Pet Talk: Cat is Hardwired to Cache

Q. After my cat eats, she scratches the floor by her bowl as if trying to bury something. Is there a reason for this or is she trying to tell me something. It always happens after she eats, so I don’t think it’s because she doesn’t like her food.


A. After doing some research on this behavior, it appears to be relatively common and nothing to worry about. There seems to be different theories, but the real truth is a mystery.

One reason could be what is called “food caching,” pronounced “cashing,” and means to store away in hiding or for future use. This behavior is best known in leopards. They cache food high up in trees out of reach of lions and hyenas and will return to the cache again and again to eat. It is also seen in the bobcat. When a bobcat kills more than it can eat at a meal, it will cover the remaining food with leaves or other debris and return later to eat more. Pumas and cheetahs also cache food.

This is probably an instinctive behavior and not a learned behavior from an animal’s mother. So the theory is your cat is demonstrating an instinct shared by big cats, even though it doesn’t make much sense in her circumstance being a house cat, but is so deep-seated she does it anyway.

Another theory is it is a survival instinct. In the wild a cat may attempt to cover any uneaten food in order to avoid attracting other predators and scavengers to their hunting area.

It could also be an attempt to not alert possible prey there is a feline hunter in the area.

For the same reason cats bury their feces, they may bury their food to try and hide the fact they were in a particular location.

Obviously, domesticated cats have no need to bury their food, but this behavior is hard-wired into them. A lot of cat behaviors are like that. They don’t necessarily fit into their lives as domestic pets, but they can’t rid themselves of these actions. It’s what makes them cats.

Hope this gives you an idea as to why your cat paws at the floor by her food dish.


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].

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