Why do some domestic cats grab food from their bowl and eat it off the floor?

If you read up on what appears to be slightly strange feline behaviour you will probably find different answers. They are all speculative because we don’t know for sure why domestic cats sometimes grab a piece of food from a bowl in their jaws and then deposit that food in the area around the food bowl and eat it there. What advantage is there to eating food outside of the bowl?

Because nobody answers the question in a definitive way, I am free to make up my own mind! My initial feeling is that it is not strange at all but natural. It is more natural for a cat to eat off the floor than in a bowl because their behavior is dictated by their ancestral wildcat’s behavioral instincts. There are no food bowls in the wild ?✔️.

Cat drags dry food pellets from their bowl and eats them outside their bowl
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Cat drags dry food pellets from their bowl and eats them outside their bowl. Screenshot.

Personal observation

I have watched my cat do this. And I think I have a telling reason why they do it. I provide my cat with high quality wet cat food. I also provide him sometimes with king prawns which he adores.

Sometimes the wet cat food clumps together. It forms quite a large clump. Under these circumstances he tends to take it outside of the bowl and eats it there. He might do the same thing with a big prawn.

Domestic cats have become scavengers!

My distinct impression is that he is taking a large chunk of food from the bowl to protect it. Why should he do this? A domestic cat sees the food in his food bowl as a prey animal carcass. He is scavenging at that time. He is not killing an animal but coming across a dead animal and scavenging.

In his mind there might be other scavengers around. He needs to protect his find. He grabs what he can and then takes it away from the carcass. At least he has something. He can lay claim to a large piece of the found food. And if in the meantime no other predator has taken any more of the carcass he will return and do the same thing again or feed directly from it.

Protecting food

So, my distinct impression is that when cats remove food from their food bowl, they are protecting their food from other predators. This looks ridiculous because the cat is in a home and unless it is a multi-cat home with other cats who want to eat from the same bowl, he does not need to protect his food.

But this is entirely instinctive. Every action that a domestic cat makes is based upon the instincts that he inherited from the North African wildcat. Whenever you assess a domestic cat’s behaviour you always refer back to the wild cat ancestor and how they would behave under certain circumstances.

So that, is the first possible reason that this form of feline behaviour. Below are a couple more options.

Eating from the bowl is irritating

Perhaps the bowl is too narrow and the cat’s whiskers are touching the sides and he doesn’t like it. It’s just irritating. It is sometimes called ‘whisker stress’. Therefore, he removes the food from the bowl and eats at his comfort. This is a very practical reason.

Eating from the bowl is more difficult

Perhaps he’s eating dry cat food. He’s trying to get his jaws around a small pallet at the bottom of the bowl. It’s a bit tricky and therefore he decides to grab some pellets and deposit them outside the bowl where he can eat them more comfortably. This is a similar reason to the one above.

Bowls are unnatural!

Cat food bowls are inherently unnatural to domestic cats because they would normally eat in the open on the ground. Domestic cats only eat from bowls because it is convenient for their owner. Perhaps it is this unnaturalness which drives a cat to sometimes grab the food quickly and deposit it in an area around the bowl before eating it.

Personally, I favour the first reason but I welcome any other viewpoints and comments. All three reasons are probably applicable.

Video example from Reddit

This video may stop working! I don’t control it.

Below are some articles on feeding behavior

Kittens suckle at an artificial feeder

Kitten feeding station, breast feeder containing milk formula in action plus formula info

I've never seen this device before probably because I don't breed cats! Bringing cats into the world is a big ...
Distance between food and water for cats. Why?

Do cats like their water bowl at a distance from their food bowl?

People ask: Why do cats like their water separate from their food? They are asking if cats like their water ...
Interactive puzzle feeder for cats

Do interactive (puzzle) cat feeders work?

Yes, in my experience, they work very well. Cats instinctively use them without any training in my experience although it ...
Domestic cat flicking leg after eating

Why do cats sometimes flick one hind paw after eating?

We are referring to domestic cats. Perhaps wild cats do it as well. Some of them probably do and one ...
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...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *