Burying Food Is An Instinctive Behavior For Cats
Cats fake cover their food by scratching around the bowl, sometimes spending more time than seems reasonable doing it. Later, they may uncover the food by removing the imaginary dirt, which is particularly strange to witness.
Some cats will literally cover their food: commonly with newspaper, carpeting, and towels. Theyll drag an object from some other location in the home and place it right on top of their food bowl.
The food-covering behavior is instinctive in other words, its not something that mama cat taught your kitty when she was a baby, but something ancient and automatic that your cat does without thinking.
Why Do Cats Bury Their Food Explanation For Cats Burying Their Food
Its understandable of you thinking that why do cats bury their food or rather pretend to do so in different situations when they arent being able to actually hide it. You may think of it as a completely bizarre act but it is actually embedded in the personality of all felines. If you want to know more about why they do it and how to deal with it, continue to read below.
What To Do If Your Cats Behavior Is A Problem
Many cat owners are happy to leave their cats to their instinctive food-burying rituals if theyre not doing any harm.
But if your cat is damaging your floors or running off and hiding chunks of wet food around the house, then you might want to intervene.
Some cats start to carry out this caching behavior to the point of developing a neurosis. This can be more common in multi-cat households, where the cats might feel like theyre competing for resources. They can then get to the point that they feel the need to hide or bury their food, and they begin to get a little obsessive about it.
In any of these scenarios, the best solution is to supervise your cat as they eat their food, and then remove their bowl when it seems like theyre finished. This removes the object of interest, and you can then distract your cat with something else.
If youre away from home, use an automatic dispenser that provides a small amount of food at a time. This way your cat is less likely to have any leftovers that they decide that they need to cover.
Feed your cat in a room with easy-to-clean floors, or place a large mat down while they eat. You may want to shut the door so they cant take a piece of wet food and go hide it someplace else .
You may decide to consult your vet or a behavioral consultant if your cats burying habit doesnt seem to get better.
Featured Image Credit: Milles Studio, Shutterstock
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Food Covering Is Called Caching And Wild Cats Do It
Scientists call this covering behavior caching and its something wild cats also do. Caching is a way of saving leftovers for later. Hiding the food protects it from scavengers, and might help keep the meat cool and fresh. Wild cats can then leave the uneaten food behind and go about their business, but return later for a snack or another meal.
What Other Behaviors Might Your Cat Show
If your cat attempts to bury her food, there are a variety of other behaviors that she might show that could seem odd to you.
They seem strange, but they are perfectly normal. In fact, these behaviors are just a few of the things a cat has the instincts to do naturally.
The first behavior is when they like to rub against you. Cats do this to mark their territory.
Like dogs, cats have scent glands all over their body, and they use these to mark their territory.
In other words, when your cat is rubbing against you, she is claiming you as being hers. Your cat does not necessarily believe that you are her owner as much as her being the owner of you.
Another natural behavior of a cat is pouncing. You may notice how your cat will sneak up on things like her food or her toys.
Your cat will then pounce on these things. This is not just something that your cat does as a fun way to pass the time.
It is your cats hunting instincts. Even indoor cats have instincts to hunt.
It is in their blood, and it is the reason why if your cat is an outdoor cat, they might bring their latest kill to your doorstep as a present.
This may lead you to wonder exactly that. Why do cats bring you dead animals?
The first option is simply as a present for you. Cats enjoy eating the animals that they hunt, and they believe that we might enjoy them as well.
Even though an uncooked bird is not exactly the cup of tea for humans, it is a nice gesture for your cat to make.
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Why Do Cats Pretend To Bury Their Food
Having established why cats actively bury and hide their food, another question springs to mind. Why do cats fake bury their food? Some cats will go through all the steps associated with burying but seemingly fail to follow through.
Oftentimes, this is the cat battling twin instincts. The overriding drive of the cat is to bury the food, yet hunger pangs eventually supersede this desire. This is especially common when cats live with other pets. The cat may try to bury its food so no other animal can claim it. The cat will eventually have second thoughts, though. The safest place of all is within the feline belly.
Some cats may pretend to bury their food, then walk away. This will take the form of scratching around the bowl. This will have a different explanation.
