Why Do Cats Try to Bury Their Food?

Why Do Cats Try to Bury Their Food

Just a few seconds after setting down your cat’s food bowl, he comes close. But instead of wolfing down his meal, he scratches the ground around the food bowl, as if he was trying to bury his meal.

In most cases, you do not have to worry about this behavior which is driven by his instincts that he inherited from his ancestors.

Why Do Cats Try to Bury Their Food?

This behavior is called caching. Caching is a behavior handed down by your cat’s wild ancestors.

Although caching may seem odd, in most cases, you do not have to worry if your pet cat exhibits this behavior. There are a few reasons why your cat is displaying this behavior

1. Your cat is happy

For some cat behavior experts, a cat tries to bury his food because he feels happy. It is just his way of showing you that he is happy with you and your home.

2. Your cat does not like his food

Your cat may be trying to bury his food simply because he does not like what is in front of him. Some felines are fussy eaters and they tend to show their dislike for some cat food.

In such a case, there are a few ways to coax him to try the food in front of him. You can pour a small amount of juice from canned tuna over his food. Instead of canned tuna juice, you can use chicken stock or even a strong-smelling cheese. Others have found success in getting their cats to eat by warming up the cat food. This unlocks the aroma in the food.

If your cat still will not eat even after trying these tactics, your only choice left is to switch to another brand. If you have been giving him wet food, continue to give him wet food from another brand.

However, do not switch from one brand to another without transitioning him. Instead, gradually feed him the new food until he makes the full transition. This will prevent stomach upsets.

3. Your cat is being fed by someone else

If you allow your cat to go out, he may get to eat during one of his jaunts. Maybe one of your neighbors feeds him. Or maybe he hangs out in a place where there is a decent amount of foot traffic and eats leftovers.

And when he gets home, he just tries to bury the content of his food bowl instead of eating.

You can curtail this behavior by asking the people feeding your cat to stop. Alternatively, you can just stop your cat from going outdoors.

4. Your cat is sick

Another possible reason why your cat tries to bury his food without eating is that he might be sick. Like humans, your cat’s appetite may be lower than usual because your pet is feeling unwell.

Among the diseases and conditions that can impact your cat’s appetite are dental pain, diabetes, liver disease, and kidney issues. 

Continue to monitor your cat’s appetite. If he still will not touch his food after 24 hours, visit your vet as soon as possible.

5. Your cat’s appetite has changed

A kitten’s appetite is stronger than an adult’s. If you are used to seeing your cat wolf down the content of his food bowl, and then suddenly he leaves a substantial portion of his meal, it is highly likely that his feeding needs have changed.

If your cat is otherwise healthy, this simply means that he has transitioned to his next life stage. Consult your vet about changing his food to one that is appropriate to his age. It is also possible that you have misjudged your cat’s capacity to eat. Perhaps, you should give him smaller servings of his cat food. 

6. Your cat is neurotic

This is common in households with multiple cats. Here, a cat tries to bury his food in an attempt to hide it from the other felines in your home.

Food habits of felines vs. canines

Caching is not a behavior exclusive to domestic cats. In fact, many feline behaviorists say that burying food is an instinct that is handed by wild felines to the modern house cat.

In the wild, many big cats hide uneaten food. Picture a big cat, taking down equally big prey. And then remember that except for lions, most big cats are solitary creatures. As such, it is highly likely that a wild cat will not finish eating his quarry.

Instead of eating the prey in one go or throwing away uneaten food, a wild cat will hide his food. For wild felines, there are other important reasons why they cache their uneaten food.

For one, hiding food allows them to prevent other predators from finding their quarry. In the same vein, wild felines may also hide their prey to conceal their presence from a potential quarry that may be alerted to their presence with the scent of their food.

In contrast, wild canines do not hide their food. If these animals are unable to finish their prey, they will simply leave the remnants out in the open.

Wild cats cover the remainder of their prey with different materials readily available in the environment like grass, leaves, and twigs. 

After covering its quarry, a cougar will remain close to the remaining food, coming back from time to time to eat. 

Caching is beneficial, not only for wild cats. The carrion cached by wild cats attracts other creatures that can also feed on the carcass. In turn, these creatures help spread the nutrients contained by the carrion, enriching the environment along the way.

Stopping your cat’s caching habit

Broadly speaking, there is nothing bad about caching. Your cat is not harming itself, you, or the other members of your household.

However, the behavior can get to the point that it can become annoying due to the mess or damage that your feline may cause.

In this situation, there are a few things that you can do to curtail this behavior.

  • Move the food bowl away from things that your cat can damage.
  • Do not leave your cat alone when eating. Once he is done feeding, take away the bowl.
  • Distract your pet with his favorite toy when you notice that he begins caching.
  • Set a feeding schedule. When you free feed your cat, the more likely he will cache.

Caching is a natural behavior

To some owners, caching can seem odd but cute. To others, the behavior can be annoying.

For the latter, resist the temptation to punish your cat. You might think that this would discourage your cat from this behavior. But in reality, this can only lead to more serious problems.

Image: istockphoto.com / Lightspruch