over.

Apparently, cats get bored when their people aren’t paying enough attention to them and they will have that attention. Now! Darn it! Cats just like things in their world to go just exactly as planned.

One last tip, if you have a knocking over type kitty, don’t leave your full beverages unattended, and put the fragile items away until your cat is too mature and worn out to bother with such youthful angst. This too shall pass.