Why do some cats prefer eating off the floor?

  • Time to read: 6 min.

Cats all have distinct personalities just like we do. Some may have quirky likes and dislikes and display behaviors we find puzzling. Cats are very expressive animals and each will have their own quirks. If you’re concerned about why your cat might be displaying a tendency to eat off the ground have no fear! It is likely normal and easily solvable. Here is everything you need to know about why some cats prefer eating off the floor. 

Often, cats chose to eat off the floor because of their the shape of the bowl is irritating their whiskers. Other reasons include something about your cat’s feeding distressing them, or something about the contents of their bowl distressing them,  and turning them away.

Cats like their environments to be clean and accessible. If your cat is not eating out of their bowl, or is dragging the food out of their bowl, something about the dish is likely making them uncomfortable. This is often easily identifiable and fixable, so don’t worry. Cats are very hygienic animals, but not to the extent of humans. They will often have no qualms about eating off the floor if that’s where they find something they want to eat.

Can eating from the floor cause my cat any real harm?

Cats have a unique digestive system. In some cases they can handle more than us humans, and in others they are far more sensitive. In general, it is not good for your cats to be eating off the floor. Even if their feeding area is very clean they may not get sick immediately, but letting them constantly eat off the floor increases their chances of contracting something

Parasite eggs, germs, and bacteria that may infect your cat are all a risk. People bring all kinds of things in with them from outside that spread across the floor. It is definitely better to find a way to protect your cat from the floor

Something may be wrong with their feeding area

Cats are very particular and want their feeding areas to be a certain way. Food bowls should be placed far away from litter and water bowls and should be kept as clean as possible at all times. Your cat may find something distressing in their feeding area, and so avoid their bowl or pull the food out of it to eat on the floor. 

Pay close attention to how they act in their feeding area. If there is constant commotion or noise they might get agitated eating there and develop strange habits. Keep their area clean and calm, and distance their food and water. 

There may be something wrong with the bowl shape

Often when cats are dragging the food out of their bowl or seem uncomfortable eating from it, it’s down to the shape. Deep or thin bowls might lead your cat to have to push their face further into their bowl and the edges will push back their whiskers.

 A cat’s whiskers are very sensitive, so this will be uncomfortable for them and may turn them off eating from the bowl. Watch your cat when they go to eat, and if they seem to have trouble reaching the food or display comfort and you notice their whiskers catching, it’s time for a new bowl.  

What to look for in a new bowl shape

This problem is luckily very solvable! When buying the right bowl for your cat past this point, look for something wide and shallow, so your kitty can access the food better without the edges of the bowl pushing back their whiskers

You can likely get this at any local pet store, and if you can test if your cat is happy with it. If normal cat bowls are not working for you, you can look into a shallow and wide plastic dish to feed your cat in, or a wide plate that will be very accessible to them.

Something could be wrong with the bowl’s contents

Another possibility that your cat is choosing to eat off the floor is something is wrong with what is in their bowl. Cats are very hygienic, so if you’ve accidentally let their food sit for too long that may be putting them off. If their bowl itself hasn’t been cleaned in a while and old food has built up, that may also be a cause for their floor preference.

 Try to change out your cat’s food at least every two days if you free-feed them dry food. Wet foods should be cleaned out every day once they’re done eating.

 A build-up of old food can attract bugs and smell off-putting, and can also breed bacteria. All this will turn your cat away from it, so make sure you take good care of their bowls.

Other reasons your cat may prefer to eat off the floor 

Cats have their own unique personalities and quirks, much like we do. If you have tried everything and your cat is still determined to eat off the floor they may be accustomed to it, or it may just feel comfortable to them.

 To combat this, give them a sturdy plate to eat off, so they are as close as possible to the ground without getting any of its germs on their food. Ideally though, you should try to train your kitty to eat in their bowl.

Training your cat to eat in their bowl

Sit with your cat when they go to eat and watch how they behave. If you can identify the problem, rectify it and watch them again. If they are still pulling the food out of their bowl and onto the floor, try a plate. If that still doesn’t work, sit with them and lift the food back onto the plate whenever they drag it off.

 Encourage them by petting them or talking to them. Try to associate eating off the bowl or plate with positive affirmations, and dragging the food out with scolding and replacing it in the bowl. 

It may take a while, but eventually, your cat should become accustomed to eating out of the bowl or on the plate you set out for them.

Don’t let them get accustomed to the floor

When training your cat to not eat off the floor, be sure to not give them food to eat on the ground outside of feeding time! It is often tempting to drop a piece of food on the ground for your cat when you’re eating, but this will have negative effects on them in the long run. 

Cats will most definitely eat anything you drop on the floor for them. They’re very clean animals, but they’re still animals and don’t have the same qualms about the floor as humans do. Don’t let them associate eating off the floor positively at all. If you give them messages that are counter to the way you are trying to train them, you will confuse them and slow the training process.  

Conclusion

More often than not, your cat prefers the floor because there’s something wrong with their bowl or feeding area that is turning them away from it. Examine your cat’s bowl and how they eat from it, and if you pick up that the bowl or feeding area is unappealing or uncomfortable for them try to fix this. 

Otherwise, your cat may just have a quirk in which they are more comfortable eating off the floor. If this is the case you’ll need to provide them with a plate to eat off, or possibly train them to eat in their bowl. The floor could potentially spread bacteria and parasites to your kitty, so you should do everything you can to protect them from it and keep their food clean.