Why do cats try to bury their food?
If, like me, you’ve ever been owned by a cat, you may have also experienced your beloved feline friend ‘covering’ their food.
Is this just one of those funny things cats do for no reason, or is there a deeper instinct at play?
Keep reading to find out!
WHY DO CATS TRY TO BURY THEIR FOOD?
Just a few days after adopting my beautiful tortoiseshell kitten, I noticed something a little bit odd about her food-time behavior.
After eating her dinner, she would furiously dig around the dish in an attempt to ‘bury’ anything she hadn’t finished.
She would sniff, scratch, and pull at the tablecloth until satisfied that her kibbles were ‘safe’.
While this behavior may seem bizarre to us humans, it makes perfect sense to our stealthy little hunters.
Also known as ‘caching’, food covering is an instinctive method used by wild cats to save leftovers and protect them from scavengers.
What Does it Look Like?
For domestic cats, caching usually involves some scratching on the surface around the food, and sometimes even pulling objects over their dishes to help better disguise it.
For feral cats that are more likely to eat outdoors, caching may involve actually digging into the ground and burying their food in the earth.
Where Does Caching Come From?
Caching originates from our domestic feline’s wild ancestors preserving prey they’ve caught in order to survive.
When catching prey that is too big to eat in one sitting, wild cats like bobcats will bury the remains to return to at a later stage.
Burying their food in the ground helps to cover its smell, thereby preventing other predators from scavenging the catch or moving into their territory.
While our house hunters don’t need to do any work for their dinner and have owners to ensure they always have access to food, the instinct to cache remains embedded in their DNA.
What Does it Mean?
Cats will bury their food for a number of reasons including a change in food, new placement of dishes, not clearing away uneaten food fast enough, or serving portions that are too large to eat in one go.
Some cat parents may jump to the conclusion that their kitty is simply not interested in their food or does not like your choice of brand.
Sometimes, caching may indicate that your cat is dissatisfied with its meal.
However, if you have not recently changed their diet and they are eating enough throughout the day, there is no need to be too concerned about this behavior.
What Should I Do?
Before taking any kind of action, monitor your cat’s habits and behaviors to try and establish the cause of the caching.
The most likely cause of caching is serving an overly generous portion, and, if that is the case, getting a feeding plan from your vet is a good idea.
Overfeeding can result in feline obesity, which comes with a number of avoidable health conditions.
If you have recently made changes to your cat’s diet and have noticed that they are covering their food more than they are eating it, then you might want to revisit your choice of food.
Your cat may be covering their food to communicate that the new food does not agree with them or that they don’t like the change you’ve made.
If changing foods doesn’t increase their food intake, then it would be best to seek veterinary advice, as a lack of appetite may indicate an illness.
If a cat obsessed with food covering, then serving smaller portions more often will help reduce this behavior.
Removing uneaten food after each meal will also discourage caching.
Should I be Worried?
When it comes to cats covering their food, there is generally no cause for concern. They are just acting on their instincts, after all!
But there are also things such as why do cats paw around their food bowl and what does it mean?
Should the behavior become obsessive or appear suddenly, then there may be an issue worth investigating.
In these cases, it is always best to pay a visit to your veterinary care provider as soon as possible.
Our feline companions come with a seemingly endless list of quirks, with a top one being covering their food.
This behavior might be puzzling for us to understand, but our kitty friends are simply acting on their instincts to preserve their prey (even if it comes from a tin opened by mom!).
While food covering is generally harmless behavior and even quite entertaining to watch, should the behavior appear suddenly or increase dramatically, there may be an underlying issue at play.
Be sure to stick to a vet-recommended diet and eating schedule to avoid obsessive caching and ensure that your cat is eating the recommended amount of daily calories to stay healthy.
Any insights on why do cats try to bury their food? Share with us below!