Why Do Cats Cover Their Food?

Cats have a natural instinct to cover their food with their paws before and after eating. This behavior is called “burying” or “covering” their food. When cats eat, they use their paws to push dirt, leaves or other items over their food bowls.

Why do cats cover their food? This is a question many cat owners ask themselves when they see their furry feline use its paws to push food scraps under furniture or scatter them across the floor. Understanding a cat’s natural behavior can provide insight into this curious habit.

Cats cover their food because in the wild it helps protect it from other predators who may be around. By scattering left over food or burying it, cats help ensure they can find and eat it later without competing for it. This instinct helps cats feel more secure in their environment and with their food supply. It is a natural hunting and foraging behavior practiced by their ancestors in the wild.

Survival Instincts


Cats today share DNA with their wild ancestors. Is Friskies a good cat food? Long ago, wild cats hunted to find food each day. They searched forests and grasslands to capture prey to eat. Finding food was difficult and dangerous work for wild cats. They faced threats from other predators and sometimes went hungry. This built strong survival instincts in wild cats over time.

Cats’ Wild Ancestors Eat Cat Food

Wild cats mostly ate small animals they hunted themselves. They stalked rodents, birds and lagomorphs to catch with their paws. Sometimes wild cats scavenged leftover kills by other predators too.

Finding and eating food was a daily challenge for wild cats. They spent many hours hunting to feed themselves. Covering food may have later helped them find leftovers to save for harder times.

Hunting Techniques Did Wild Cats Use

Wild cats silently stalked near bushes and tall grass to sneak up on prey. With precise pounces and fast claw swipes, they captured animals to eat.

Some wild cats cooperated to hunt larger prey. They worked as a team to wear down or ambush animals like deer or wild sheep. Others hunted alone at dawn or dusk for easier targets.

Wild Cats Share Or Hide Cat Food

Leftover food from a successful hunt might be shared among related wild cats at first. But as more cats came to claim the leftovers, some would cover them to keep for later.

Hiding uneaten kills let wild cats return safely to finish eating without competing with others for the food. This kept more nutrition for them to survive.

Might Covering Cat Food Help Wild Cats

Covering scraps of food kept it hidden and protected it from scenting by scavengers like birds or other predators. Wild cats could return to eat the leftovers later.

Pushing dirt, leaves or other items over food also helped camouflage it to not draw attention. This technique better preserved covered food for wild cats to find again when hungry.

Challenges Did Wild Cats Face Finding Cat Food

Wild cats like bobcats and lynx faced many challenges in hunting for their natural cat food in the wild. They had to rely on their hunting skills to catch prey amidst these difficulties:

ChallengeDescription
Competition for preyOther predators like wolves and coyotes competed for the same food sources.
Finding preyIt took time and stealth to locate animals to hunt like rabbits or deer that were well camouflaged.
Physical exertionHunting was physically taxing as cats had to stalk, chase, and take down prey animals.
Injury riskConfrontations with prey sometimes resulted in injury if an animal fought back during the hunt.
Weather effectsInclement weather like snow or rain could make scents and tracks harder to detect, hampering the hunt.

Protecting Resources

Fluffy’s food bowl was looking quite empty. She had eaten all of her favorite crunchy cat food the night before. Now she was hungry again and wanting more. As Fluffy waited by her bowl hoping her human would refill it soon, she noticed the dog trying to get nearby. The puppy named Buddy had been eyeing Fluffy’s dish earlier, wondering what those crunchy morsels tasted like.

Fluffy knew she had to protect what was left of her food resources. She stood guard over the bowl, letting out a soft hiss whenever Buddy came too close. Her food was for cats only. Fluffy didn’t want to have to fight the energetic puppy, but she would defend her dinner if she had to. 

Thankfully, her human stepped in and refilled Fluffy’s bowl before Buddy could try any sneaky moves. Fluffy was relieved as she started crunching away, enjoying her meal in peace once more.

Cats Scatter Or Bury Leftover Cat Food

Domestic cats retain instincts from their wild ancestors to ensure access to food resources. By hiding leftovers, cats feel secure knowing extra food will be available later.

Scattering or burying remaining cat food lets owners leave dry kibble out all day without it spoiling. Cats choose how much is available at once this way.

Covering Cat Food Prevent Competition

Unattended uncovered food draws other animals and cats to claim it. By hiding leftovers, cats reduce competition from other predators or stray cats in the neighborhood for the food.

This instinct helps cats keep their food supply to themselves without fighting off other animals trying to share the resources. Covered food is only accessible to the cat who concealed it.

Animals Might Compete For Uncovered Cat Food

Possible competitors for uncovered cat food on the ground include dogs, opossums, raccoons, birds or other cats. Any of these animals could discover and eat cat food not properly hidden.

