BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

Why Does My Cat Try to Bury Her Food: Is It A Cause for Concern?

Cat trying to bury her food
Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

Does your cat try to cover her food with anything she can get her paws on? Have you noticed her trying to take the corner of a rug and pulling it up over her food dish? Then you’ve likely asked yourself: ‘why does my cat try to bury her food?’

Our favorite animal does have several weird habits, and one of these is the weird interest in burying food. Is this normal or should you be worried when your cat does this? Why do cats do this? We’ll give you the facts on why our feline friends do this and whether you should be concerned or just be amused.

In this article, we will first explain several theories as to why cats try to bury their food. After that, we will show you what to do the next time your cat does this in case you are bothered by this act.

Why Do Cats Try to Bury Their Food?

Cat owners often notice that their pets are fond of burying or hiding their food. You may notice your cat scraping her front paw on the ground around the bowl. You may also catch her pushing the bowl around in an attempt to bury the food.

And there could even be times when you observe your cat scratching invisible earth over her food. Worst, the cat’s attempts to dig imaginary earth would cause her to knock the dishes all over the place.

Those acts can be funny at times, but let’s face it: it can drive cat parents nuts. The most common reason presented is that cats do this when they don’t like their food.

But you’d also realize that felines would still continue doing this weird habit even after eating. So why in the world do cats try to bury their food?

There have been several theories offered by experts to explain why cats seemingly love to bury their food. Let’s take a closer look at some of them:

Theory 1: Food Caching

cat having a lot of food

One of the popular explanations behind this cat behavior is that felines instinctively do this to store their food for future use. Also called food caching, this natural behavior in cats has also been observed in other members of the Felidae family such as bobcats and leopards.

The leopard, in particular, has been noted to climb trees where it would store its uneaten food. Although the methods may be different, the reason they do this is the same: so that the food will be out of reach of other predators like lions and hyenas.

The leopards will then return to the ground to hunt for more food. These big cats would go back to the trees to eat and cache again.

Bobcats have also exhibited the same behavior in the wild. When a bobcat, for example, kills a prey that’s too much to consume in one sitting, it would cover the remains of its food with leaves, twigs, grass, and other debris. The bobcat would go back again to the area where it kept the food to finish eating it.

Other larger cats like panthers and cheetahs are known to do this as well. Panthers, for instance, have been observed to rake leaves and twigs over the remains of a kill to hide it from scavengers.

As you can see, burying food for future consumption is ingrained in cats. And this feline behavior has long been observed.

The caching of uneaten food was first documented by an English writer named John George Wood who wrote a book titled “Illustrated Natural History” in 1853. In that book, he described the behavior of his cat named “Pret” who at times went to extreme ends to cover up leftover food.

He wrote that his cat would cover up the remains of her food with a piece of paper. His cat would even attempt to drag a tablecloth just to cover her food.

This habit of storing food for future use is believed to be inherently hard-wired in cats—even those who were raised in an indoor setting. While our pets are not scavengers like their bigger cousins bobcats and panthers, they would still try to hide their food from other pets in the household with the intention of coming back and finishing the food later.

This is very much true in cats that live in a household with multiple pets. Vets and feline behaviorists explain that cats who are part of a household with many pets will cache their food with the aim of preserving it for future consumption.

Theory 2: Avoiding Unwanted Attention

cat hiding

In the wild, members of the Felidae family bury their food so that their predators won’t smell it. Consequently, they avoid being tracked by their enemies. The scent of their food can give bigger animals such as coyotes, foxes, and mountain lions the opportunity to locate them. By covering their food, cats will be able to eliminate that probability.

It is almost the same as when they try to bury their poop or urine. Hiding their waste is one way for cats to avoid getting the attention of their predators. It also protects their kittens against unwanted attention.

Burying their food is one of the strong survival instincts of felines that can keep them safe in the jungle. And while there are no predators to hurt her in your home, your cat would still continue with this behavior because it is innate in her. This behavior is also prominent in stray or feral cats that tend to be in more danger than household felines.

Theory 3: They Don’t Like Their Food

cat doesn't like her food

Perhaps the most obvious explanation behind cats trying to bury their food is they simply don’t like it. Does your cat sniff the food before burying it? Worse, does she beg for something different? Then the answer is clear—your pet simply doesn’t like what you have prepared for her.

The food you’ve prepared for your pet may not be appetizing enough for her. Or she just doesn’t like the way it smells. Either way, your cat is telling you that her food is not good enough for her.

Cats saying ‘no’ to their food may be a result of a change in her diet. Did you change her diet from wet to dry or the other way around? If so, burying her food is the cat’s way of expressing disapproval to the change.

This is not surprising because cats are known for being fussy about their food. Changes in their diet can upset them.

