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Why do cats scratch around their food?

Have you ever seen your cat scratching around or over his food? You’ve probably wondered what he’s doing. Is it because he doesn’t like his tasty food, or is it a feline ritual that no one has ever told you about? Why do cats scratch around their food? Before you jump to any more conclusions, let me tell you that there is more than one correct answer to this mystery, and while you may have already guessed some of the reasons, others will make you think, “oh, it had to be a cat!“.

Although it is an activity that may seem strange, luckily, it is completely harmless and is not a symptom of any disorder or disease, so you can rest assured your cat is safe. And if you are already dying of curiosity to know the answers, I invite you to continue reading this interesting article, where you will surely learn one or two new things about your cat.

Why do cats scratch around their food? 5 common reasons

With our beloved cats, the possibilities are endless, and this time will be no exception! Here are a few reasons why your cat scratches around his food bowl before, during, or after eating.

why do cats scratch around their food - keep kittens safe

1. To keep their kittens safe

This behavior is widespread in mothers, especially if they are feral cats. We know that cats are always on alert because they haven’t forgotten their wild past when they had to defend themselves from large predators and the dangers of nature.

Cats are always vigilant to protect their property and lives, especially if a mother cat has to take care of several kittens. There are two reasons why momma cats do this. The first is to cover up the smell of food, they usually resort to scratching around their food to hide the scent so that no predator comes close wanting to steal it, and it also prevents them from attacking their offspring.

While the other reason is quite the opposite, they scratch to mark with their scent and thus make it clear to other cats that this is their territory, food, and of course, kittens. And if you wonder how they mark with their scent, well, let me tell you that cats have scent glands from which they release pheromones with which they draw their territory. They are something like an olfactory stamp that any cat can recognize.

2. They are hiding their food

In nature, a cat eats what it hunts, and since cats are carnivores, they are always prey, whether rodents or insects. Since only the strongest survive, they have to look for resources that will allow them to get or preserve their food for longer. That is why cats resort to burying their food or what is left over in the wild.

Although the most obvious option would be to bury it to finish it again later, the vast majority bury the leftover food to hide it so that no other cat or potential predator can know he was there before. Domestic cats continue to reproduce this behavior known as food caching. Although they no longer have the danger of being hunted by a larger animal, the instinct is powerful and leads them to do it almost by inertia, or at least to simulate it.

3. You have given them too much food

Although some cats never seem tired of eating, most are good at self-regulating, unlike dogs, who might eat an entire sack of kibble in one meal. If your cat feels that he has been served too much food, he may scratch around or over his bowl, pretending to bury the food, as if getting rid of something useless to him.

This is much more likely to happen if wet food, as cats only eat it when it is fresh and moist. The easiest way to remedy this is to measure quantities so as not to overfeed your kitty or waste that expensive food.

why do cats scratch around their food - too much food

4. To keep their space sparkling clean

If there’s one thing you don’t have to worry about when you have a cat, it’s keeping them clean because they do that job very well. Cats can spend 50-60% of their days grooming themselves, as it is almost necessary to feel clean and fresh. They detest strong odors to such an extent that they refuse to use their litter box if it is dirty, and even if someone pets them, they quickly wipe away that terrible new smell.

This love of cleanliness may be why many cats scratch around their food bowl as they seek to clean up the dirt left after eating. So don’t worry about picking up the silverware after your cat’s dinner. Your well-behaved kitten has you covered.

5. They do not like their food

That’s right, and it is no surprise that cats are extraordinary, and of course, they are picky eaters. It is very likely that if you change the kibble or wet food to your cat, he will reject it because they don’t like to experiment with new flavors. They are super routine animals. Although the vast majority of cats leave the food in the bowl, some other drama actors enjoy making a statement, they will make sure you understand the message, and in addition to leaving the bowl full, they will scratch around to tell you, “thank you, next.”

Should I prevent my cat from scratching around its food?

Not at all. Scratching around his food bowl is not an indication that something is wrong. On the contrary, it’s just your cat following his wildcat instincts. Scratching, like kneading, is a soothing movement for cats, so it might even be beneficial for him. What better than a delicious and super relaxed dinner to finish a perfect day?

why do cats scratch around their food - should I prevent it

Why do cats scratch around their food? The bottom line

Now you know why cats scratch their food, whether trying to hide it, keep it clean or make a statement. This behavior is entirely normal and instinctive in cats, so don’t worry if you notice your kitty scratching around its food bowl. Just remember that cats have specific nutritional needs and must be fed according to the instructions on the package.

Check for strange signs to rule out possible medical problems when feeding them. Does your cat scratch around its food bowl? Tell us in the comments! Happy feeding!

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