Rodents like mice and rats may also be drawn near the home to uncovered food scraps available outside on the ground or under porches. Covering cat food deters many potential competitors.

Cats Refind Hidden Cat Food Stocks

A cat remembers exactly where it covered or scattered pieces of leftover kibble by scent markers left behind. Their keen sense of smell allows accurate retrieval of hidden food caches later as needed.

finding and reclaiming covered food sources is an important survival skill retained in domestic cats from wild ancestors. It ensures a reliable supply of food when an individual cat desires more to eat.

Covering Cat Food Help Cats Feel More Secure

Yes, the instinct to cover leftovers and food supplies gives cats confidence food will remain secured for their own future access and consumption. Hiding food reduces stress from competition too.

Knowing extra food is safely concealed if wanted makes cats feel more secure about consistent access to energy and nutrients from their own protected stocks. This stability decreases feelings of insecurity about availability of resources.

Natural Behaviors

Domestic cats still have natural instincts inherited from wild ancestors. Many retained behaviors help cats feel safe and secure inside homes.

One instinct is covering food, which satisfies buried needs from the past. Hiding leftovers benefits cats physically and mentally in the present.

Instincts Around Cat Food Do Domestic Cats Retain

Although provided meals regularly, indoor cats possess drives to simulate hunting and hiding food. Covering treats or kibbles engages predatory skills and protective food securing instincts.

These impulses connect cats to ancestral wild lives despite living as pets today. Fulfilling natural behaviors maintains mental wellness for domestic cats.

Cat Food Covering Behaviors Are Innate

The specific acts of patting food scraps under objects or pawing dirt over kibbles originate from wild ancestors. Cats are born understanding covering improves access later.

Hiding behaviors do not need teaching—kittens and cats naturally perform covering independently without instruction. Instinctual drives motivate this automatic reaction.

All Cats Exhibit The Same Cat Food Covering Tendencies

While nearly all cats cover to some extent, individual habits vary. Some pushes are gentle—others more forceful. Some hide slivers—others half bowls. Personalities impact degree and forcefulness.

Genetics, environment and individual quirks determine each cat’s unique covering style and frequency. Most cover, but natural variances exist between individuals.

Age Do Kittens Start Covering Cat Food

Most kittens begin covering between 5-8 weeks old when weaned from mothers. This coincides with separating from littermates and establishing self-reliance through instinct.

Certain kittens start younger if especially independent early on. Others may wait a few weeks longer to gain confidence covering independently away from siblings.

Is Covering Cat Food Beneficial In The Home

Hiding meals gives cats a natural way to procure food without concerns of scarcity. Covered kibbles also prevent boredom from constant access to the same dish.

Cats distributing food throughout the home simulates scattering leftovers safely. Covering provides mental stimulation through nurturing wild conservation instincts indoors.

Scent Marking Territories

Mittens enjoyed her daily meals of crunchy cat food. But she wasn’t the only cat in the neighborhood – there was a stray tomcat named Rocky who roamed the area as well. After finishing her food one day, Mittens had an idea. She didn’t want Rocky coming around and thinking he could eat her food or enter her territory.

Mittens rubbed her face all around the rim of her food bowl. She even stuck a paw right into what remained at the bottom to get her scent fully imprinted on it. Then she rubbed her cheeks against the floor and nearby table leg.

Now any cat would know that this was Mittens’ territory because it smelled strongly of her. With the area properly marked, Mittens was confident Rocky would think twice before lurking too close looking for an easy meal. Her food and home were securely hers.

Covering Cat Food Allow Cats To Scent Mark

When cats cover kibbles, they deposit scent glands on paws then Food. Scent communicates ownership of marked areas and resources like the concealed meal.

Natural marking preserves an invisible personal territory around scattered kibbles known to other resident cats but invisible to people. Scent signals “this food is mine.”

Scents Do Cats Add To Covered Cat Food

5 tips about scents cats add to covered cat food

  • Face rubs – Cats will rub their cheeks and chin all over the covered food to leave scent from their facial glands.
  • Cheek rubbing – Glands in their cheeks also deposit identifying scents when they rub against the food cache.
  • Chins – Chin rubbing is another way cats apply scents from glands in this area to mark food as theirs.
  • Paw scent – Kicking litter or dirt over the covered food transfers pheromones from the pads of their feet.
  • Urine edges – Some cats go a step farther and spray just a small amount of urine around the perimeter as the ultimate declaration of ownership.

The layering of multiple scents from various glands tells other animals exactly who the food belongs to and keeps scavengers from stealing it. The powerful olfactory messages say “hands off my cache!” in cat language.

This Cat Food Behavior Define A Cat’s Space

Regular covering and marking of cat dishes shapes each cat’s personal sense of space. Scent barriers help avoid conflicts over territory with other cats or intruders.

