Most owners have witnessed their feline friends kneading and scratching around their food, leaving us with the question Why does my cat scratch the floor before eating? This instinctive behavior serves mostly as a communication tool, as cats leave their scent and visual marks and express their contentment or dislike of the food. Also, they cover their tracks or simply make themselves comfortable.
Why Does My Cat Scratch The Floor Before Eating
Every cat owner enjoys a long list of silly things cats do. Recently, we adopted a new kitten, and I immediately started noticing she’s acting weird around her food and water bowls. Before she starts feasting she has a long session of pawing, scratching, and kneading the floor around her bowls. The behavior left me wondering why does my cat scratch the floor before eating?
As it turns out, it’s not an unusual behavior and there’s nothing wrong with the kitten. She’s exhibiting an instinct shared with her wild ancestors, and even with the big cats of today. This behavior is natural and harmless to our cats. In fact, it’s a positive sign that the feline is feeling at home.
Why Does My Cat Scratch The Floor Before Eating — Or Knead It?
Before moving on, I’d like to briefly discuss the difference between kneading and scratching. They are both instinctive behaviors that are deeply hard-wired in our feline companions. Often, they stem from the same root and serve the same purpose, as you are about to see.
Kneading is a common trait most owners find cute and quite charming. It is also referred to as “making biscuits” because a cat looks like it’s kneading dough. When kneading, cats are pushing their paws in and out, alternating between left and right. Cat owners know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s that warm feeling you get when your cat is “giving you a massage.”
Moreover, a kneading cat is a happy, relaxed cat. This behavior is often accompanied by purring and it usually means your feline is expressing satisfaction or anticipation of something highly enjoyable.
Some cats knead with all four paws, while others use just the two front ones. Some retract their claws entirely, but others also scratch away the surface below. That is when kneading becomes scratching. So next time you wonder, Why is my cat scratching the floor before eating? consider that she might just be incredibly happy.
Kittens and mature cats alike scratch while playing, stretching, and feeding. The need to remove dead layers of the claws, sharpen them, and keep them in generally good shape will have your cat scratch away at just about anything.
Cats scratch to mark their territory by leaving both visual and scent marks. The scent glands in the soft pads of their paws leave unique marks they use as communication tools with other felines and reminders for themselves.
Why Does My Cat Scratch The Floor Before Eating — Theories
Although kneading and scratching around the food bowl is a common cat behavior, there are numerous theories about the reason behind it. Domesticated felines will scratch tiles and linoleum and knead on carpets and rugs because it’s in their nature to do so.
Covering Their Tracks
Much like wild cats, domesticated felines have the natural instinct to bury their food. Cats in the wild hunt for food and eat as much of a carcass as they can at once. As a protective measure against predators, they bury the leftovers, covering them with leaves and dirt. By doing so, they mask the scent of rotten meat and prevent enemies from tracking them down.
Of course, domestic cats have little competition for food and practically no predators. What’s more, our pets are mostly very well fed. Most house cats live a life of abundance and rarely if ever, feel hunger. Nevertheless, they still share instincts with their wild cousins.
Take my kitten for example — I fill her bowl, she sniffs around it and instantly starts kneading. Just when I think she’s about to start eating, the kneading turns to scratch. After a whole minute of scratching, she turns around and leaves without even touching her food.
So after doing a little bit of research trying to answer the question of why does my cat scratch the floor before eating, I realized that she might not be that hungry at all. Because she doesn’t plan on eating the food, she tries to bury it by scratching and keep scavengers away.
Leaving Scent Marks
Cats are territorial animals and they make sure everyone knows it. By pawing they leave their unique scent on a surface, marking it as their turf. So when a cat is kneading and scratching the area around their food, it’s making it clear the bowl belongs to it. Scratching leaves visual markers that make this point even stronger.
Having this in mind, there’s a controversial theory that cats try to bury their food only to go back to it and eat it later. It is controversial because cats are not scavenging animals. Even feral cats eat only as much as they can in one go and they don’t feast on leftovers.
Cats have a powerful sense of smell that easily detects spoiled food. Together with their instinct for survival, the sense of smell prevents them from eating food that’s not fresh and getting sick from it.
Making A Statement
Every owner knows how picky a cat can be. Often, they turn their noses up at the sight of the food we’ve prepared from them. It can happen with a new brand of both kibble and wet food, while it rarely happens with something our cats really like.
If a cat dislikes what’s on the menu, it’ll scratch and paw in an attempt to bury the food and get rid of it. It is doing the same thing in its litter box, so it’s basically comparing the food with feces. It’s the cat’s way of tidying up the mess and keeping the surroundings clean.
In such cases, we can try a different brand of food or offer the picky feline something we know they enjoy.
On the other hand, happy and excited cats often knead and scratch too. Every owner knows the feeling and the occasional pain of kneading on. That’s how felines express contentment and love.
Likewise, they can spend a good deal of time scratching the floor in anticipation of a delicious meal. Kneading and scratching, if accompanied by purring or even drooling, are signs of pure bliss the cat is in. Curled up in front of the food bowl, the cat is expressing its love and appreciation for the tasty treat it’s about to indulge in.
Making Themselves Comfortable
This theory takes into consideration the days when the wild ancestors of our domesticated felines used to pat down thick foliage in search of shelter. They’d scratch and knead to clear space, soften the grass, and make a comfortable area for snoozing, eating, or giving birth.
Thus, our cats are maybe tenderizing the floor for additional comfort, so they can eat in peace and fully enjoy the meal.
We love cats and we love all the silly things they do. All cats will knead and scratch as it’s a part of their nature. Whether our felines are covering their scent, marking their territory, or expressing their feelings, our attitude toward it is what matters.
Every owner has been faced with the question of Why does my cat scratch the floor before eating at some point. Whatever the answer might be, we should keep in mind that it’s an instinctive behavior that does little harm but makes our feline friends somewhat special.