Behavioral problems

Why Do Cats Throw Things on the Floor?

 
Olivia Grisham
By Olivia Grisham, Journalist specialized in animal care. Updated: June 28, 2023
Why Do Cats Throw Things on the Floor?
Cats

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Cats may engage in the behavior of knocking or throwing things on the floor for various reasons. It can be influenced by their natural instincts and behavioral traits. It can equally be influenced by the level and quality of care they receive. Although many guardians think cats do not need training, they need to learn certain boundaries in the home. We also need to know that knocking things over can be part of the deal when adopting a cat. For this reason, AnimalWised asks why do cats throw things on the floor? We explain the reasons behind this behavior and what you can try to do to stop it.

You may also be interested in: My Is Rabbit Digging on the Floor

Contents

  1. Hunting instinct
  2. Play simulation
  3. Attention-seeking behavior
  4. Territorial marking
  5. Environmental factors
  6. How to stop a cat throwing things on the floor

Hunting instinct

A cat's hunting instinct itself doesn't specifically drive them to throw things on the floor. Instead, their hunting instinct may contribute to behaviors like swatting, batting or knocking objects around.

When cats engage in play or simulate hunting behavior, they may exhibit actions such as pawing at toys or objects. In the process, they may unintentionally cause them to fall or move. It's not necessarily a deliberate act of throwing things on the floor, but rather a result of their natural inclination to interact with objects in their environment.

Cats' hunting instincts are deeply ingrained and involve a combination of stalking, pouncing and capturing prey. By engaging in these playful actions with objects, they are satisfying their predatory instincts and practicing skills necessary for survival in the wild.

It's worth noting that individual cat behaviors can vary. Some cats may display more object-oriented play behaviors than others. Providing appropriate outlets for play, such as interactive toys, can help redirect their hunting instincts towards appropriate targets and reduce the likelihood of knocking over household items.

Learn more about how to redirect this behavior with our article on ideas for how to play with your cat.

Play simulation

When cats engage in play behavior, they may exhibit actions such as batting, swatting, or tossing objects. Here's an expansion on why cats throw things on the floor as part of their play behavior:

  • Prey simulation: play behavior in cats often mimics hunting behavior. By throwing objects on the floor, such as toys or small items, cats simulate the actions they would take when pursuing and capturing prey in the wild. This can include batting or swatting objects to mimic the movements of a live target.

  • Movement and stimulation: Cats are attracted to objects that move or have an interesting texture. When they throw objects on the floor, it can create movement, making the play experience more engaging and stimulating for them. The unpredictability of an object's trajectory or the sound it makes upon hitting the floor can add excitement to their play.

  • Release of energy: cats have natural instincts and energy levels that need an outlet. Throwing objects on the floor allows them to channel their excess energy and fulfill their need for physical activity. It can be a way for them to burn off energy and engage in a playful and interactive experience.

  • Playful hunting practice: as explained above, by throwing objects on the floor and engaging in play behavior, cats can refine their hunting skills.
Why Do Cats Throw Things on the Floor? - Play simulation

Attention-seeking behavior

When cats throw things on the ground for attention-seeking reasons, it can be attributed to the following causes:

  • Interaction and engagement: cats are social animals that require mental and physical stimulation. By throwing objects on the ground, they may be seeking attention and interaction from their human companions. They have learned that engaging in such behavior often leads to a response from their owners, whether it's scolding, reprimanding, or even positive attention. The act of throwing objects can be a way for cats to initiate playtime or solicit interaction from their owners.
  • Reinforcement: cats are quick learners and can associate certain behaviors with desired outcomes. If a cat has received attention or rewards in the past when they threw objects on the ground, they may continue to engage in this behavior as a means to gain attention. It becomes a learned behavior that is reinforced by the response they receive from their owners.
  • Boredom or loneliness: cats may resort to attention-seeking behaviors when they feel bored or lonely. If they lack sufficient mental and physical stimulation, they may become restless and seek ways to capture their owner's attention. By throwing objects on the ground, they can elicit a response and alleviate their boredom or feelings of isolation.
  • Communication: cats communicate through various behaviors, including attention-seeking actions. By throwing objects on the ground, they may be trying to convey their needs or desires to their owners. It can be a way for them to express their desire for play, interaction, or even a need for food or attention.

Territorial marking

Cats have scent glands on their paws, and when they touch or knock objects, they can leave their scent on them. This behavior might serve as a way for cats to mark their territory, claiming ownership of the area or object.

