We have all seen numerous funny videos on social media of cats knocking off of shelves, tables, desk, or bookcases. In some cases these activities are amusing and in other appear to be quite dangerous. So why do cats partake in this activity?
Cat lovers are aware that cats are very dexterous. Their paws can be used to push items around, hook and fling them across the room or stabilize a moving item. My cat loves to bat crumpled up paper across the floor, grab it with his teeth, fling it up, catch it in his paws and bat it around the room again. Cats are also quite taken with fast moving objects such as moths, a popular target in my household. Cats are also quite curious and will go to extreme lengths to satisfy that curiosity. Put all these kitty behaviors together and it is not unexpected when cats push items onto the floor.
There are two reasons cats enjoy knocking items off a desk or bookshelf or other platform. First is the play instinct of batting an object around and watching it move quickly away as prey will do. When an object falls to the floor the speed and sound it makes as it splats are attractive to the cat’s play drive. In some cases with lighter objects, a cat can continue her playtime by now batting the object around the room.
Second when an item hits the floor with a loud bang the humans in the household will invariably come to investigate. Over time a cat sees this as positive behavior to garner attention. The cat know his owner will come and see what disaster has befallen him and provide attention.. Even if the attention is unpleasant a lonely cat will desire it just the same.
The easiest way to stop this behavior is not to leave objects lying around for your cat to play with. Especially objects light enough for your cat to push over the edge. Keep fragile items that you do like to display in a protected area away from your cat such as a closed room or an enclosed cabinet. Another easy fix for permanent objects is to affix them to the platform they rest on using double sided tape or some other holder. The double sided sticky tape can also be placed around the object. When the cat steps on the tape and becomes stuck they quickly learn to avoid this area.
If your cat is getting ready to create a disaster, instead of running over and yelling to stop her make a noise elsewhere in the house. When your cat turns to determine what the noise is, have at the ready some type of positive reinforcement such as a treat, or a toy, or maybe a laser bug. Redirecting the behavior can prevent the cat’s original intention. If you run toward the cat yelling she may see it as an attempt to play and know the item over regardless of your displayed displeasure.
To prevent this behavior altogether try providing your cate with interactive toys. These are toys that give your cat a job, usually problem solving to get a prize, typically food. In the wild cats have to hunt their prey. These puzzle toys mimic that behavior. Have several different puzzle toys in the home and rotate them every few weeks so your cat does not get bored.
So cats knock items off your desk because it is fun and gets your attention. Prevention is worth a pound of cure...lock up your valuables, anchor them on the shelf and provide alternate means of entertainment for your cat. Laser pointers, catnip toys and interactive puzzle toys are all positive alternatives. And never forget to spend quality time each day with your cat. A physical display of love is the best deterrent of all.