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7 Reasons Why Cats Dig in Their Food or Water Bowls

 by jaime on 12 Aug 2014 |
6 Comment(s)
Cat owners will attest that their felines have some pretty fascinating habits and behaviours, with some that are easily explained while others, just aren't. One such curious behaviour you may have noticed is your cat digging in their food or water bowl. If this sounds like your cat then read on to decipher this unusual habit...

Unfortunately, there isn't one clear cut answer to this strange habit, but the good news is that it doesn't denote anything serious. Instead, there are a few reliable and plausible theories, any of which could apply to your cat.

Ultimately, it is not urgent for you to do something about it, but if you find this behaviour annoying or messy then you can look into ways of reducing it, again depending on what the cause is.

Let's look at the possible reasons now:

1. Change in diet
Have you recently changed your cat's diet from dry to wet or the other way round? If you have, it could be your cat's way of telling you they don't like the change and would prefer to be fed something else. They're not known for being fussy for no reason! If you can detect a particular food or flavour that is causing more digging then you should consider removing that flavour from the menu.

2. Instinctual behaviour
Your cat's digging could simply be a genetic instinct shared with their big cat relatives. Wild cats tend to bury their food, either to save it for later or to protect it from being eaten by others as well as to deter predators. So perhaps your domestic kitty is simply mimicking what only comes naturally. This is particularly prominent in cats that were stray or feral who inherently learn to be more protective.
3. Age
If your cat is still only young, they may be practicing this behaviour out of insecurity. Is there another cat or animal in the home? They may be feeling a bit anxious or feel that their food supply is threatened. Once they feel more comfortable in their surroundings and feel convinced their food is not about to be stolen away, then the behaviour should stop. You could try and keep your cat's food bowl in a room on its own where it won't be disturbed by other members of the house.

4. Location
Cats are incredibly clean creatures and really dislike their food bowl near their littler box. If this is your current set-up then perhaps your cat's digging is caused by an instinctual disgust of having to eat near their poop. If you have the room, move the little box to another location and see if this stops the digging.

5. Cleanliness
Following on, your cat may be digging around in their food or water bowl if they feel like the bowls themselves are not clean enough. Make sure your cat's dishes are cleaned well everyday and perhaps the digging will cease.

6. Size and type of bowl
What sort of bowl do you feed your cat from? Perhaps its size and shape is contributing to your cat's digging? Generally, cat's do not like their whiskers to touch the side of the bowl as they are very sensitive, this is especially the case for cats with very long whiskers. Narrow, oval or bowls with low sides are most suitable to prevent food or water going everywhere.

7. Eyesight
This is most relevant to water bowls. Cats are short sighted and are unable to see well, making it hard for them to judge where exactly the water is in their bowl. They will use their paws to create ripples making it easier to see the water. If you use a glass or metal bowl, this perpetuates the issue further, so make a switch to a ceramic bowl or one that is patterned. Alternatively, your could consider investing in a water fountain. They particularly appeal to cats as they love drinking from outside water sources.

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Wai - Comment
Wai14 Aug 2014Reply
My cat uses her paw to fish out a single piece of food out of the bowl and then proceeds to eat it off the floor. She has done this for 17+ years now - the only time she didn't was when she didn't eat for 3 days in protest because my dad bought the wrong brand of food! When we finally switched it back, she was so hungry she just dove right in! :)
Bee - Comment
Bee27 Sep 2018Reply
My cat smacks his water and food bowl around getting water all over the floor. Why does he do that?
Najiha - Comment
Najiha27 Sep 2018Reply
My cat does the same too i dont know what to do!
Kitkat - Comment
Kitkat27 Sep 2018Reply
Cat instinct have them play with their prey for a long time before eating it because if the prey is exhausted then it won’t fight and injure them. They may just be instinctually playing with their food. I would try a non slip mat (you can get them really cheap at the dollar store) or bowls that have non slip rubber bottoms to help the bowls remain stationary. As for water, my kitties do have a hard time seeing the level of the water. Whatever the reason I would try the non slip mat and no slip bowls so they stay put. Hope that helps, good luck! 🍀 🐈‍⬛
Kimberly Todd - Comment
Kimberly Todd05 Nov 2020Reply
My cat likes to dig in her water bowl and the toilet Getting water everywhere. I have no clue why she does this!!!
Joyce Smith - Comment
Joyce Smith11 Dec 2020Reply
Monkey turns over her dry food bowl. She's getting several types, mainly fancy feast naturals chicken and another brand name for indoor cats, also chicken, both which he likes. Good with wet food thank God! Sometimes moves the water bowl too. Anyone's cat like to dig in the litter pan? He's just so michevious!
Cierra - Comment
Cierra19 Dec 2020Reply
I have two cats both two years old and sisters one drinks of water like it’s fine but my other one digs in the water and makes a huge mess I gave them fresh water every day I did change her bowl about eight months ago and now she digs and splashes and gets water everywhere before she drinks out of it is there anything I can do to help so I don’t have a mess in my kitchen
Cyn - Comment
Cyn21 Jan 2021Reply
One of my cats repeatedly smacks the water in ANY water dish, then licks it off his paw. Not w the kitten is doing the same. He rarely drinks any other way.

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