Why Does My Cat Scratch the Area Around His Food?
If your cat is scratching around near its food bowl, it could be causing some damage to your flooring or carpet (Click here to see my best 3 Bewishome cat trees with scratching posts to help this issue) But the question is why is this even happening?
Why does my cat scratch the area around his food? This is an instinctual behavior to hide the scent that leftover food leaves behind. Although this behavior is obsolete in captivity it still happens, which confuses cat owners.
Now that you know at a high level why this happens. Let me explain further as well as what is “floor pawing”, if some cats attempt to bury unwanted food, why they do this and more. Keep reading…
Why does this scent cause cats to behave this way?
Some people look at this behavior and incorrectly interpret it as their cat not wanting to eat the food that they have provided. The reality, it is possible, but it is unlikely. Let me explain what it is more likely to be…
In the wild cats have to hunt to eat. This is obvious I guess. However, what is less obvious is the reasons why they hide this food. There will always be some form of leftovers. These leftovers present a problem for cats, because of the scent it leaves around.
In the wild, this scent can alert their predators that they have been there. This can, unfortunately, help to track them down. Therefore, they have built an instinctual behavior of covering their tracks by digging up and hiding them.
This scratching around the area of their food in captivity stems from this behavior. It may seem odd to you, especially if you have wooden or tiled flooring. But cats still have this ingrained in them and will foolishly attempt to dig up wooden flooring to hide the scent of their leftovers, are you with me?
What is “Floor Pawing”?
This is similar to the same behavior we have discussed in this article. With a small twist, you may also see them kneading as well as pawing the area around their food.
Ultimately, it is arguably the same thing, to be honest. Depending on your cat, some have an almost obsessive tendency to spend a large amount of time doing this following a meal.
Even if your cat seems a bit obsessive, it does not necessarily mean that there is anything to be concerned about. It all still stems from the instinctual behavior of trying to hide the scent of leftover food.
Is this Behaviour the Same as Cats Burying Their Food?
Yes, this is a relatively common behavior. “Floor Pawing”, burying food or scratching around the food area after a meal is all pretty much the same thing.
If you witness your cat trying to bury their food, it may seem similar to them attempting to bury their mess in cat litter (Click here to see why I chose these rimmed litter pans to hold in the mess). If that is what you are seeing, it is definitely the same thing.
Why Do cats Attempt to bury their food?
Typically, feral cats will bury their feces as well as their food. The reason why they do this is that buried food loses its scent. This allows them to avoid predators.
Female cats with kittens will have an even more vested interest in doing this. As well as hiding their own scent. They want to avoid any predators finding out that they have kittens nearby.
An extra deterrent from male cats, in particular ones that are not neutered, they will spray the area they perceive as their own (Click here to see if it is dangerous to clean cat urine with bleach). This is why some cat owners neuter their male cats.
Similar to Food Caching?
This behavior is not just isolated to the domestic cat. Other big cats, such as leopards, display similar behavior. This is commonly known as “Food Caching”.
Food caching is when the Leopard will store its food (catch of the day) high up in the trees. This is to stop any scavengers or predators stealing the food or detecting their presence.
Will Cats try to bury food they dislike?
This does actually happen sometimes. In fact, it is quite similar to the behavior of hiding their feces. Effectively cats will see the excess food as waste, and even though they have no intention of returning to it, will instinctively want to bury it.
It is also part of a cats persona to keep clean and tidy. Always looking for an opportunity to keep their personal space clean and tidy. This will also get rid of the scent that is left behind to avoid discovery by unwanted predators.
Why do cats cover up their food bowl?
This again is a similar concept to “floor pawing”. However, you will notice that your cat will actually try to cover its bowl with an object(s) to hide it.
For example, if you had a newspaper laid underneath your cat’s food bowl. You may notice after the meal the newspaper is torn to shreds. This isn’t done for fun mind you. Your cat is trying to re-use this paper to hide its food.
The reason for this is the same, its an attempt to conceal the scent given off by the food and prevent their detection. Even though, technically, they have nothing to fear in a domestic home.
What is the best way to stop this?
If you notice that your cat is damaging your flooring or carpet, then this behavior can be quite a problem. For this reason, I am going to share some methods to stop this happening…
- Take the food bowl away after eating.
- Restrict portions to one meal.
- Use a hard surface (that can’t be damaged).
- Avoid “All-day grazing” food options.
- Avoid punishing your cat for this.
Take the food bowl away after eating
Immediately after she has finished eating you need to remove the food bowl. This will take some patience and persistence, mind you. The annoying thing with this option is the fact that it is a reactive strategy, meaning you will need to monitor each meal like a hawk.
Restrict portions to one meal
Instead of large meals, restrict the portions to just cover one meal. This may take some practice to get the sizing right, but it is easier for you once you get that right. This is because you won’t have to monitor the bowl so much.
This method will entail you waiting for your cat to start scratching away, then immediately distracting his attention. This is easily done by using a toy, ball of string, etc. The idea is to move your cat’s attention away from clawing up your flooring.
Use a hard surface (that can’t be damaged)
To avoid this happening you can consider placing the food bowl on a hard surface that can’t be scratched and damaged, such as concrete (Click here to see how you stop a cat from scratching walls). This largely depends on what options you have in your house.
Avoid “All-day grazing” food options
Some cat owners like to leave out dry food options for their cats to graze on all day. The idea here is to avoid this. This only gives your cat ample opportunities to start scratching and burying food (Click here to see why this could be the reason why your cat is scratching up your walls).
Avoid punishing your cat for this.
Lastly, even if you catch your cat “at it”. Avoid punishing her for this. It is instinctive and will confuse her. Better to use one of these methods to ween her off it rather than trying this negative reinforcement method. Or even consider a cat scratcher to refocus her energy (Click here for my best 3 quality ones, not from cardboard).
Should you worry about this anyway?
Truthfully, if your cat is not disrupting or causing any damage to your house, such as your couch (Click here for my best 3 couch scratching protectors), I wouldn’t worry about it. This is normal behavior and should not be a cause for concern. If you can live with this, I would just ignore and accept it.