HomeCatsCat BehaviourWhy Do Cats Eat With Their Paws? 

Why Do Cats Eat With Their Paws? 

Cats are capable of all kinds of antics, and living with them can be immense fun. We do however have to admit that we still don’t understand a lot of their behavior. For example, they will wait outside the bathroom for us for no apparent reason. 

They will also, on occasion, eat with their paws, like perfect little ladies and gentlemen. Cats also drink with their paws, so maybe it should come as no surprise that they use them as utensils. 

Why do cats eat with their paws, and what does this even mean?

Why Do Cats Eat With Their Paws? 

Cats will eat with their paws whenever they don’t feel comfortable eating like they usually do. They may be stressed or on high alert, or they may be avoiding their bowl.

Cats in the wild are at their most vulnerable when they are eating. As they are focusing on their food and not their surroundings, they can fall prey to a larger animal. While this will certainly not happen in your home, their instincts are still quite strong. 

If a cat wants to keep an eye on the goings on around them, they will eat with their paw. There may be other animals or children in the home who may disturb them, or their bowl may be placed in a loud area. 

We should also remember that a cat’s whiskers are highly sensitive. If they touch the edges of their food bowl, they may feel uncomfortable eating from it. This is where the paw will come quite in handy once again. 

Their Whiskers Are Too Sensitive 

A cat’s whiskers are connected to many nerve endings, which are all highly sensitive. Cats use them to measure distances and navigate their immediate surroundings.  

If the bowl they are using is too narrow, their whisker will keep hitting the brim. This may cause whisker fatigue, which will make your cat start eating with their paw. If you notice they keep picking food up and dropping it by their bowl on the floor, this is practically certainly the issue. 

The simplest solution is to get them a wider bowl.

Their Hunting Instincts Are Kicking In 

Cats, no matter how domesticated they get, are still hunters by nature. In the wild, they will eat with their paws or hold their prey down. They may tear different parts off the dead animal, or they may bite into it. 

When your cat is eating with its paws, it may just be doing what its instinct is telling it to do. It has nothing to do with the fact that they don’t know their meal is not alive. It’s just the way they have learned to do things over the centuries.

They Don’t Like Their Bowl 

If a cat doesn’t like their bowl, for whatever reason, they may refuse to eat from it. It may be too narrow or too deep, they may not like the shape, it may have a pattern they don’t like, it may be made of a material that is weird to them. 

If you see your cat is often eating with its paws, try switching the bowl. You may need to try out several different solutions before you hit on the one they like best. 

The Bowl Is In the Wrong Place 

A cat’s bowl also needs to be in just the right place. If they feel exposed, they won’t be able to eat in peace. 

Cats want to be fully in command of their surroundings, but they also want some quiet while eating. Try to place their bowl in an undisturbed area, and give them plenty of room to keep an eye on the place. 

They Are Testing the Texture 

Cats will also use their paws to determine the quality and texture of their food. They are in essence sampling what you have served them up, and considering whether to eat it or not. They are also likely checking the temperature before they dive in. 

They Are On the Defensive 

Cats are always alert for any signs of danger. When they are eating, some of their senses will be compromised, as they need to focus on their food. If they are feeling anxious for whatever reason, they may prefer to eat with their paws to give themselves plenty of reaction time, should they need it. 

They Are Just Curious 

As we all know, cats are very curious creatures. They will use their paws to touch and examine all kinds of things, most notably whatever you leave lying on the table.

Similarly, they will want to understand what their food is. They will use their paw to gather as much information about it before they choose to eat it. Or not.

Do Cats Eat with Their Paws to Imitate Humans?

No, cats are not imitating humans when they eat with their paws. It has more to do with their own instincts than observing us.

Even cats in the wild eat with their paws. This is not something they have learned from humans, so their domestic cousins are certainly not just mimicking what they have observed. 

Is It Bad If My Cat Eats Food Off Its Paw?

It’s not at all bad if your cat eats with its paw. It’s just their way of feeling more comfortable and no cause for concern. 

If your cat has suddenly started eating with their paw, you may be wondering if there is something wrong. It’s highly unlikely it is an indicator of poor health. They may just be uncomfortable with their bowl, or not particularly like their food. 

Cats who have undergone a change in routine can start eating with their paws until they settle in. Even if nothing has changed, perhaps their food is a bit different, or they may be feeling curious about their meal. 

Should I Be Worried About My Cat Eating From Her Paws?

There is nothing to be worried about if your cat is eating from their paws. You may need to clean up around their bowl afterwards, but just let them eat how they like to eat. 

You may be concerned about your cat’s hygiene, but don’t worry. They are very clean, and will wash their paws after a meal. Don’t worry about where they have been either: it’s highly unlikely they will pick up anything on their paws that they would mind ingesting. After all, they wash those paws regularly, so they are already coming into contact with it. 

How Do I Get My Cat To Stop Eating From Her Paws?

If you really want to stop your cat from eating with their paw, you can try changing their bowl, where it’s placed and their food. They may still prefer the paw though.

Try getting them a wider, shallower bowl and placing it in a cool, quiet area of the house. Don’t place it near the wall, as your cat will want to be able to keep an eye on everything even while eating.

You can also switch their food and see what they do. They may just prefer eating a certain flavor or a certain brand of food with their paws, and be completely fine eating something else from their bowl. 

Also make sure you wash and dry the bowl regularly, ideally after every meal. You wouldn’t want to be eating out of an unclean plate either. 

Wrapping It Up 

Cats are strange creatures, but certainly a lot of fun to be around. The better you understand them, the more you will appreciate them for what they are: absolutely unpredictable piles of love. 

Wondering if cats can eat tuna? Or perhaps if cats can eat sardines? Will they eat either with their paws? Check out our guides to find out more! 

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