Why Does My Cat Put Her Toys In Her Food Bowl?

Why Does My Cat Put Her Toys In Her Food Bowl?

Cats are picky eaters and conscious of their food, although this does vary from one cat to another. Cat experts note that felines select their diet based on factors such as taste, temperature, smell and texture, and if they find it unappealing they will not eat it. Strangely, some cats develop a habit of putting their toys in their food bowl. If you have noticed your cat doing this, you are not alone. Read on and let us discover what might cause such behavior in your cat. 

Why does my cat put her toys in her food bowl?

1. Cats see this as a safe place to store their “leftovers”. 

The wild relatives of domesticated cats include bobcats and leopards, both of which are known to store food in safe locations called caches. Typically, indoor cats do not have leftover prey to store for a later time, but they do have their favorite toys. These are thought to be their closest substitutes for prey. For cats, their food and water bowls at home are safe places within their territory, which might explain why they bring their “prey leftovers” there. 

Nevertheless, this behavior is entirely different from that of burying partially-consumed food. Cats that bury food do not intend to come back and retrieve it later. 

Your cat may also be trying to teach you how to hunt by placing her toys in the food bowl. This echos a mother cat’s instinct to teach her kittens when she brings back prey for them. 

2. Your cat is telling you that she cares for you. 

Another theory as to why cats put their toys in the food bowl is that they are letting you know that they care for you. This idea is rooted in the mother-kitten relationship: when the mother cat goes out to find food, she brings it back and shows her litter how to consume it. 

In the same way, your cat leaves toys or dead mice in her food bowl to show her love and affection for you. She is reciprocating your gesture of feeding her every day. 

3. Your cat is extending her play session. 

If you find toys in your cat’s food bowl, it may be nothing more than the aftermath of a play session. Cats may also drop their toys in their water bowls as a source of entertainment, or to replicate the act of “drowning their prey” in the water. 

4. Your cat’s food bowl has positive associations.

A cat’s food bowl is her happy place and a source of good things. Cats love food and eating, and their food bowl is therefore associated with happy feelings. Some people believe, therefore, that cats bring things they like, such as toys, to their food bowl because it is a place they love. 

Most of the time, though, it is likely that your cat just has not thought to put her toy down anywhere else. If a cat has a toy in her mouth as she approaches her bowl to eat, she may simply drop it in the bowl as she starts to eat her meals. 

Should you stop your cat from dropping her toys in the food or water bowl?

Cat behaviorists suggest that you should not stop your cat from dropping her toys into the food or water bowl. While this behavior may seem weird, it is considered instinctive. It would probably be impossible to stop a cat from doing it, since she is just following what instinct and nature intended. 

If you try to stop your cat from doing this, she may just find an alternative spot for her prized possessions, like your bathtub, sink or toilet bowl. Some cats may even place their toys beside their owners while they are sound asleep.

Other weird cat behavior: 

  • Bouncing off the walls
  • Head bumping 
  • Chewing odd things, like plastic bags and socks
  • Kneading
  • Napping in tight places
  • Nibbling on plants 


Cats are playful animals and cat toys are a great way to keep them occupied and mentally stimulated. However, some of them have a weird habit of putting their toys in their food bowl.  

Cats may do this if they see their bowls as a safe place to store their “leftovers”, as their ancestors would in the wild. They may also do it to tell you that they care, as a part of a play session, or because their food bowl has positive associations for them. It is also quite possible, however, that they simply drop the toy they are carrying when they start to eat, which means that it lands, by default, in the food bowl.

Image: istockphoto.com / photoguns