Why Do Cats Paw the Ground Before They Eat?

Cats often knead the ground before, during and after eating.
i George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

For a true cat lover, almost anything a feline does can be absolutely endearing and lovable, whether a fluffball is gazing intently out the window at the birds or obsessively pawing at the floor before mealtime. Pawing and kneading behaviors, although uber-cute, are very common in the feline world.

What Exactly is Pawing?

When a cat paws at the ground, she actually is "kneading." Kneading is a term that describes a back-and-forth forward movement of the paws onto a surface, typically which is soft. If your floor is covered by a smooth carpet, your cat may be more likely to paw at it than onto other types of ground.


According to the Humane Society of the United States, pawing and kneading behavior is an expression of pure contentment. If you're a classic cat, then you're probably at your happiest when you're eating, so pawing at the ground is definitely no shock. When you notice your cat pawing at the ground as she anticipates you filling up her food bowl, she most likely can't contain her excitement -- aww.

Territory Marking

Even if your cat just seems like an innocent and unassuming little being, it doesn't mean she possesses no territorial traits. A feline's paws have scent glands, so when a kitty paws at the ground she is essentially just labeling it as her turf. She may be telling all other pets in your home to back off and stay away from her upcoming meal -- sassy girl!

Saving Her Food

Even if your cat has lived a cozy life indoors for her entire life, that doesn't mean she is devoid of instinctive feline behavior. When a cat frantically paws at the ground before she eats, it may be her body's way of concealing the goods from predators, or perhaps saving the meal for later consumption. It may seem wacky to you -- especially if the food isn't even in front of her yet -- but it's all totally natural cat behavior. Cats also very frequently paw at the ground after a meal is done, too.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

the nest