Does this sound familiar? You go to your cat’s food bowl and put in food, only to see your cat taking the food out of the bowl to eat it. Maybe your pet takes the food into another room, or perhaps it just eats it straight off the floor next to its bowl. Why on earth do felines do this?
There are actually a few reasons your cat takes food out of its bowl to eat (and none of them involve your pet simply trying to create the biggest mess possible). You can blame this behavior on those feline instincts, learned behavior, and a couple of things in between. Here are the four reasons your kitty removes their food from the bowl to eat!
The 4 Common Reasons Cats Take Food Out of Their Bowl to Eat
1. Feline Instinct to Protect Prey
Our domestic felines are ancestors of big wild cats, and as such, they’ve retained many wild instincts. So, it might be that by removing food from their bowl, your kitty is simply following those instincts—in particular, protecting prey.
Ever watched a documentary on wild cats? Then you’ve likely seen a leopard or ocelot make a kill, then immediately hide their food. Doing this ensures no other cats can come along and snatch that food up.
This instinct can especially show up in multi-cat households (even if your cats get along), but it can occur in single cat homes too.
2. Learned Behavior
Removing food from the food bowl may be a behavior your cat learned as a kitten. If a litter has several kittens, they may compete with each other for food (whether from mama cat or later as they move to solids). And competition means grabbing food and taking off to eat somewhere in peace. Like most behaviors, this snatch and run behavior can end up ingrained so that your pet still feels a need to do it even if no one else is around.
3. Whisker Fatigue
You might be unfamiliar with the term “whisker fatigue”, so what is it? Your feline’s whiskers hold a ton of receptors that receive sensory information via touch. For example, whiskers give your cat a better idea of where they are in relation to the things around them. Now, imagine your pet eating out of their food bowl—where are their whiskers then? Touching the bowl, of course! And this constant brushing up against a food bowl and receiving information can sometimes cause stress to your pet. That’s whisker fatigue.
And when whisker fatigue occurs, your pet will often take food from their bowl to eat elsewhere or even tip the entire food bowl over to avoid this sensation.
4. Dislike of Bowl Placement
Finally, your favorite feline could simply dislike where its food bowl is situated. Say the food bowl is right next to the water bowl—cats don’t like eating near water. It seems a bit odd to us, but the theory is that this occurs as a natural instinct, as cats in the wild don’t hunt near water sources.
Your kitty can also be displeased by the food bowl being too near the litter box, other cats’ bowls, dog food bowls, loud noises…you get the idea. There are a lot of factors relating to bowl placement, and many of these factors your pet might not be a fan of.
How to Remedy the Behavior
Want your cat to start eating from its bowl again? There are a few things you can do to try and convince them that the bowl is better than the floor or under the bed (though cats will be cats and might be stubborn about the situation).
If your cat is trying to protect food from other cats, whether because of natural instincts or learned behavior, you can arrange all your pets’ food bowls so they aren’t situated near each other to remedy the situation. You might be able to simply place the bowls far apart, but if your cat still doesn’t eat from the bowl, you’ll likely need to feed them in a different room than the other animals.
If whisker fatigue is the issue, then it would be wise to invest in a food bowl specifically designed to alleviate whisker fatigue. Whisker fatigue bowls are built to be broader and shallower than regular food bowls to prevent your pet’s whiskers from constantly brushing up against the bowl.
And if the issue is the placement of the food bowl? Then try moving the kitty’s bowl around to different areas of your home. Just ensure it’s far away from their water bowls, as well as the litter box.
Having your favorite feline constantly taking food out of its bowl to eat can be a bit annoying (purely because of the mess), but there are actual reasons your pet does this. It may be feline instinct, learned behavior, whisker fatigue, or just displeasure with where the food bowl has been placed.
In most cases, the issue is fairly easy to remedy, though you might have a bit more trouble if the cause is instinct or learned behavior. Still, make your pet’s eating experience as pleasurable as possible to avoid future problems.
Featured Image Credit: Elena Spac, Shutterstock