Why does my cat try to bury his food?

+61 votes
asked May 14, 2015 in Pets & Animals by Heather (790 points)
My cat paws at the floor around his food bowls as if he’s digging. Does that mean he would rather bury it than eat it? He’s done this since he was a kitten. Is it his natural instinct to hide the food?

2 Answers

+30 votes
answered May 24, 2015 by Alysia (700 points)
It’s normal for a cat to go act as though they are burying the remains of their food after a meal. They may do this whether or not there is any food left in the bowl. The reason is that the cat is hiding his leftovers so nobody else can eat it. Wild relatives of the domestic cat, such as the Scottish Wild Cat, sometimes bury their food. However, small cats usually eat all their prey in one sitting because a bird or mouse can be consumed in a single meal. Larger cats kill much larger prey, so they more often find the need to hide the remainders of the carcass. Leopards are known to hide their food in trees to protect it from other animals. Bobcats, pumas, and cheetahs are also known to hide their leftovers, sometimes by covering it with leaves.

There is another belief about this behavior, which is that a cat tries to bury their leftover food because they think it’s poop. This is most evident when a cat eats some of their food, decides they dislike it, and starts pawing the floor. They may look at you as they do this. My neighbor’s cat Samantha does this whenever I feed her dry food. She likes the soft food that comes in foil containers, but hates the dry food from a packet. When I surrender and get out her favorite tuna flavored jelly, she immediately devours it completely. Then she paws at the ground for a bit, just in case any little crumbs remain.
+10 votes
answered May 19, 2015 by Brandi (800 points)
Why does my cat try to bury his food? My experience may help you.

My cat is done with his meal by attempting to bury his food on the laminate floor (he’s never very successful, however!). We often joke that he’s trying to hide it from the dog. But in reality, it’s probably natural instinct, to save the leftovers for later by hiding it from other predators. It sure is cute, seeing him try to cover his food dish. It seems your cat is not alone in this odd behavior!

I remember when I was a kid, I had a dog who used to bury her Milkbones in the gravel of the driveway, which was much easier than digging a hole in the hard ground. We’d see her out there pushing the gravel with her nose to save her treat for later!
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