Why do domestic cats use their paws to eat food?

The reason why domestic cats sometimes use their paws to eat commercially made food is because it is natural to do so. I’m going to argue that if the domestic cat were more dexterous with their paws, they would use them more often to eat. It is simply the case that it takes longer to eat food when scooping it up with the left paw than it is to grab the food in the jaws. They would not and could not use their paws to eat prey animals. It is an adaptation by domestic cats living with humans.

Grey cat manically eats dry cat food with left paw and stuffs the pellets into his mouth

Grey cat manically eats dry cat food with left paw and stuffs the pellets into his mouth. Screenshot.

In my experience, domestic cats are usually left-handed and/or ambidextrous. Depending upon the individual cat’s character, he or she will sometimes scoop water out of a water bowl or scoop dry cat food out of the bowl and place it into their mouth.

It looks strange to us but it is normal for the domestic cat. The anatomy of the domestic cat is very similar to that of humans. Humans are more intelligent and their hands are more dexterous than the paws of cats. These differences account for the different eating styles of prepared foods.

Note: This is a video from another website which is embedded here. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

Humans sometimes use their hands to eat food. It’s quite common in fact. Very rarely do humans grab food in their jaws! Perhaps it might happen when they are starving or under particularly difficult circumstances (eating a prey animal). But the natural human behaviour when eating prepared food is to use the hands.

RELATED: Strange Cat behavior

Humans can do this because they are very dexterous. Humans can manipulate objects relatively accurately in their hands. Cats don’t have this ability. Also, their paws are too small to contain commercial food objects effectively and the paw is not shaped in a way which makes the carrying of food efficient. And also, they have claws on the end of their toes which must present a barrier, to a certain extent, when putting their paws up to their mouths. It’s just not really viable to eat that way. But with different shaped paws they would use them more often to eat.

So why do some cats do it as you can see in the video on this page? It must be a personal characteristic. I’m going to argue that because it is natural for a cat to do it as an alternative way to eat, their character may predispose them to using their paws as is the case with this manic grey cat in the video who I believe must have been starving to eat like that.

I don’t believe that there is any particular reason why some cats eat dry cat food with their paws. They might do it on occasion but never all the time. It is a preference at that moment. The more efficient method of eating directly with the mouth will be preferred as it is more effective and efficient. I suspect that if the domestic cat had paws like hands, they’d use their paws a lot of the time.

RELATED: 4 Puzzling Cat Behaviors Explained

I get the impression that the TikTok user decided to make his cat very hungry knowing full well that he had a tendency to eat with his paws. There was the expectation, therefore, that he would eat like this, in an aggressively manic way which is very peculiar. A good video was ensured.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.
Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

You may also like...