Cats do the darnedest things, and sometimes it’s very hard to figure out their reasons for their behavior. For example, it seems to be very common to hear about cats knocking things over. Perhaps you have a cat who demonstrates this behavior.
Why do they take such pleasure from this activity? Do they clear items from shelf or table just because they can? Or do they have a secret agenda?
It’s too bad we can’t just ask them, but since they see the world in a different way than we do, their answer might not make sense.
It’s A Test
A cat likes to test his environment to learn more about it. He uses those busy paws to explore objects. How the object moves, sounds, or feels can give them important information about what might be safe or what might prove dangerous. Kitty’s paw pads, being quite sensitive, can teach him about the object.
This explorative curiosity most likely connects to the cat’s prey drive. Is this something I can chase or play with? Can I eat it? What will it do if I try to move it?
Try Not To React
Once the cat has knocked something to the floor, how you react could have a great influence on whether the behavior continues. Being great manipulators, the cat, if he learns that when he knocks something over it will bring you on the run, will use this ploy to get your attention.
Just like with children, sometimes any attention, even negative attention, may bring the result the cat desires. Therefore, though not easy to do, if you can ignore the cat’s behavior of pushing objects to the floor, you could take all the fun out of it, and perhaps discourage the behavior.
Put valuables you want to protect away from those reaching paws. Make your house an environment safe from cat damage.
By the way, do not punish the cat for this behavior. He will only react with fear and distrust.
But, Mom, It’s Such Fun
Perhaps kitty likes to send things flying just because it’s fun. If that’s the case, you need to find some ways to keep kitty amused. Boredom might give him a reason to play with objects he can push around.
Present kitty with lots of toys that can cause him to work out how to use them. Get him to think about something acceptable. Also, rotate the toys, so different ones appear now and then.
A puzzle feeder is one such thing that will keep him occupied and reward him for his efforts. If you need a puzzle feeder for your kitty, look at the ones offered at the end of this post.
Schedule Play Times
Cats need to play, as this activity helps keep their hunting skills in top form. Therefore, especially if your cat spends all his time indoors, you have the job of making sure each day has time put aside for kitty play.
Not only will it make your cat more content, but it will also help with the bonding process between you two.
A Danish philosopher, Beret Brogaard, compares cats to dogs. He believes that the cat’s highly developed brain (90% similar in structure to our own) can solve harder cognitive problems, have more persistence, and have high levels of intelligence, making them challenging at times to live with.
Mr. Brogaard says this highly developed brain might explain why they like to knock things over. He says, “Cats are more impulsive than dogs and have far less patience. They don’t usually tolerate frustrating situations for long periods of time. If an activity isn’t obviously rewarding to them, they would rather do something else.”
Having a tall cat tree at home with toys attached and good places to sharpen claws can prove very valuable if you have a cat suffering from boredom.
Another way to distract your cat from unwelcome behavior is with a laser pointer. If he is about to indulge in an unwanted behavior, grab the laser pointer and sweep it across his line of vision. Ah, here’s something new to attack! The laser light scores again!
Another Possible Solution
Though it’s fun to knock things over and it gives some practice if kitty is pretending it’s prey, it seems pretty obvious that the main problem with kitty stems from boredom and the need to find new kinds of activity.
I’ve noticed that this problem seems to affect mostly indoor cats. My good fortune has found me living in rural areas where I felt it acceptable to let my cats outside for part of the day. Because of this chance for them to create their own adventures outdoors, my cats have never pushed objects off shelves or tables.
Carlos, who lived with me for 12 of his 14 years, loved to hunt and would have been a very unhappy cat if I’d kept him inside. He went out after his breakfast, and had to return for supper by 4:00. If not already home, he would come if I called him at that time.
So, another solution for you: If you want your cat to remain an indoor cat, figure out ways to give him some outside time. If you have space, build him a catio, so he can spend some regular time out in the fresh air.
Then you can enjoy the outdoors together. Though Carlos was not leash trained, he liked to walk with me. He didn’t need a leash during those times. We explored together, and enjoyed the outdoor adventure together. I could have put him on a leash, but he didn’t need one, because he liked it when we explored together, and stayed close at hand.
Think of your own life. How would you feel if you could not experience newness and change? Sure, just like the cat, we all like our routine, but we, too, can get bored. Have some sympathy for kitty if he must stay in the house all the time. Find ways to stimulate and amuse him.
Your kitty offers you a challenge. He wants to be happy, healthy, and content. Sometimes life can get a bit dull for him, especially if he is always in the house. Use your imagination and find ways to help him expand his world. He will be happier, and so will you.
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