Why Do Cats Put Toys In Their Food Bowl?

Disclaimer: The information presented below is for general informational & educational purposes only. Always consult with animal professionals in case of specific concerns.

Have you ever wondered why your cat will sometimes place their favorite toys right inside their food bowl? It’s a curious behavior that many pet owners observe their cats doing from time to time.

Have you ever wondered why your cat put toys inside its food bowl? It seems like strange behavior for an animal that usually keeps food and play separate. While it may look like your cat is just being silly or trying to annoy you, felines actually have instincts at play when they mix toys with their dinner. Understanding why cats perform this peculiar behavior can provide insight into their curious minds. As pet owners, we want to foster relationships built on trust and communication with our furry companions. With some exploration into the psychological reasons behind this toy-in-food-bowl habit, we can gain a better appreciation for our cats’ natural behaviors while also ensuring their needs are appropriately met. Today we’ll take a look at the innate instincts and motivations that lead cats to commingle their toys with their meals.

Why Do Cats Put Toys In Their Food Bowl?

Cats often exhibit the peculiar behavior of placing their toys in their food bowl for a variety of reasons:

  • Instinctual Behavior: In the wild, cats drag their prey to a safe place before eating it. The food bowl is a “safe place” and toys are substitutes for prey.
  • Ownership: Cats may place toys in their food bowl as a sign of ownership. Their bowl is their territory and putting a toy there signifies it’s theirs too.
  • Feeding Ritual: Some cats may see toys as their “prey” and place them in the food bowl as part of their feeding ritual.
  • Seeking Attention: Cats know that placing their toys in an unusual place will get your attention, so they may put toys in their food bowl to draw you into play or interaction.
  • Boredom: If a cat is bored, they might start moving toys around and randomly place them in their food bowl. 

Remember, every cat is unique and may have its own specific reasons for this behavior. It’s always a good idea to observe and understand your cat’s behavior to ensure they are healthy and happy.

Are There Any Health Concerns Associated With Cats Putting Toys In Their Food Bowl?

While this behavior is typically harmless and purely instinctual, there can be potential health concerns if the toys or objects placed in the food bowl are not clean. Dirty toys can contaminate the cat’s food, leading to harmful bacteria or parasites being ingested which can cause gastrointestinal upset or infection. Additionally, small or easily destructible toys can pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockage if the cat attempts to eat them. It’s important to regularly clean your cat’s bowl and toys and to provide them with appropriately sized and safe playthings. If any changes in behavior or signs of illness are noticed, it is always best to consult with a veterinarian.

How Can I Prevent My Cat From Putting Toys In Their Food Bowl?

If your cat is putting toys in their food bowl, it could be due to various reasons such as playfulness, boredom, or a desire to create a connection between the toy and their feeding area. Here are some tips to prevent this behavior:

Provide Separate Play and Feeding Areas: Cats often associate locations with activities. By keeping their play area and feeding area separate, your cat may be less likely to bring toys to their food bowl.

Interactive Play Time: Regularly engaging your cat in play can help divert their attention away from their food bowl. Use a variety of cat toys to keep their interest and keep them active.

Monitor Toy Use: Keep track of what toys your cat prefers to put in their bowl. It may be helpful to remove these particular toys after playtime.

Invest in Puzzle Feeders: Puzzle feeders can challenge your cat and keep them mentally stimulated, reducing the likelihood of them placing toys in their food bowl out of boredom.

Consult a Professional: If this behavior persists or becomes a problem, it may be best to consult with a veterinarian or a professional animal behaviorist. They can provide personalized guidance based on your cat’s eating habits and specific needs.

As always, remember that every cat is unique. What works for one might not work for another. Maintain patience and keep trying different methods until you find what works best for your feline friend.

Are There Any Benefits To Cats Putting Toys In Their Food Bowl?

While it may seem peculiar, there are indeed some potential benefits to cats putting toys in their food bowls:

Mental Stimulation: This behavior can serve as a form of mental exercise for cats, stimulating their natural instincts and keeping them engaged.

Ownership Expression: It allows cats to express their instinctual need to claim territory and ownership, which can be beneficial for their sense of security.

Communication: This behavior can serve as a form of communication between cats and their owners, allowing owners to better understand their cats’ behaviors and needs.

Stress Relief: Similar to humans, cats may exhibit certain behaviors as a form of stress relief. Placing toys in their food bowl could be a comforting routine for some cats.

Physical Activity: Moving toys to the food bowl might be a way for indoor cats to get some physical activity, especially if they do it frequently.

Read more: Why Does My Cat Flip Its Food Bowl?

Is This Behavior More Common In Certain Breeds Of Cats?

While this behavior of cats placing toys in their food bowl is quite common among domesticated felines, it isn’t particularly attributable to any specific breed of cat. It is more related to the individual personality, habits, and instincts of a cat rather than their breed. However, breeds that are more predisposed to playful behavior or have a strong prey drive, like Siamese, Bengals, or Maine Coons, may exhibit this behavior more frequently. Regardless of breed, it’s always important to understand and respect your cat’s unique behaviors while ensuring their health and safety.


In conclusion, while the reason behind why cats put toys in their food bowl may vary from cat to cat, there are a few general theories that could help us understand this peculiar behavior. From instinctive hunting and storing behaviors to simply being a form of play, it seems that cats have their own unique reasons for placing toys in their food bowls. As pet owners, it’s important for us to observe and try to understand our furry companions’ behaviors. So next time you see your beloved feline placing a toy in their food bowl, don’t be puzzled or frustrated – instead, appreciate the fact that they are expressing their natural instincts and perhaps even trying to tell you something.