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Catnip is an herb from the Labiatae mint family. Frankly, its intoxicants give cats a natural high. Feline reactions to catnip are just as natural. If the cat has the catnip gene, he goes crazy for it. If she doesn’t have the gene, she walks away. There is another reaction which puzzles owners: the cat rolls all over the catnip. This means she loves it! Forget about cat toys, the catnip provides instant and lasting play and a great sense of wellbeing. Owners, just remember to give catnip to your baby long before you expect him to settle in for the night. If he goes crazy with it, give catnip to your baby early enough that you both get to sleep on time.
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Youre The Dominant Member Of The Household
These reasons are great for wildcats, but your cat is living in a house, completely safe from predators and larger wildcats. Still, your cat is not the dominant member of the household you are. As such, your cat continues burying its feces as a display to you that it accepts your role as the dominant cat of the area. This means that burying its feces is a behavior you want your cat to continue.
It All Comes Down To A Cats Survival
In the wild, a cat may attempt to bury or cover any uneaten food in order to avoid attracting any predators to the area. It also is an attempt to not alert any other potential prey that a feline hunter is in the vicinity. Cats arent scavengers so they dont bury the food to consume later its strictly for protection purposes. Even an indoor cat who has never set foot outside retains this survival instinct its just a matter of how much it concerns them and that determines to what degree the behavior is displayed.
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Odd Litter Box Behaviors
Sometimes very young kittens cant quite get the hang of the litter box. They may play in it, sleep in it or avoid it altogether. If theyre avoiding it, it could be that their mom wasnt around to show them how to use it or the litter box itself might be too big for them. Make sure they can get in and out of it by themselves.
Adult cats prefer more space in the litter box, enough to turn around in comfortably. My cats favorite box is an Ace Hardware utility tub thats 3 feet long and 2 feet wide, says Dusty. The kittens will slide around, and litter scatters everywhere. But is that a bad thing?
Thats the response you want, Dusty says. A cat should enjoy going to the litter box. He should enjoy digging in the litter, kicking it around. If hes doing his thing and leaving immediately, he has a problem with the facilities youve provided. The box is dirty, he doesnt like the smell or texture of the litter, the box is too small, the box is covered. He should want to dig.
Dusty recalls one cat who would leave his favorite toy in the food bowl, the water bowl and the litter box. The box is very clean, so he was comfortable enough to put his toys there, she says.
They Dont Like The Food
Im sure most of us try to buy the best cat food there is, but one thing that has happened to most of us was to bring the bowl to our cat, watch them inspect it, wrinkle their nose, and leave the room. Their disappointment is evident, but so is ours, I mean no one accepts returns on an open bag full of expensive cat food!
While some cats will simply leave the food untouched others will try to make a statement. They will scratch around the food or theyll try to bury it in an effort to dispose of it. This kind of behavior is similar to what they do in the litter box.
This kitty for example must really dislike human food!
Usually, a cat will not eat the food after they scratch the floor because they see it as waste. But if they dont expect you to give them something tastier, theyll eventually realize that they have to make ends meet.
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Reasons Why Cats Trying To Cover Their Food
Whether its wet or dry food, your kitten prefers burying it under the rug or in the garden rather than consuming it. The same goes for treats and sweets. So whats wrong with her? Is she just trying to be annoying?
Apparently, no. Heres why felines hide food!
1. Its in Her Nature
Its hard looking at your cat and imagining her hunting for birds in the African savannah. After all, she can barely catch a fly on the wall. Your pet may be a couch potato. However, her distant cousins living on the wide African plains are skilled hunters.
The two siblings separated more than 10,000 years ago. One chose the cozy city life, and the other remained in the wild. Still, they share common traits and behaviors that trace back to their earliest foremothers.
Wildcats hunt rodents, birds, and reptiles. When the catch is too large to consume in one sitting, they bury its remains. Felines are not natural scavengers and prefer fresh meals. So, they never come back to eat it.
Instead, they choose to hide it as to cover the foul smell. This way, other predators cannot discover and occupy their hunting grounds. This behavior is also known as caching.
2. Shes a Cleanliness Freak
We all have that one friend obsessed with tidiness. For you, it might just be your cat. However, she doesnt care about how tidy you keep your home. Most importantly, she likes her dining location to be sparklingly clean at all times.
