Why Do Cats Bury Food?

If you see a cat pawing beside a dish, that cat might be tapping into ancient genetic ties that bind your cat to behave like distant cousins leopards and bobcats.

Have the following situations occurred in your house?

  • Your cat circles the dish or paws at the floor beside the food bowl.
  • Your cat takes the corner of a rug and tries to pull it up over the top of your cat’s food dish
  • Your cat covers food with newspaper or other paper products around the home.

And have you wondered why?

The survival instinct to cover food and save it for later is genetically hard-wired into housecats from their wild ancestors. When your cat leaves food unfinished, this pawing at the floor is an attempt to hide the food, and this could be for a few reasons.
1. Cover the Spread
Your cat’s instinct as both predator and prey leads them to hide the food from a potential predator who might eat it. In a multiple cat home, your cat could be trying to hide their food from the other cats in the household. This lets your cat think she can come back and finish the food later.

2. Hide Your Tell

Your cat might also hide food so as not to alert potential prey to the cat’s presence. This further exemplifies the housecat’s connection to wild cats who can be both predator and prey, such as leopards and bobcats.

3. Stashe the Cache
Bobcats in the wild will cover the remains of a large kill with debris such as snow, leaves, twigs or grass. Then the bobcat will revisit the carcass and eat again. Panthers will rake leaves and twigs over a carcass to hide the carcass from scavengers. This is what scientists refer to as a cache.

4. Toss in the Pit
Leopards are extremely strong and possess a locking wrist that enables them to haul prey, much heavier than themselves, up into a tree.  Once in the tree, the leopard will secure the carcass on the branches to either eat immediately or as safekeeping for a later meal. Even though leopards are capable of hauling their prey up into a tree, recent research suggests that leopards might prefer to use a method in which gravity works in the cat’s favor. According to Charles Brain, author of the book “The Hunters or the Hunted?” An Introduction to African Cave Taphonomy, leopards are known to drag carcasses down into a cave. These caves are used as retreats, feeding places and breeding lairs for the leopards.

The instinct to cover prey is strong and this is most likely what your cat is attempting to do when pawing at the floor beside food bowls. I have noticed both my cats Annie and Eddie pawing at the rug around their food bowl perhaps trying to save the rest of their dinner for a midnight snack.

Read On
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