Categories: Cat Behavior

Why do cats knock things off shelves or tables?

by Michael

I believe we should go back to natural innate (wild cat) behavior to work out why cats knock things off shelves or tables. The video below is a nice example of this cat phenomenon.

Of all the answers on Yahoo Answers the most common is that a cat is seeking attention when they knock object off tables.

I don’t think this is the answer. I think it is anthropomorphising a cat, turning the cat into a child. I know cats sometimes behave like children and we often treat them like children but they are cats and their behavior is closely linked to wild cat behavior. They are domesticated African-Asian wildcats.

We can see cats push dead or dying prey around the ground. This is a form of rather cruel (by our standards) play it seems to us. But as our cats get relatively little (compared to wild cats) chance to hunt and express their natural instincts they like to maximise hunting and killing time when the opportunity presents itself. This is expressed in pushing the prey around. It is also a safe way of killing prey – battering it to death at arms length.

Pushing objects off tables is closely related to this behavior, I would suggest. I would say it is a part of their natural hunting instinct being expressed in domestic – human – environment. The particular attraction of knocking an object off a table is that for a second or two the inanimate object becomes animated, almost alive, as it flies through air falling to the ground. The cat watches this intently you might have noticed. They want it to become alive.

The cat pushes the object off the table to create prey. If I am correct we are, in general, not satisfying our cats enough in respect of allowing them to express hunting drives and skills.

Do you have an idea of your own?


P.S. I would like to thank Dorothy for showing me the video and getting me to think about this behavior.

Comments for
Why do cats knock things off shelves or tables?

Average Rating

Click here to add your own comments

Feb 25, 2012
We play that game as well NEW
by: Edward

Lol we play that game in our house as well cats knock things down we pick them up and they love it man when it goes under the furniture and we have to get down and hoik it out for them.
I bet Monty was in a mood we never shut any doors apart from for safety when the cooker is on because it must be awful being a cat and cant go where you please in your own home.
But man our cats arent interested in our food because its never meat or fish and so they get all the sardines.

Feb 24, 2012
Monty’s tantrum NEW
by: Ruth (Monty’s Mom)

Two days ago I gave Monty his share of a tin of sardines and then went into my room to eat my share in peace. I closed the door to keep Monty out or I knew I’d barely get any sardines. When I came back out it looked like a tornado had went through the bathroom– stuff knocked into the sink, knocked off the edge of the tub. Monty hasn’t knocked anything down in ages, but confronted with a closed door and me with food on the other side of it, and he suddenly knocked everything down that he could get his paws on. Am I wrong in interpreting this as a tantrum? That’s what it looked like to me. He denied it all, of course, and then asked for more sardines. I gave him a couple of kibbles of dry food instead and he gave me a look that said, “If I were bigger, I would eat you.”

Feb 24, 2012
Humouring us ? NEW
by: Ruth

How well we know the game of ‘knock it down pick it up’ with our Walter and Jozef and they always decide when they are sick of playing it.
They walk away with that ‘I’ve got better things to do now’ look on their faces.
So ……I wonder if they think we enjoy playing it and they humour us for as long as they can spare the time ?

Michael Broad

Hi, I am 70-years-of-age at 2019. For 14 years before I retired at 57, I worked as a solicitor in general law specialising in family law. Before that I worked in a number of different jobs including professional photography. I have a longstanding girlfriend, Michelle. We like to walk in Richmond Park which is near my home because I love nature and the landscape (as well as cats and all animals).

Recent Posts

Is an hermaphrodite cat gender neutral?

UK: A cat rescue, Bradford Cat Watch Rescue, described one of their cats, Dixie, as 'gender neutral' because she/he is…

8 hours ago

What is a hunting leopard?

The name 'hunting leopard' was generally used for the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) until recent times. The name fell into disuse…

12 hours ago

Black cat is about to spend his second Christmas at a rescue centre.

Toby has been described as Britain's loneliest cat as he is facing a second Christmas without a home of his…

16 hours ago

Protesters had to beg to rescue their seven cats before their homes were demolished

Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton, UK: Protesters against fracking who had lived at a camp off New Hope near…

16 hours ago

Reasons why some cat owners have overweight cats

Although this is a complicated subject and there are many reasons why some cat owners allow their cats to become…

19 hours ago

Picture of a gloomy kitten

She has an interesting face as well. This looks like a disheveled tortoiseshell coat. It is messy. I believe that…

1 day ago