It won't likely be that they want to knock the object to the floor. Instead, cats use their claws to mark due to scent glands on their paws. When they scratch, these glands secrete pheromones which notify other cats and animals of their presence. Instead of trying to throw the object deliberately, they may have been trying to mark it and knocked it over by accident.

When they are being territorial, a cat may spray as a way to mark. Learn more with our article on why a neutered cat keeps spraying.

Environmental factors

Several environmental factors can contribute to a cat's tendency to knock things over. Here are some common factors that may influence this behavior:

  • Curiosity and exploration: cats are naturally curious animals and enjoy investigating their surroundings. When they encounter objects that are within their reach, they may engage in playful exploration by batting or pawing at them, which can sometimes result in objects being knocked over.

  • Lack of stimulation: cats require mental and physical stimulation to keep them engaged and prevent boredom. If a cat doesn't have enough environmental enrichment, toys or opportunities for play, they may resort to knocking things over as a way to create activity and alleviate their boredom. Learn more with our article on signs a cat is bored.

  • Accessible objects: if objects are easily accessible to a cat, either on low shelves, tables or countertops, they are more likely to be knocked over. Cats may be attracted to objects that have interesting textures, shapes or are movable, leading them to interact with and potentially knock them down.

  • Unstable or unsecured objects: objects that are unsteady, loosely balanced, or placed on the edge of a surface are more likely to be knocked over. Cats' movements, such as jumping or brushing against objects, can unintentionally cause them to fall or topple if they are not securely positioned.

  • Vertical space and climbing opportunities: cats are natural climbers and enjoy perching on elevated surfaces. If they don't have access to appropriate vertical spaces or furniture, they may attempt to reach objects placed higher up, potentially resulting in knocking them down in the process.

  • Frustration: cats may resort to knocking objects over as a form of communication or to express frustration. If they feel ignored, anxious or want attention, they may engage in attention-seeking behaviors, including knocking over objects, to elicit a response from their owners.

How to stop a cat throwing things on the floor

When it comes to addressing a cat's behavior of throwing things on the floor, you will need to work out the cause. Each cause will have a specific course of action, but the following are some practical strategies you can try to stop cats knocking things over:

  • Provide appropriate outlets for play: engage your cat in regular interactive play sessions using toys that allow them to engage in hunting and chasing behaviors. This can help redirect their energy and focus onto appropriate objects, reducing the likelihood of them throwing other items. Wand toys, interactive puzzle toys, and treat-dispensing toys are great options.

  • Create a stimulating environment: ensure your cat's environment is enriched with toys, scratching posts, and vertical spaces. This helps satisfy their natural instincts and provides alternative outlets for their energy. Offer a variety of toys with different textures, shapes, and interactive features to keep them engaged.

  • Secure valuable or fragile objects: if certain objects are consistently targeted by your cat, it's best to secure or remove them from your cat's reach. Store valuable or fragile items in cabinets or display them in areas that are inaccessible to your cat. This minimizes the temptation and prevents accidental damage.

  • Use deterrents: you can utilize deterrents to discourage your cat from accessing off-limits areas or engaging in unwanted behaviors. For example, double-sided sticky tape can be placed on surfaces or objects you want to protect, as most cats dislike the sticky sensation on their paws.

  • Positive reinforcement: reinforce and reward desirable behaviors. Whenever your cat engages in appropriate play or interacts with designated toys, provide praise, treats or other forms of positive reinforcement. This helps associate positive experiences with appropriate play behavior and encourages them to continue engaging with those toys. Learn more about positive reinforcement in cats.

  • Redirect and interrupt: if you catch your cat in the act of throwing objects on the floor, calmly and gently redirect their attention to an appropriate toy or activity. Use toys that require them to focus and engage physically, such as a feather wand or interactive puzzle toy.

  • Consistency and patience: changing behavior takes time and consistency. Be patient with your cat and continue providing appropriate outlets for play. Avoid scolding or punishing your cat, as it can lead to fear or anxiety and may not effectively address the underlying cause of the behavior.

If the behavior persists or becomes problematic, it's advisable to consult with a veterinarian or a professional animal behaviorist. They can provide personalized guidance based on your cat's specific situation. They can assess the behavior in the context of your cat's overall well-being and provide tailored strategies to address it effectively.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Do Cats Throw Things on the Floor?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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Why Do Cats Throw Things on the Floor?