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Why Does My Cat Try to Bury Her Food? 4 Reasons

Wait, isn’t it dogs that bury their food? As it turns out, canines aren’t the only ones with ancient instincts that compel them to cover up their coveted cuisine. Cats can have a tendency to do this as well — perhaps you’ve even caught them in the act and wondered what they were doing it for. So why does my cat try to bury her food?

Maybe they’re just weird, you might think. But cats have very real reasons for wanting to bury their food. Whether it’s the best dry food money can buy your kitten or sumptuous wet food that makes your cat drool, cats don’t discriminate when it comes to burying urges.

If you need answers now, you’ve come to the right place. Here we’ll discuss the most common reasons why your cat might be burying their food and just how normal it is.  

Image by Anastasios Antoniadis from Pixabay


Why Does My Cat Try to Bury Her Food? 4 Reasons

From fussy eaters to instinct-driven exercises in stealth, there are plenty of reasons for your cat to want to bury their food. Take a look at some of the top reasons to answer your questions. 

1. They’re Saving Some for Later

Who doesn’t love leftovers? Clearly, your cat does too! They might take some of the food out of their bowl and bury it somewhere for safekeeping so they can return later for a snack when they get peckish. There’s even a term for this behavior — scientists call it “food caching”, originating from the word “cache.” 

It can also happen if you overfeed your purrfect pet and they can’t finish their dinner. But they don’t want a scavenger (a.k.a. your other pet) to take what is technically theirs, so they’ll hide it away rather in order to protect it. 

Cat in loaf position eating a piece of meat from the kitchen table.

If you battle to get your feeding amounts just right for every mealtime, an automatic feeder will do the job for you. But if your feline friend is just a fussy eater and buries their food without eating enough of it, perhaps it’s time to consider some high-calorie food if they’re becoming underweight. 

2. They’re Hiding the Evidence

Clearly, domesticated kitties have nothing to fear in their coddled cocoons at home, but their ancestors would typically bury the remains of their meal. This was to cover up any trace of their presence so that potential enemies couldn’t track them from their food remnants. 

two-cats-eating-from-same-dish why does my cat try to bury her food

Image by Florian Bollmann from Pixabay

In fact, feral cats still do this in the urban wild, and pregnant cats or new moms nursing kittens are known to commonly indulge in this behavior. This is because they can’t roam too far from their young offspring, so they do their best to hide any trace of their scent to keep the little ones safe. 

Even if they aren’t pregnant or lactating, a cat that identifies as submissive may still hide the remains of their food to prevent any dominant or aggressive cats in the area from coming over. 

3. They’re Keeping Things Tidy

Cats are notoriously clean creatures. They spend so much of their time grooming themselves that it can’t come as a shock. But they extend this cleanliness into their “dens”, and, therefore, your home. 

They don’t like leaving old food lying around, just as much as they don’t like leaving their bathroom business lying in the open. They prefer to kick sand or litter over their waste to hide it away. 

This desire stems from the same need to get rid of the food. Basically, they like to keep a very clean house. It’s a habit that can be traced back to survival instinct, as other animals might be attracted by the smells of food and waste. 

It has the added benefit of preventing any illnesses from rotten food or feces contaminating their living area and exposing them to disease. Cleanliness and health go hand in hand, or paw in paw as it turns out. 


Image by mostafa meraji from Pixabay

This does mean, however, that there’s the possibility your picky kitty just doesn’t like the food she’s being given and is disposing of it rather than eating it. In which case, it’s time to reconsider what you’re feeding them.   

4. They’re Preserving Their Meal

In the wild, big cats bury their hard-won meat to preserve its freshness, much like our ancestors would dig out caches in the permafrost to store food for longer. It’s cooler underground, even when there isn’t an active Ice Age to help keep the temperatures low. 

Above ground, the ambient or direct heat of the sun would allow the food to go rancid and become inedible. As far as your cat is concerned, the ground is their own private refrigerator keeping their food fresh and tasty. 


Image by Nur Kayat from Pixabay

Why Does My Cat Paw At Their Food?

Pawing at their food is a half-hearted attempt at burying it. Not all cats have access to a garden or are let outside on the regular, so they have other ways of satisfying those primordial yearnings. 

A young kitten or older cat might softly paw, knead, or scratch at the floor around their bowl in a haphazard way of fulfilling the instinct to bury, even when your floor is impenetrable. In essential terms, it’s a way of “fake covering” their food. They might even attempt to drag something over to cover their dish with, such as a towel or piece of paper.  

Cat looking at the canned cat food being offered to it.

How Do I Stop It?

The answer is simple — feed your cat smaller, more frequent meals, and take away any leftovers as soon as they’re done. Alternatively, you can feed them on a surface that can’t be easily scratched or place a protective feeding mat down if you’re concerned for your floor.


Image by Leng Kangrui from Pixabay

Final Thoughts on Why My Cat Tries To Bury Her Food

No, they don’t have a canine complex after all. They’re just following in the steps of their ancestors by storing, disposing, or hiding their food as they see fit. Though it may not be typical cat behavior on a stereotypical scale, it’s completely ordinary for your feline friend to indulge in these actions. Pay attention to how often they do it, and you might realize they’re trying to tell you something. 

Speaking of cats playing with their food, you might also be wondering how to keep a cat’s teeth clean without a toothbrush. Read on for some great tips on keeping those pearly whites in tip-top shape.

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