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Why Dogs and Cats Take Food Out of the Bowl To Eat It

Updated on July 18, 2014
Wild dogs have to fight for their portion of a kill.  Some of that instinct is left over in your domesticated pet.
Wild dogs have to fight for their portion of a kill. Some of that instinct is left over in your domesticated pet. | Source

Both dogs and cats sometimes like to take a moutful of dry kibble and take it to some other part of the room, yard or house.

Not all pets display this behavior but for those that do, it can be frustrating for the owner.

Fnd out why dogs and cats may choose to eat their food out of the bowl and what you can do about it.

Dogs and Pack Mentality

According to Colleen Oakley of Vetstreet, there are probably several reasons you dog may gather up their food and take it other places to eat it.

The biggest reason is most likely instinct.

Dogs naturally have a pack mentality. If you have ever watched a National Geographic special and watched a pack of wolves eating, it can be a competitive, feeding frenzy.

In order to insure they get their share of the meal, wolves will often take their piece of the kill off to the side to eat it.

This helps to insure that they can eat in relative peace and that they get their fair share.

This instinct is still strong within modern, domesticated dogs.

If there are other dogs around, they may gather a mouthful and take it off just to be sure they get to eat their portion.

The dog may also just naturally do it, even if he or she is the only dog or pet in the house.

Your dog may be bringing its food to a place where it can see you or be near you.
Your dog may be bringing its food to a place where it can see you or be near you. | Source


Another reason that dogs may move their food elsewhere is loneliness.

If its food bowl is in one room and its family is in the other, it may move its food to where it can either see or be with another family member.

Dogs naturally long for companionship.

Cats and Primal Instinct

Cats can also display some of the same characteristics as dogs.

Many types of cats will gather a mouthful of dry food and take it elsewhere to continue eating it.

Others will knock food out of their bowl before eating it.

Some of this behavior is probably occurring for the same reason as the dog's. Cats too need to make sure they take their food away from the others in order to eat their portion of a meal in peace.

But cats also have another surprising reason for moving their food.

Cats prefer clean drinking water and may move their food in order to keep their water clean.
Cats prefer clean drinking water and may move their food in order to keep their water clean. | Source

Cats and Water Bowls

Cats in particular do not like their food and water to be near each other.

While the placement makes perfect sense to us, after all, we have our plate and drink next to each other when we eat, to a cat, this is disconcerting.

In the wild, big cats will often drag their kills out and away from their water source. If the kill is near their water source, they will often not drink that water again.

Cats are very clean animals and hunting and killing is messy and has the potential to contaminate the surrounding area, including any water, with debris, blood and fecal matter.

This instinct still remains strong in domesticated cats who will either try to move their food away from their water source or seek water elsewhere.

Does your cat prefer the flushed toilet to their own water bowl near their food?

Now you know why.

Make Sure Your Cat (or Dog) Doesn't Feel Competition When Eating

Can You Change Their Behavior?

As you might expect, it is easier to get dogs to change their behavior than cats.

For dogs, vets suggest trying to change their bowls. Some dogs are sensitive to textures or even loud sounds (like you might hear if you are cruching food out of a metal bowl).

The dog also might need a different, quieter place to eat.

Finally, if you suspect the dog is lonely, you can sit where it can see you while it eats its meal. This reassures it that you are still around and that it can eat its meal in peace.

Cats are not as likely to change. Some breeds of cats tend to do this more often than others. (I have a fifteen year old Siamese who has exhibited this behavior his entire life.)

If you suspect that your cat doesn't like food near its water source, try putting its water bowl at a different place in the house.

You can also try switching the type of bowls and making sure that the cat doesn't feel like it is competing with other pets or people.

It is harder to get a cat to alter their behavior than a dog.
It is harder to get a cat to alter their behavior than a dog. | Source


  • Some may break the often messy habit of moving their food and some may not.
  • Try changing types of bowls you use.
  • Make sure the pet feels secure and not in competition.
  • Sit where the pet can see you while they eat.
  • Make sure keep a cat's water away from its food area.

Cats and dogs are wonderfully funny and interesting animals.

Seeing the primal side come out of our domesticated friends reminds us of their origins and their connection to that past.

Sometimes an animal decides to change behavior over time. Sometimes not.

If not, just keep the vacuum and broom handy.

Does your cat or dog take its food out of the bowl to eat?

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    • profile image

      BCH 3 years ago

      my cat never drinks water from the bowl next to food i will try moving the water dish. she only drinks from running sink and my glass

    • jim10 profile image

      jim10 3 years ago from ma

      Yes they are. I have 3 dogs too. That's funny that one actually relocates the food to eat.

    • LCDWriter profile image

      L C David 3 years ago from Florida

      Aren't pets fun? Each one is so unique. I have some that take the food out of the bowl and carry it somewhere else and others that are just messy. Then I have a cat that comes along and eats the crumbs off the floor that the others leave, even with full bowls.

    • jim10 profile image

      jim10 3 years ago from ma

      1 of my 3 cats always knocks his food out of the bowl to eat it. They all eat out of the same bowl throughout the day. It always seemed so strange because he ends up making a mess.

    • LCDWriter profile image

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      Yes, I just learned about the food and water thing recently. I now have water bowls in other places in my house, My Siamese still carries his food (he's old and set in his ways) but the others don't do it much any more.

    • nArchuleta profile image

      Nadia Archuleta 4 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      While Lindemann doesn't remove his food from the bowl, he does prefer to eat when I'm around. Great Hub -- I found the explanation about cats' food and water especially interesting.