You just saw your cat eating with her paws and you do not know how to react. You are not sure if it is something that should be a cause for worry or if your cat is suffering from some kind of behavioral issue. In this article, we will try to unravel why cats tend to eat with their paws and how you should respond.
What are the reasons my cat is eating with its paws?
1. The feeding bowl was too small or too deep.
Your cat could be eating with her paws because her food bowl was too cramped or too deep for her to reach. Cats each have their own personality and preferences. Some cats are more particular with their food bowls compared to others.
What is just right for one cat may not be so for another. So, instead of squeezing her head into the bowl to eat, a cat may just eat with her paws.
2. Its feeding bowl was in an undesirable location.
Cats also tend to be finicky when it comes to the location of their food bowls. They prefer an isolated area where they feel secure. Cats are always on alert, even when they are eating.
If they feel unsafe, they may prefer to eat with their paws instead of their mouth so they can see the surroundings. By eating with their paws, they can keep their eyes and ears vigilant while they eat.
3. They have whisker fatigue.
A cat’s whiskers are very sensitive; they sense movement and vibrations in a cat’s surroundings. Cats develop whisker fatigue or whisker stress when there is an overstimulation of the whiskers’ sensory system. Oftentimes, the culprit is a narrow or small food or water bowl.
When a cat’s whiskers come in contact with the sides of the bowl, it becomes very uncomfortable because of the barrage of information being sent to the cat’s brain. Cats may act weird around their food and paw the food out of the bowl before eating it.
4. It is their way of practicing their hunting skills.
Since cats are already domesticated, they are unable to hunt for prey. However, their hunting instinct is still very much alive in their system. This may explain why cats eat with their paws. They may poke or play with the food placed before them using their paws.
It is a form of hunting practice, just like poking rodents with their paws before eating them. This is usually observed among the younger felines as opposed to more mature cats.
5. Cats are exploring texture.
Cats are smart, so when they are served a new type of food, they tend to investigate first. They will do this by poking the food with their paws because they want to feel its texture and assess if it is safe. Cats may also use their paws to test the food’s temperature.
Cat experts note that this habit of eating with their paws indicates that a cat has superior intelligence. Felines have an uncanny way of observing humans, and they learn to do things that humans normally do, such as opening doors, turning on taps, and eating with their paws (like humans eat with their hands). An elderly or arthritic cat may find it painful to lower her neck to the food bowl, so she may eat with her paws instead.
What does it mean when cats remove food from the bowl and eat it elsewhere?
- It is an instinctive behavior. Cats in the wild often take a piece of their food and remove it from the feeding area so that other cats will not steal it.
- They tend to remove the food to another spot if it is too near the water bowl. Again, this is instinctive behavior since cats in the wild do not like to eat near a water source as they believe that their prey (food) could contaminate it.
- It is an ingrained behavior from kittenhood wherein kittens grab their food and run away as their means of competing with each other.
- It could be their way of seeking protection, especially if they bring their food to where their human is eating.
Cats are inquisitive and curious creatures. They tend to have complex habits such as eating with their paws. A cat eats with its paws because it has whisker fatigue or stress, it is feeling for texture, or if it does not feel secure with its surroundings while eating. This behavior also indicates that cats have superior intelligence and the ability to observe and mimic what their humans do.
Image: istockphoto.com / Nils Jacobi