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Why Does My Cat Pretend to Bury Its Food?

Got a Cat Who Keeps Hiding Food All Around the House? It's an Instinct From the Wild

Woman feeding ginger tabby cat, only hands visible. Giving cat tins of cat food on hardwood floor.

Whether it is spending the day curled up napping in odd places or getting into strange items around the house (is my cat the only one who tries to eat tape?), it is easy to see that cats love to do what they want, when they want. Which is why I wasn't surprised when I began noticing my youngest cat, Tiny, pretending to hide his bowls of his favorite food after I filled them up. What was a bit surprising was that after a quick search on the internet, I learned that Tiny isn't the only cat who does this — it's actually a thing. So what gives? POPSUGAR spoke to two vets to learn more about this quirky cat behavior.

Why Do Cats Pretend to Bury Their Food?

As it turns out, domesticated cats learned this behavior from their ancestors out in the wild. "Wild cats will bury food remnants as a means of hiding them from predators," explained Gary Richter, DVM, a veterinary health expert with Rover. "In the wild, a predator might try and track a cat by following a trail of food remnants." Dr. Richter shared that burying food allows there to be little to no odor for predators to find. Shadi J. Ireifej, DVM, DACVS, owner and chief medical officer of VetTriage, echoed that, while some cats may do this and others not, this behavior is indeed instinctual. "These behaviors are clearly written deeply within their DNA, passed along from their wild evolutionary cat ancestors," Dr. Ireifej said. He also explained that, in addition, some cats may do this because they do not like their food or may even be trying to save it for later.

Should This Behavior Be a Cause For Concern?

If you catch your cat pretending to bury their food, then no reason to worry — this behavior is typically common among animals and should not be a cause for concern. However, Dr. Richter pointed out to be aware of any behavior that may be out of the ordinary for your furry friend.

"The only concern I would raise is I have seen animals try to bury or hide food when they are not feeling well," Dr. Richter said. "If a cat is hiding food or overturning their food bowl and this is not part of their normal pattern of behavior, it could be an indication something is wrong." In this case, Dr. Richter advised that you should be in touch with your vet. Dr. Richter also shared that if your pet buries their food outside hoping to come back to it later, it may be best to dig it up before they do so they don't ingest spoiled food.

Dr. Ireifej pointed out that if your cat dislikes their food and is burying it but not eating it, it is important to change their diet to better fit their needs and preferences. However, he also explained it is very important that pet owners not confuse burying food with refusal to eat. "Inappetence is abnormal and a sign of nausea or other pathology," he added. "Immediate veterinary attention is warranted in such cases."

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