3. She Thinks the Uneaten Food Could Kill Her
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Why Do Cats Bury Their Poop Reasons For This Behavior
Burying items, especially waste, is not at all uncommon in the animal kingdom. Dog owners have long witnessed this behavior from their canine pals, who love to bury all sorts of goodies. But cat owners observe their cats carefully burying their poop a behavior that could make anyone wonder what was going on.
The good news is that this is completely normal behavior and not an indication that anything is wrong. In fact, the opposite is true. If your cat is burying its poop, its a good sign that things are functioning as they should in your household at least within your cats mind. But that wont quench your curiosity. Its strange behavior to meticulously bury ones feces, so why do our cats do it?
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Where Does Caching Come From
Caching originates from our domestic felines wild ancestors preserving prey theyve caught in order to survive.
When catching prey that is too big to eat in one sitting, wild cats like bobcats will bury the remains to return to at a later stage.
Burying their food in the ground helps to cover its smell, thereby preventing other predators from scavenging the catch or moving into their territory.
While our house hunters dont need to do any work for their dinner and have owners to ensure they always have access to food, the instinct to cache remains embedded in their DNA.
How Do You Stop Your Cat From Scratching Around Their Food And Water Bowl
While floor scratching can be harmless and simply a quirk of your feline beauty, it can also become destructive to your floor or carpet. In this case, its quite understandable if youd prefer to keep their sharp claws away from these surfaces!
There are a few easy steps you can take to keep your floors safe, for instance, you could take away your cats food bowl when theyre finished or clean away the leftovers if you used wet food. Also, try giving your kitty small scheduled meals which most likely wont leave leftovers and will keep them full throughout the day.
Consider a puzzle feeder to simulate your cats hunt for meal instinct because according to Dr. Carlo Siracusa, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in their natural environment cats eat about 12 times a day, feasting on small prey like mice and birds.
Serve the food and keep the water bowl on surfaces that cant be damaged and dont leave anything your kitty can use to cover her food, laying around. When you serve food you could try distracting your cat with a toy every time they start scratching the floor and praise them when instead of pawing around the bowl they simply eat.
Using negative means will only break the bond between you and harm your cat. Instead, use positive reinforcement, ignore them when theyve done something bad, and distract them from their destructive behaviors.
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What You Can Do To Stop This Behavior
- Once your cat finishes eating, take the bowl away to prevent scratching. If feeding with wet food, please clean the bowl at once and don’t feed the leftovers again: Wet food spoils quickly.
- At the same time, please make sure your feline has free access to clean water to maintain the moisture balance in her body. She will hardly scratch around it, and you’ll help her prevent many health problems this way.
- Once you see that a cat begins to scratch around, try distracting her with a cat toy and play with her.
- Don’t leave dry food with a cat if she hasn’t eaten the whole portion. Otherwise, you’ll encourage scratching. Instead, limit portions to one meal so your cat wouldn’t have food leftovers to bury.
- Serve food on surfaces that can’t be damaged by the cat’s claws, and take her food bowl away from items she can use to cover her meal.
- If you prefer free feeding or merely don’t want to serve cat food all the time during a day, consider buying a puzzle feeder for your feline. It will encourage her to “hunt” for a meal and distract her from scratching.
And no matter what, please don’t punish a cat for scratching or pawing her food. It’s her natural, not harmful behavior, and she will not understand the reason for your punishment anyway.
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Felines possess an amazing sense of smell. In fact, smells define a cat’s world. Have you noticed? Your feline sticks her snout in your smelly shoes after you take them off? Their noses tweak quickly to any smell related to food. Cats curl up their lips and “sneer” when they are taking in an interesting, intense new odor. “Flehming” is when felines draw that odor into an organ on the roof of their mouths to smell it more deeply. The Jacobson’s organ allows your feline to really take in that smell. The sneer proves it.
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How To Stop An Indoor Cat From Burying Their Food
This behavior is not harmful or serious in any way, but it might annoy you. At the very least, you might end up with scratches on the floor around the cats food dish. Its nothing too serious, but if you want to stop it, there are some steps you can take.
Try to feed the cat a bit less. Cats will only bury the food that they have not consumed. If there is only enough food to feed the cat, but not more, there will be nothing to bury.
Do not leave the food out for the cat once it is done eating. Once you can tell that the cat is not hungry anymore, this is when you should take the food away. If you leave uneaten food laying around for too long, the cat will probably try to bury it.
If your cat still tries to bury food, distract them with some play and it should stop, at least for the time being.