Why Does My Cat Knock Over Cups?

Cats are notorious for knocking over cups and other various objects off tables and shelves. This is admittedly frustrating and bothersome, but is typically normal cat behavior.

So, why does my cat knock over cups? The most likely reason your cat is knocking cups over is because they either want to play, want attention, or simply because they see the inanimate object as prey and as a result, are deciding to attack it.

Rarely, your cat may be trying to tell you she has some basic needs that are not being met. We will explore some reasons why cats knock over cups, when to be concerned, and how you can alleviate the issue.

Cats Are Hunters

While domesticated cats are obviously gentler than their king-of-the-jungle relatives, they still possess the innate desire to hunt. Your fluffy kitty may purr gently on your lap and appear completely harmless, but the reality is: your cat is a predator.

In the domesticated setting, they are known to hunt rodents – specifically mice. While playing the cat and mouse game, they may honestly mistake a cup, or similar tabletop object as a mouse. They treat it as prey and use their sensitive paw pads to investigate, which often results in knocking it onto the floor.

Cats Use Their Paws to Communicate

Cat touching a cup
Cat touching a cup

How could a cat mistake an inanimate object (such as a cup) for a mouse? It is important to understand how cats use their paws and how much information they receive from them. Their paws contain a huge amount of nerve receptors. These receptors can tell a cat the texture of an object, size, and pressure. 

Their paws even allow them to feel vibrations. Therefore, they bat or swat whatever is in front of them to determine if it is a potential meal. Interestingly, even if cat’s have eaten a meal recently and don’t feel hunger pangs, they are still hardwired to hunt and won’t surpass the opportunity to capture prey. 

They do this as a self-preservation mechanism. Since hunting can be challenging and not always successful, they do not necessarily wait until hunger strikes. If an opportunity presents itself, cats will exhibit their predatory tendencies and attempt to capture their prey. This ensures that they will have a meal waiting for them when they get hungry again.

Cats Want Attention

Cats have a reputation for being anti-social and independent. This is exactly why some people prefer cats as pets over other animals, because they are relatively low maintenance.  However, they still crave love and attention from their humans. They have creative ways of vying for your attention, some of which may cause some frustration.

A common way your cat tries to get your attention is by knocking cups or other objects on to the floor.  According to Amy Shojai, a certified animal behavior consultant, cats will knock things over to get a reaction out of you. They enjoy watching their owner’s reaction to a glass suddenly shattering on the ground, and they use that to their advantage.

Cats are quite intelligent creatures, learn from experience and can even associate memories with emotions. Cats do not necessarily care if they are rewarded or not for their behavior. If they got a reaction out of you, they received the attention they needed.

Keep in mind that every cat is different. Some may need a lot of love and attention, while others are content with more alone time.  Cats also go through phases as they grow, so keep an eye on how their behavior changes overtime and cater to their needs accordingly.

Cats Just Want to Have Fun

You have heard the idiom, “curiosity killed the cat.” Cats are nosy little creatures and have fun by exploring their surroundings. This is especially true if they detect any changes to their environment. When they discover a new object, they will investigate.

Besides utilizing their paws as a hunting tool, cats are also very playful by nature. They simply enjoy swatting and chasing things. As mentioned above, cats use their paws to inspect objects. This leads to them swatting or batting at whatever is in their way and often knocking things to the ground.

Their curiosity needs to be satisfied by physically inspecting an object. Using their paws to feel various objects satisfies their curiosity, and ultimately their need for fun.

How Can I Stop This Behavior?

Cat staring on a cup
Cat staring on a cup

It can be difficult to detect why exactly your cat is knocking over your cups. Are their basic needs not being satisfied? Are they bored, do they need attention, or are they simply acting out their predatory instincts? Regardless of the reason, this irritating behavior can be deterred. First, ensure your cat’s basic needs are being met.

Keeping Them Hydrated

Make sure your cat has enough to eat, drink, and a secure place to sleep. In this particular case though, where your cat is knocking over cups, you’ll want to put your main focus on ensuring your cat’s fully hydrated since it’s likely that the need to hydrate themselves is the reason they’re knocking your cups over in the first place. 

Needless to say, it’s vital to ensure that your cat is drinking enough water. Cats lose fluids through respiration, feces and urine excretion, and overheating. Like all mammals, water is necessary for your cat’s body to function properly. Among other things, water regulates temperature, aids in digestion, carries nutrients to cells, and flushes out waste products.

Make sure your cat always has access to fresh water to prevent dehydration. If you are unsure if your cat is dehydrated, here are some common symptoms to look for.

  •       Increased heart rate
  •       Panting
  •       Dry Mouth
  •       Lethargy
  •       Sunken Eyes

If you are still unsure or notice any of these signs, it is best to contact your veterinarian.

Making Sure They’re Getting Tons of Rest

Lastly, ensure your cat has a secure place to sleep. Good rest is just as important as hydration, so making sure your cat is getting enough sleep is just as necessary as meeting all of their other basic needs. Having said that, cats sleep between 10-13 hours a day, so it is important that they have a safe place to take a snooze.

Cats feel secure sleeping in high places, which allows them to keep an eye on what is happening below them.  They also enjoy warm, dark hideaways, especially in the colder months.  Your cat may also feel safe napping in your bed and cuddling up close with you or another furry friend.

Encouraging Playful Interaction

If all your cat’s basic needs have been met and she continues to knock over your cups, she may just need some attention. Save your cups and avoid cleaning up messes by ensuring your kitty has plenty of toys in the home to play with.

Make sure the toys are interactive and that your cat can also play with them independently if you are not home. To prevent boredom, you can try rotating the toys to different areas of your home or swapping them periodically with new ones.

According to an article on Pet Life Today, here are some highly rated cat toys worth looking into:

  1.       Petlinks Silly Chute Cat Tunnel Toy
  2.       Petstages Tower of Tracks Cat Toy
  3.       Hexbug Nano Robotic Cat Toy
  4.       Petstages Rainy Day Puzzle and Play Cat Toy
  5.       PetSafe Bolt Interactive Laser Cat Toy

Try to get in at least 15 minutes of play time daily to give your cat the attention she needs. If possible, keep this play time around the same time every day as cats thrive on routine.

Playing with your cat on a daily basis will not only give them the attention that they’re craving, but it’ll also ensure that they’re spending their time doing something besides going around and knocking all of your cups over.

In addition to the toys listed above, plush mice, ribbon wands, and balls with bells are also great options to keep your cat occupied and away from the cups around your home!


There is a circulating joke on the internet that says, “if the earth was flat, cats would have pushed everything off it by now.”  You love your cat even when she knocks over a vase or swats your cup off the table, leaving with a slew of messes to clean up around the house.

This behavior can leave you feeling frustrated, but rest assured that knocking over cups is normal. It can sometimes indicate that your cat has some needs that are not being met. However, it is typically just a byproduct of your cat’s nature, whether it be playful or predatory.

If your cat still continues to knock down the cups around your home despite your best efforts at getting them not to, at that point, looking into having your cat be seen by an animal behavioral specialist is probably your next best and most effective option.