Why Do Cats Knock Things off Shelves?

Why do cats knock things off shelves?

Does your cat climb on the bookshelf and send your knick-knacks crashing to the floor? Does she saunter across the kitchen table and casually push off your water glass? Why do cats do that?

Cats Are Hunters

Cats are hunters at heart. When they live inside, they don't have many opportunities to find, stalk, and pounce on prey. Knocking things down and watching them fall might remind them of seeing prey run away from them. Knocking things down and watching and hearing them fall is also a way for cats to explore their world and combat boredom. Sometimes, indoor cats suffer from lack of enrichment, and that can cause boredom and stress. Cats will sometimes make mischief because they're bored or have pent-up energy.

Knocking Things Down Can Bring Attention

Cats are masters at interpreting human behavior. When they knock something off a high surface and it goes crashing to the ground, it usually causes at least one human to come running. That activity and attention can be enough reinforcement for the kitty to do it over and over in anticipation of the hubbub and attention.

How Can You Stop This Unwanted Cat Behavior?

Knocking things down can be destructive and upsetting for the humans in the home but it can also create dangerous situations for the kitty. If they break something glass and then leap down to inspect the pieces, they could easily be injured. They can also knock things onto feline housemates.

Here are some ways to deter knocking down behavior in cats:

  • Increase your cat's interactive playtime. This helps satisfy those hunter urges, combats boredom, and releases pent-up energy.
  • Work on making high surfaces unappealing for your kitty. Try double-sided tape which makes the kitty's paws feel icky, which they don't like.
  • Try museum wax to anchor knickknacks to their spots.
  • Don't use yelling or excited behavior when your cat knocks something over. Remember that qualifies as attention and might reinforce the behavior. As much as possible, try to stay calm and don't react when it happens.
  • If you see your cat acting like she's getting ready to push something over, make a noise to get her attention and throw a cat toy the opposite direction or entice her to come over for petting. That will help reinforce the idea that your kitty gets more positive attention for leaving items alone than for pushing them over.
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