Cats do all sorts of silly things and this particular behavior might just be one the most entertaining … for them.
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My cat loves to push, lick, bite, and chase all sorts of things, but her favorite thing to do, it seems, is to knock over anything that is really breakable. It's as if she enjoys the sound of glass shattering or the crack of ceramic hitting the floor—and my audible gasp from the next room. Maybe she's doing it just to mess with me? To tell me my decor isn't her style? 

Nope. Cats don't care what your color scheme is or that that vase was a wedding present. (Shame on me for not putting that potted plant in a different spot!) Cats just enjoy discovering the world around them … and testing out things that might move. They are intelligent, active creatures and the reasons behind why they love to knock things off counters, tables, and shelves has nothing to do with evil intentions.

Grey and white cat uses paw to push rolled napkin off set table with What the Fluff logo
Credit: Carlina Teteris / Getty

Here are three reasons your feisty feline might unintentionally push your buttons … and deliberately push things off your counter.

3 Reasons Why Your Cat Knocks Things Over

The research surrounding the exact function of knocking things over or off shelves hasn't been explored yet and so we can't say 100% why cats do it. However, there are a few likely reasons for this behavior that leaves you scratching your head and cleaning the floor.

1. Your cat wants to climb and objects are in the way.

When your cat is feeling frisky and wants to explore, he may discover random objects in high places present an interesting opportunity (just like a human toddler). It's in their kitty DNA to climb and hide in small places off the ground, so your unsuspecting shelf quickly becomes a favorite spot. If your home doesn't offer things to climb, your shelves, desk, and countertops are the only options. And if those spots are full of "dust collectors'' (as my husband calls them), your cat may see them as a roadblock.

To prevent having to clean up messes from fallen objects, provide your cat with climbing options like scratching posts and cat trees and put them near windows so they can watch the birds outside (cat TV!). Or get creative and build or purchase shelves designed with your cat in mind.

2. Your cat wants to play.

We recognize that our dogs love to play but sometimes forget that our cats do too. If your home doesn't offer lots of chances for both mental and physical enrichment, cats are left to their own devices to find means of fun stimulation—and that can include sliding your glass across the table until it just happens to fall. Your cat also wants to play with you, and pushing your "World's Greatest Dad" mug to the floor may finally grab your attention. Play with your kitten! Buy interactive cat toys that engage their natural instincts to pounce, chase, catch, and scratch. Leave open boxes (should be easy to come by after all the late-night online shopping) around your home for your cat to jump and hide in. Providing your cat lots of opportunities to play will keep her happy and healthy and prevent a lot of broken pottery.

3. Your cat has a natural desire to investigate.

Cats, instinctively, like to hunt and creep up on prey. Their natural tendencies to be curious but cautious aid them in the hunting process, helping them to determine what is safe to pursue and what isn't.

They are also natural investigators, analyzing and testing-out things that are novel. A cat's paw is crucial to their ability to "be a cat"—with their paws they scratch, touch and feel, knead, and slowly move things that pique their interest. Ever touch something, just barely, really fast to see if it's hot? Yep, that little, fast cat paw is testing things out too. This includes objects that you may treasure or that happen to be near the edge of your table. And since cats are more active and see exceptionally well at night, you may find items "mysteriously" on the floor when you wake up in the morning.

To support your cat's natural desire to inspect new things, make sure you keep items away from the edge of your table or desk or anywhere your cat is likely to jump. Offer them things they can safely push, like empty plastic cups, balls, or small toys.

The things cats do that make us roll our eyes and smirk are some of the very things that make cats so amazing. Be sure you are appreciating the "catness" of your feline family member and offer them lots of opportunities to engage with the world around them. If your cat finds pleasure in pushing your coffee cup to the limits of your desk, don't get frustrated. Instead, enjoy the natural curiosity of your kitty, providing them lots of chances to be an active feline.