I get this question a lot, why does the cat keep ”cleaning” around the food or waterbowl?
In the wild, a cat has some sort of lair. Whether it’s a favored tree or a little cave, it’s somewhere that belongs only to him. Since this would be a place where he ate his meals, his food dish becomes his lair in the home. Other than just digging his paws around his food dish, he may also try and hide things there. Have you ever found a hair tie or sparkly ball floating in the water bowl? This wasn’t an accident. Kitty will sometimes “hide” his prized possessions in his food or water bowl since it’s the central hub of his territory.
If Kitty were still in the wild, he’d have to worry about potential predators. In your home he has no predators, and he doesn’t have to hunt for a kill. However, his instincts still linger. When he furiously digs around his food dish, he’s trying to cover his meal. His food sitting around is a clear sign to any potential predator that this is where Kitty lives. Covering it up will allow him to cover his tracks and keep himself safe.
An alfa male or a cat that have top rank would also do it to put it´s scent around this place, to mark it´s territory from other cats.
Your furry friend may not stop at just trying to dig on the floor. He may grab a stray towel or blanket and lay it on top of his food. You may think he’s trying to protect it for later, like wrapping up the leftovers and sticking them in the fridge. However, Kitty doesn’t think like that. In the wild, cats don’t come back to a meal they’ve stored for several days. Instead, this is still him trying to be sneaky and not let predators know where he is. If you’re feline pal has taken the time to physically cover his food rather than just pawing on the floor, he’s just going the extra mile.
While the behavior is harmless, it could be annoying if he tears up your carpet or keeps pulling towels out of the laundry. The most effective way to stop the behavior is to take his food bowl away from him when he’s done eating. If the bowl is gone, he won’t have anything he needs to cover up. Only feed him enough for one meal at a time. If you free-feed, leaving a food bowl full of kibble out all the time, this will only encourage the behavior. As soon as you notice kitty starting the behavior, distract him. Tease him with his favorite feather toy or laser pointer. Getting his mind on play and off of food will help bring the behavior to a halt.