A cat digging a hole in the snow outside

Why does my cat try to bury her food? Should I be worried?

Cats love scratching. They scratch to sharpen their nails, cover their toileting, mark their territory, and sometimes just for the heck of it! But when your kitty starts to scratch around her bowl in an attempt to bury their food, that serves a different purpose. It means she’s trying to bury her food. But why?

A few possible reasons

Rest assured, it is relatively common and usually nothing to worry about. There are several theories as to why cats scratch around their bowl. In the wild, cats are both predators and prey. One theory is that cats would bury any leftover food to avoid attracting predators to the smell of flesh – a safety mechanism to try to avoid attracting any unwanted attention.

They will also bury leftovers to avoid scaring off potential meals (since half-eaten carcasses could alert their prey to the fact that something is hunting in the area). If a cat takes a dislike to the smell of the food, it may try to bury it to cover the offending odor.

If you offer your cat more food than they can manage, then they may scratch around the food bowl trying to bury the rest for the later. Cats are naturally very clean creatures, so they are clearing up after themselves.

Another theory is that they are trying to bury any leftover food so that they can come back to it later, keeping it safe and cool. This is less likely, since cats aren’t naturally scavengers. This may be a possibility in the wild if food were in short supply.

Recommended: Read our tips on buying healthy cat food

My cat tries to bury her food, should I be worried?

In most cases, no. This is a natural behavior and is relatively common. However, if your cat is trying to bury her food and is not eating her usual amount, or is not well in herself, then this may signal a problem. Your cat may be trying to bury their food because they are feeling nauseous, so they want to cover the smell of the food.

If the behavior is new, or your cat has a reduced appetite or seems unwell in themselves, then call your veterinarian for advice.

How can I stop this behaviour?

Most of the time, you don’t need to! Scratching around the food bowl is a normal and natural behavior. However, if it is bothering you or damaging your floor, then you may want to try to prevent the behavior. Here are our top tips for stopping your cat from scratching around their food bowl:

  • Try feeding your cat smaller, more frequent meals
  • Take any leftover food away as soon as they finish
  • Cats may be less likely to try to bury leftover dry food, so consider dry food if your cat likes to graze
  • Try distracting them with a toy or game if they start scratching
  • Use a puzzle feeder to encourage natural hunting behavior and avoid leftovers
  • Feed your cat on a surface that can’t be damaged by scratching, such as hard flooring or an old piece of rug

If you have any concerns about your cat’s appetite, seek advice from your veterinarian. Otherwise, there is no need for alarm if your cat scratches around their food bowl. Now the next time your cat looks like she’s trying to bury her leftovers, you won’t be baffled!

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