Defined areas reduce uncertainty and stress compared to vague, unmarked zones. Scent stamps enable feeling secure and confident defending access to dispersed resources.

Other Cats Detect Marked Cat Food Areas

Yes, built-in sniffers allow cats to “read” markings left behind. They recognize territorial claims and identities of peers through chemical communication in covered food.

Scent surveillance prevents overlapping territories or disputes between indoor cats. Covering integrates felines peacefully as a scent-based language guides harmonious cohabitation.

Covered Cat Food Signal Resource Ownership

Absolutely. Pushing food under furniture or objects while marking announces “I covered and will return to eat this—it is mine”.

Covered cat food clearly reserves the cache for later consumption by the marking cat alone based on communicating ownership via invisible yet potent scents deposited during food scattering.

Stress Relieving Behavior

Stress Relieving Behavior

Little Tux was feeling anxious. There had been loud thunderstorms all evening shaking the house. He hid under the couch, trembling at every sound. When the storms finally passed, Tux emerged but was still on edge. That’s when he spotted his nearly full bowl of cat food. Eating was usually relaxing for Tux, and he could use some stress relief now.

Tux hurried over and eagerly shoved his face into the bowl. He happily gobbled mouthful after mouthful, losing himself in the mindless activity of chewing each crunchy kibble. The food helped distract him from his racing thoughts about the scary weather. With his belly becoming full, Tux began to feel calm and sleepy. The cat food did its job in relieving Tux’s stress so he could finally unwind from the upsetting storms. A little comfort eating had done the trick.

Covering Cat Food Be A Self-Soothing Behavior For Cats

Yes, covering lets some cats unwind through natural behaviors linked comfortingly to hunting instincts. The repetitive motions relax tense muscles similarly to petting.

For high-strung cats, covering reduces pressure through focusing energy onto instinctual routines. Redirected anxiety helps prevent fearful behaviors between scatterings.

Might Covering Cat Food Relieve Anxiety In Some Cats

The methodical patting and pushing movements exercise paws in a soothing rhythmic pattern, like cats kneading. Covering tasks distract edgy minds by engaging paws busily.

Fetching stored piles back also gratifies retrieval instincts, tiring anxious bodies through exercise while satisfying wild needs. Mental occupation relieves stress.

A Comfortable Environment Impact Cat’s Need To Cover Food

Absolutely. Cats feeling secure, bonded to owners and without fears do not compulsively over-cover. Stress or unease inspire repetition more than enjoyment of natural behaviors alone.

Calm surroundings lessen anxiety so cats do not crave excessive comfort from covering. Their basic drives are easily fulfilled with minor scatters when safe and content.

Cat Personalities Cover Food More Than Others

Shy, timid or nervous cats often depend heavily on covering for reassurance more than socially confident cats. Their demanding nature causes strain needing outlets like repetitive motions.

Outgoing, friendly cats experience less pressure so covering satisfices natural tendencies with less frequency or obsessive force. Secure outlooks require less displacement behaviors.

Over-Covering Cat Food Indicate Cat Is Under Stress

Excessive, rapid covering that seems frantic rather than methodical hints at underlying tension. Changes in regular habits towards ceaseless scattering also raise concern over tranquility.

Addressing potential issues providing unease benefits stressed cats. Reducing pressures through love, perches and toys enables fulfilling regular drives normally without compulsion.

Frequently Asked Question

Is It To Hide Food From Other Animals?

Cats cover their food to prevent other predators like dogs or wild animals from finding and eating it.

Do They Do It To Save Food For Later?

Yes, cats will often cover uneaten food to save it and return to eat more when hungry again rather than hunting.

Is It A Natural Instinct?

Cats’ covering behavior stems from their wild ancestry where it helped conceal food sources from competitors in their territories.

Does It Have To Do With Cleanliness?

In some cases cats may cover food that is dirty to try and “clean” it, as well as to contain crumbs and smells that could attract pests.

Is It A Way To Scent Mark Food As Theirs?

By rubbing faces and paws on covered food, cats transfer identifying scents declaring the cache belongs to them and warns others to stay away.

Conclusion

Cats have evolved natural behaviors for survival. As descendants of wild animals, their instincts to cover food have benefits. It allows them to save the food as a resource for later consumption instead of expending energy on hunting again immediately. Covering also functions to protect the food from scavengers and competing predators that may try to steal an easy meal. 

These survival advantages of covering food helped cats’ ancestors in the past, and traces of those instincts remain in domestic cats today. Overall, covering uneaten food fulfills important functions for felines. It extends the usefulness of food resources and reduces vulnerability to thieves. Covering also aids scent communication through facial pheromone. 

The natural behaviors cats exhibit, like saving and scenting covered food, demonstrate how their wild ancestry prepared them with skills still observed in indoor pets. Why cats cover their food ties back to intrinsic drives that served their survival in ancient environments.

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