Friday 12 April 2024

Why your cat likes to knock things off surfaces

Why do cats like to knock things off shelves or tables or kitchen counters and watch the object fall to the ground, bounce around and perhaps sometimes break? It looks a bit destructive. A little like the actions of a naughty child. I'm sure some cat caregivers react to this feline behaviour as if they were reacting to their child misbehaving. They shouldn't of course because the motivation is completely different.

On the internet, there are millions of articles on this topic. It is a highly competitive area for the search engines. That's the reason why I am writing this again because I have the same title on another website but that page has died over time and so I am trying to revive this content.

Some ideas on the reasons

There are several reasons why domestic cats knock things over and often watch them fall to the ground as described. These are my thoughts.

Boredom: a lot of indoor cats become bored. They want to try and recreate the kind of mental stimulation that they would enjoy outside. They can achieve that goal temporarily and very artificially by knocking an object off a table. The object moves. It temporarily (and using a lot of imagination) becomes a prey animal which they can then jump after and sniff. That is sometimes the response of the cat after they've knocked the object off the mantelpiece. The owner should not be annoyed with their cat as they need to look to themselves for the solution. πŸ’•πŸ˜‰

Playfulness: it's another attempt at trying to entertain themselves. And once again it engages their minds. And in doing it they are physically active in a very minor way. It is therefore a form of play in the same way that when cats are genuinely playing they bat things around. I've just written an article on the four basic themes of kitten play in which I have an Infographic. You might like to read that by clicking on this link.

Attention seeking: this is quite a good reason. Once again it almost emanates from boredom. Boredom that their owner is not interacting with them and stimulating them so they create a scenario which attracts the attention of their owner and they therefore have this interaction afterwards which is better than nothing. It might not be a particularly pleasant interaction, however πŸ™„! Especially if the object that was knocked over was a precious vase.

Hunting behaviour: this is an extension of the other items above. You knock something over and it moves and they can believe that it is an animal and hunt it. As mentioned it requires imagination. But kittens and cats are very good at playing with objects as if those dead objects are living animals. That's why, by the way, it is best that cat toys are soft and can be destroyed because they then replicate a living animal. Hard plastic toys manufactured commercially sometimes can become boring to a cat because they can't sink their teeth into it and claw the object to death!

Checking if the object is living! Once again an extension of the above. Cats do like to prod and poke animals they have killed to try and reanimate them to allow them to continue entertaining themselves. Prodding an inanimate object may be a similar form of behaviour and if it falls off a high surface so much the better.

Territorial marking: some say this is also a form of territorial marking because they have scent glands in their paws and that scent is deposited on the object. I'm not so sure about this but it's worth including in the list.

Common thread: I think you might see a common thread to the above. It comes back ultimately to mental stimulation; to find something which at least very temporarily stimulates the mind. It looks naughty but it's just trying to create something out of nothing. Which leads me nicely to the next item:  enriching the environment. Vital in the cat's world when stuck inside the home (understandable in today's world).

In a truly enriched environment you will find that domestic cats don't engage in this "naughty" behaviour. You've got to provide plenty of toys and activities to keep your cat engaged. You've got to play with your cat on a regular basis if you have the time. You've got to provide high places and climbing poles and runs et cetera. They can be within the home and outside the home in a cat proof enclosure or a catio. I'm afraid that very few people enrich their home environment enough to the point where the cat will never knock things off a mantelpiece!

Hope this helps a little. Hope it gets seen! As I said it is a very competitive area of cat behaviour in terms of online articles.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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