Why Do Cats Knock Things Off Shelves? How To Dete Them

Crash!! Another ornament lies smashed in pieces on the floor, and your furry culprit looks smugly at you! It’s not the first time, and you’re wondering “why do cats knock things off shelves?”

In this post you’ll discover all about the annoying feline habit that drives you mad! Although it can be funny to see your kitty deliberately knock pens off the shelf, breakables are no joke.

You’ll discover several common reasons why cats knock things off shelves as well as proven tips to help deter. In addition, you’ll learn what not to do and why.

Attention Seeking

I’m sure you’ve worked out by now that cats are not only crafty, but fast learners as well! If your cat performs an action that gets your attention, she’ll remember.

Whether that’s launching herself at your laptop or knocking things of shelves, if it works she’ll do it again. Attention seeking behavior is really common with cats.

There are many reasons why your cat is demanding attention. These can include boredom, hunger, or a desire to play with you!

If knocking ornaments off a shelf distracts you from work, your cat has achieved her goal!She now has your undivided attention.


Cats often knock things of shelves to play with them. This is all part of your cat’s natural hunting instinct. If you’ve ever seen your cat play with a live mouse, this is the exact same thing.

Cats are cruel hunters and toy with their prey even if they’ve no intention of eating it. Well, that ornament may not be a mouse but your cat is still acting on her instincts.

One thing to note is cats are near sighted. This is another reason your cat may be toying with your knick knacks. As your cat can’t see things clearly under her nose, batting them can determine if they’re live prey!

She’ll soon learn that batting an ornament off the shelf gets your immediate attention. It may also mean she gets a few extra kibbles.

Great result for your cat, and a break from work for you!

How To Stop Your Cat Knocking Things Off The Shelf

stop cat knocking things off shelved-distract with a toy

If your cat’s behavior is starting to wear a bit thin, you’ll be pleased to hear there are a few things you can do. Deterring your cat from knocking things off shelves isn’t all that hard.

Ignore Your Cat’s Behavior

While it doesn’t take long for cats to learn how to get attention, it can be stopped. By ignoring your cat everytime she knocks something off the shelf you’re letting her know this won’t work anymore!

Make sure you put breakables in a safe place first. You don’t want to find your best vase in pieces on the floor!

Ignore any temptation to jump up and shout at your cat. Not that our feline friends respond to harsh words anyway! Remember, cats have their own agenda and do whatever they please.

Also, raising your voice may scare your cat. It’s far better to reward good behavior

Spend Time Playing With Your Cat Each Day

Most of us lead busy lives, but finding ten minutes twice a day to play with your cat shouldn’t be hard. This will be good for both of you.

Not only will you be burning off some of your cat’s energy, but you’ll feel calm and relaxed as well. Invest in a selection of cat toys and rotate them so your cat doesn’t get bored.

Distract Your Cat With A Toy

If playing with your cat doesn’t stop her knocking things off the shelf, try distracting her with a toy. Feather wands or laser pointers can work well.

In fact, you can get interactive toys such as self rotating balls. This means you don’t need to be present. Just start the toy and hopefully your cat will chase the ball and forget about the shelf!

Get Your Cat Her Own Shelf!

It may be surprising to learn you can actually buy cat shelves! These fix on to a wall giving your cat her own playground. In fact you can find all manner of designs to suit your cat and your décor.

You could also get a cat tree if you have enough space. Place it near a window so your cat is able to watch local wildlife from a comfortable perch.

Place a few toys on the perches as well to encourage play and distract her attention. The more things your cat has to occupy her, the less chance she’ll look for mischief!

Make Your Shelves Undesirable Places To Hang Out

make your shelves undesirable places for your cat

You could place sticky tape on your shelf to deter your cat. As cats dislike putting their paws on anything sticky this could work well.

You also try this on counter tops or anywhere else you don’t want your cat to jump. In addition, cats don’t like certain smells such as citrus

While you can buy citrus spray, it’s easy to slice peel from a lemon or orange and place on the shelf. Also, you can get natural repellent sprays such as Mighty Petz that don’t contain harmful ingredients.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has helped answer your question, “why do cats knock things off shelves?” As you’ve discovered there may be a number of reasons for this unwanted behavior.

From attention seeking to boredom, once your cat has formed this habit it can stay for some time. Following the tips outlined here may help stop your cat knocking things off shelves.

Whether you spend extra time playing with your cat each day, or make your shelves less desirable places to hang out, do whatever works and stick with it.

Even if that means investing in a few toys to distract your cat from the shelf that’s great. Always remember to rotate them though as cats get bored easily.

If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful please share. Feel free to share this pin on your “pets” board.

