Cats Scratching Around Food, Cats Scratching Around Litterboxes … What’s Up With That?

Ever see cats try to bury food in your kitchen floor or cover up extra around the litterbox? Hear about the instinct that motivates it.

How come my kitty always scratches around his litterbox and food when he is finished? He scratches his litterbox (not the litter itself) for like 5 minutes at a time. I tried to make him stop, but he won’t quit. –Taylor Abrahamson

Cats love to scratch. It facilitates stretching and is good for claw maintenance. Perhaps your cat figures litterbox time is as good as any for a scratch session. Or maybe he wasn’t paying close attention to his mother when she was teaching him how to be a cat. If your cat was still in the wild, he might leave his waste unburied to mark his territory. Or he might bury it to demonstrate respect for a dominant top cat (which in your household is you). Cats also bury waste to hide the scent from potential predators. Maybe your cat watched his mother scratching around the litterbox but never made the connection between that and burying waste. Maybe he’s scratching and scratching while his cat brain wonders why. Scratch long enough, he may be thinking, and the reason will come.

Self-preservation might also be the instinct that leads your cat to scratch around his food bowl. If his meal were really a carcass from a successful kill, its scent could attract unwanted attention from other hungry cats as well as predators. Bury your kill and maybe no one else will notice it. Unfortunately for your cat, however, it’s going to take a lot of scratching to claw through your floor or carpet or his adorable placemat. 

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