See Also: How to Get Cat to Eat

Theory 4: They Have Issues with the Food Bowl

cat with food bowls

Cats are notoriously clean creatures who dislike being near something dirty. They also hate it when they eat from a food bowl that isn’t cleaned well.

If your cat has been burying her food repeatedly, then it could be due to cleanliness (or lack of it). Perhaps your cat is disgusted by the food bowl not being clean enough. Make sure that her dish is washed well and that could put a stop to all the digging.

But what if your cat’s bowl is regularly cleaned and your cat still buries her food? Then maybe it’s due to the scent of her litter.

Did you place the food bowl next to her litter box? If you answered yes, then don’t be surprised that your cat has been trying to bury her food. She’s disgusted by the idea of having to eat near her litter. So better move that litter box to another location if you don’t want her repeatedly burying her food.

It’s also possible your cat is burying her food because she doesn’t like the size and type of bowl used. Remember that cats have very sensitive whiskers. This is particularly true for felines with long ones. If the food bowl is so narrow or too small that it forces the cat’s whiskers to touch the sides, then your cat would feel upset.

Veterinarians say that when felines stick their faces into deep or narrow bowls, the feeling of their whiskers rubbing up against the sides of the bowl can be stressful. This is also called whisker fatigue which can lead them to fight with other cats, grow apprehensive, and yes, even knock over their food bowls.

Theory 5: They No Longer Want to Eat

black cat not wanting to eat

Finally, another potential reason why cats attempt to put away their food is they’re done with it, and they don’t want to eat anymore. Burying food they no longer want to eat is akin to hiding their toys when they no longer want to play with it. Getting the food out of their sight can stop their reflex to eat.

How to Stop Your Cat from Burying her Food

Let’s face it—the act of trying to bury her food is a harmless feline behavior. It should not be a cause for concern at all. But if you are bothered by this behavior, then there are several tips you might want to keep in mind:

#1: Check the food

vegetables for cat

As you might know, cats are very picky when it comes to food. If their food tastes or smells bad, then cats would want to put it away. Double check that the food is not stale by looking over the expiry dates indicated on the packaging. The food you have given to your cat may have become stale.

Check, too, if the can or box was damaged as this could have contributed to the food inside becoming smelly. You can also smell the cat food or inspect it to see if there is mold on it.

#2: Warm the food

If the food isn’t stale but still unappealing to your pet, then one reason why your cat refuses to eat it is because it is too cold. Cats are known to avoid eating cold food even if it tastes good. They prefer strong-smelling food. Warm the food to increase the appetizing smell and make it more appealing to your feline.

#3: Ensure that your cat is not ill

vet checking a cat

A pet who’s feeling unwell will have a poor appetite. It is possible that this can lead to her not being interested in the food, or worse, trying to bury it. If you suspect that your cat is ill, then schedule a trip to the veterinarian.

See Also: How to Tell If Your Cat is Sick

#4: Careful food storage

Observe your cat if she’s eaten the food you gave her. If she tries to bury her food after eating, simply pick up her food and put it away. If you gave her dry food, keep it in a cool place like the refrigerator. Offer the food later.

In the event that you gave her wet food, just throw it away. Don’t leave her wet food out for more than 30 minutes as this could result in spoilage. In case your cat turns her nose up at the food you have just served, put it away and try another brand.

You may also consider giving your pet smaller portions. Take note of the amount of food she typically eats in a meal so that you won’t be offering too much food in the future.

#6: Change the food bowl

Avoid serving food in a bowl if you suspect that your cat is getting whisker fatigue. You can use a dish with low sides or a saucer instead of a food bowl if you suspect that whisker fatigue is causing her to knock over her dish.

You may also use a large and lipless flowing water source for your pet’s drink. The use of a cat water fountain can also help your cat avoid whisker fatigue.

See Also: DIY Cat Water Fountain

Wrap Up

cat burying food

Trying to bury or hide their food is an innate behavior in cats. This has been observed in their bigger cousins like leopards, panthers, and bobcats who do this primarily to store their food for future use.

It’s also believed to be a way for them to avoid being tracked by their predators in the wild. The behavior is still apparent in domesticated cats despite not being scavengers like their ancestors.

There are other explanations for this weird habit. It’s possible that your cat does this because she simply doesn’t like the food. Or her food bowl is dirty and has a bad smell. Or perhaps her whiskers are getting irritated by her food bowl.

While there are many probable reasons behind this feline behavior, one thing is for sure: it’s not a cause for concern. Cats would try to bury their food from time to time, but you should not be worried about it at all unless your cat seems to be losing her appetite rapidly and hasn’t been eating.

What do you think caused your cat to start burying her food? Do you think it’s a cause for concern? Leave your comments below and tell us what you think! Also, check out our article on homemade cat food to increase your cat’s appetite.

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.

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