Why Do Cats Knock Things Off Shelves pin

Also if you have any questions or want to share experiences, leave a comment below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)

15 thoughts on “Why Do Cats Knock Things Off Shelves? How To Dete Them”

  1. Loki, my cat, knocks things off a window ledge when he wants to get out and since he always does it when I’m fast asleep – usually around 4 am – and he tends to knock over the modem, my first reaction is to get up and rush over to protect the modem (since I’ve just been awoken from my sleep). Since I live in a trailer and the connection to the solar power is a short cable I can’t place the modem somewhere else. Last year I figured out a trick to allow Loki to open the door by himself which stopped him from doing it but this year he seems to have “forgotten” the trick or is just lazy. If I need to sleep all night I just leave him outside at night or I disconnect the modem before I go to bed and place it on the table.
    Ignoring such antics will be a good way to handle it once my house is built and I can move things to different shelves and places 😉

    • Hi Christine, your cat certainly knows how to get your attention lol! Cats are so clever and you may be right that Loki is just being lazy! Hope your new house is completed soon then you’ll have more space ☺

  2. Hi Kathy,

    Thank you for the article and the funny pictures and video!
    It definitely put a smile on my face.

    It is such a responsibility to have pets, not just taking care of their physical health but also mental one by making them feel seen and included. The latter is done as you mentioned above by playing with them and spending quality time.
    I recognise this behaviour a little in my green cheek conure parakeet. He also needs attention. If he does not get it, he will demand it! He will start screaming, flying around, etc. He definitely manages to get me off work 🙂

    How many cats do you have Kathy?


    • Hi Tatiana, glad you enjoyed this post, and yes, the video is funny! Absolutely, if you have a pet you’re responsible for its wellbeing. Your Parakeet sounds quite a character. In answer to your question I have just one cat. He’s very territorial and would find it challenging accepting another cat. Thanks for stopping by☺

  3. Now I know why I have a dog instead of a cat haha. I guess if cats are not trained well, they can be quite a destructive force. I guess a cat’s personality can also have an influence regarding this kind of behaviour, besides being bored etc.

    • Hi Schalk, yes cats can certainly be destructive if bored! All cats are different but most know exactly how to get attention!

  4. Excellent article Kathy, thank you for writing it! You definitely can not leave a cat up to its own devices unless you leave it in nature of course. They just end up everywhere in the house they are not supposed to be. I had one once that I never petted and he’d still crawl right up in the middle of me just because he wanted to! I am wondering, are those your cats in the video?

    • Hi Joseph, glad you enjoyed this post ☺ cats have a mind of their own and if they want to do something it’s hard to stop them!yes, cats will jump on you even if not petted. In fact, I think it makes them more determined to get attention! No, the cats in the video are not mine. Thanks for stopping by☺

    • Hi Joseph, glad you enjoyed this post ☺ cats have a mind of their own and if they want to do something it’s hard to stop them!yes, cats will jump on you even if not petted. I’m fact, I think it makes them more determined to get attention! Thanks for stopping by☺

  5. Hey Kathy,
    I really enjoyed reading your article about cat behaviour and knocking things off shelves. I’m a former cat owner but now with child approaching 6 years old, we’re considering pet options for her. At this stage its fish vs cat vs dog vs chicken. Ultimately we’ll let her decide but if we do go with a cat, this post is super-helpful.

    I love the tips about sticky tape, citrus smells or even citrus essential oils could be used. But even before that to play with your cat and give it its own play shelf or climbing unit seem good ways to stop losing breakables.

    • Hi John, glad you enjoyed this post:) I hope your daughter decides on a cat, or maybe get all of them lol! Yes, cats hate putting their paws on sticky surfaces so sticky tape is a good deterrent. And, yes, giving a cat its own shelf can certainly help distract him or her from breakables:)

  6. The post title is so intriguing that I cannot miss it, and it’s also something I like to understand. It seems that a cat has a high IQ to get people’s attention and have fun playing, but it’s also true that people don’t want to see a broken vase on the ground. And, using citrus spray on the shelves is brilliant. I cannot wait to share this post with my sister, who has a naughty cat…

    Thanks for sharing,

    • Hi Matt, nice to see you hear again and glad you enjoyed this posts:) Yes, cats are highly intelligent and enjoy seeing things fall off shelves! Thank you for sharing this with your sister, and I’m sure she’ll enjoy reading its:)

  7. This post got me really hooked from the start. And it’s quite funny too. I’m impressed to see how pets think. Cats must be really really smart animals.

    I totally understood the part of not feeding their attention so they learn to stop their funny habits. Although I was wondering if they don’t get pissed about being ignored and throw a massive tantrum.

    It’s nice to know there are specially made shelves for them they can play with. From constantly following your posts, I think having a pet cat is way easier nowadays. I love that.

    Your post is always educative and entertaining. Keep it up Kathy.


    • Hi Femi, nice to see you here again:) Yes, cats love attention and quickly learn what works! By simply ignoring bad habits such as pushing things off shelves you may find your cat soon gets bored:) Giving your cat her own shelf is perfect for encouraging play and exercise without causing destruction! Glad you enjoyed this post:)


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