Q. Our cat Judy has a strange habit of taking her toy mouse and putting it in her food bowl. This is her favorite toy and the only one she does this with. Is there a reason why she deliberately takes her toy and drops it in the bowl?
A. Judy’s behavior is not unusual, but there is no scientific evidence that proves any particular theory and is a subject of much speculation, as is the case with many cat behaviors.
A theory as to why Judy does this is she is trying to find a safe place for her favorite toy. In the wild, cats often take their prey back to their nest area to hide it from potential predators. By placing her toy mouse in her food bowl she is doing the house cat version of hiding her prey (her toy is prey) in a safe place she considers her own. Cats consider their food and water area as a secure part of their territory.
Judy might be putting her mouse in the food bowl as a game if you are constantly removing it and throwing it for her to fetch. She may have trained you to play this game with her.
She may just be carrying her favorite toy around and drops it in her food bowl prior to eating. After eating she may not want to carry the toy around and it is left in the bowl, or she may be leaving it there so she can easily locate it later to be played with.
Some cats drop toys in their water bowl and then fish for it. Fishing behavior is a very typical cat play behavior, possibly reminiscent of their wild ancestors.
So as to why Judy puts her toy in the food bowl, I guess she is the only one who really knows.
Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected]