It’s a frustrating and inconvenient behavior – a cat that flips her food bowl. It’s something that you are going to want to understand (why it happens and if it’s normal) and maybe even attempt to stop (if you can). Well, if that’s the case, you’ll be glad you stopped by. It’s precisely what we’ll be covering here today.
So, why does my cat flip her food bowl? The most common reason cats flip their food bowl is that the bowl isn’t big enough to accommodate their whiskers comfortably. Cats may also flip their food bowl if they want attention, they don’t like the food bowl itself, they flip it by accident as the bowl is too flimsy, or they are suffering from anxiety.
There are definitely a few areas for you to explore here.
So to help you do so, let’s delve into the potential reasons further.
That way, you may be able to draw a few conclusions.
Then, we will turn to a few practical ways you may be able to stop food bowl flipping and other means of feeding your cat if this issue persists.
Reasons Why Cats May Flip Their Food Bowl
Your cat may flip their food bowl to get your attention – it could be your cat is protesting against something. Other times it’s because your cat doesn’t like the food you’re providing or the bowl itself. Some cats will flip their food bowls out of anxiety.
Your Cat Wants Attention
Some cats will flip their food bowl on purpose, especially if they have learned this will get your attention.
Your cat could be demanding more attention from you as a protest – maybe there’s a new baby or another family member who is taking up more of your time, and your cat is showing their displeasure.
Cats do bond with their people – despite rumors to the contrary!
Your Cat Doesn’t Like The Food
It could be your cat doesn’t like the food you’re giving it. Different cats appreciate different food tastes and textures.
Signs your cat doesn’t like its food include:
- Standing by the refrigerator and begging
- Sniffing the food and then walking away
- Taking a few bites of food before walking away
Note: It can be difficult to tell if your cat genuinely doesn’t like its food or if it’s not eating because of illness. If you see any signs of illness in your cat, get them to the vet asap. Don’t let your cat go for too long without eating.
If you suspect your cat doesn’t like the food you’re providing, you may need to try different types or brands to see what it likes best.
Cats do best on a diet of mostly wet food or a combination of wet and dry food. Try smaller portions of different foods first to try and accommodate your cat’s tastes.
Your vet may have recommendations for various cat foods to try, particularly if your cat has any specific dietary needs or allergies.
The good news is that once you find a food your cat likes, they will likely prefer to stick to it for a long time.
Unlike us, cats are usually happy to eat the same food their entire life because they are creatures of habit.
Eating the same food each day is reassuring for your cat because they know that particular food is safe to consume.
Here are some things you can try to make the food more appealing for your cat:
- For dry food, try different shapes and sizes of kibble.
- Keep any unused food in an airtight container to make sure it doesn’t spoil.
- Always have plenty of fresh water near your cat’s food.
- Try moistening your cat’s kibble with a bit of warm water.
Your Cat Doesn’t Like The Bowl
Sometimes your cat’s food bowl can be:
- Too deep. A bowl that’s too deep means your cat’s whiskers will brush against the sides or even block access to its food.
- Too narrow. Your cat may have difficulty getting their face into the bowl.
- Not the right material. Some cats prefer BPA-free plastic, while others are happy with a ceramic or metal bowl.
If your cat flips its food bowl and then eats the food from the floor, you can bet it’s probably the food bowl that your cat finds wanting.
This type of thing can happen if you’ve recently changed your cat’s food bowl or if your cat is new to your home.
Your Cat Has Anxiety
An anxious cat may flip their food bowl out of frustration or stress.
It’s essential to first rule out anxiety before considering other changes to make in your home around your cat’s food bowl.
Some cats – often those who have been in cat shelters – will flip their food bowl to then cover their food, as if they were keeping it safe from other cats.
How To Stop Your Cat Flipping Their Food Bowl
The best way to stop your cat from flipping its food bowl is to make sure it’s big enough for your cat’s whiskers and is heavy enough so that it can’t tip it over. However, if your cat is requesting attention from you, it’s essential to give it to them so that they can feel secure and loved.
Get a Heavier Food Bowl
If your cat tends to flip their food bowl by mistake because the bowl is too light, consider getting a heavier food bowl.
A wide ceramic bowl will be sturdier and provide ample space for your cat’s whiskers, which is very important for cats while they eat peacefully (see below).
Get A Bigger Bowl To Accommodate Your Cat’s Whiskers
A common problem with cat food bowls is the size: many cats don’t like having to feel their whiskers against the sides of the bowl while they try and eat.
Your cat’s whiskers are there to tell them where they can and can’t fit – such as through doorways.
Whiskers are highly sensitive, so it isn’t pleasant for most cats to feel them brushing against their bowl or, worse, their food!
Try a Feeder
You could try a timed feeder that distributes food to your cat on a schedule – feeders are quite difficult to tip over, and you could place a flat surface underneath for the food.
Give Your Cat More Attention
If you suspect your cat is asking you for attention, changing the bowl won’t help, but paying more attention to your cat will.
Make sure you spend quality time with your cat each day.
Cats may be independent creatures generally, but they still benefit from quality time with their favorite people.
Even 30 minutes a day will be helpful, and your cat will love you for it.
By spending quality time with your cat, whether it’s playing or snuggling, you are also increasing your bond with them as your cat will feel more loved.
The more effort you make to make your cat happy, the more your cat will trust and love you in return.
Feed Cats Separately
Cats prefer to eat alone, as they would do in the wild.
While it might be more practical for you to feed several cats at the same time, you might be unconsciously stressing your cat – they will naturally compete for the food.
Try feeding your cats at separate times or in separate rooms so that each cat knows where their food bowl is.
Other Things You Can Do About Your Cat Flipping Their Food Bowl
Other things you can do to avoid your cat flipping its food bowl include other ways of feeding them and making sure they don’t suffer from anxiety or stress.
Try Other Ways to Feed Your Cat
Sometimes a cat will push a bowl around while trying to get to the food. If the bowl isn’t the right size, or if it’s too light and it keeps moving around, your cat might get frustrated and push it around or over.
Most cats like shallow bowls that are large and low to the ground.
However, flat-faced breeds benefit from their food bowls being placed in a higher position so that their breathing isn’t obstructed.
You can try some other ways to feed your cat, such as:
- A baking tray. Some cats like to eat from a baking tray – you can add small balls to the tray that they have to push around to get to their food to make mealtimes more fun.
- A flat cat plate. These plates are preferred by some cats because they can eat their food without feeling their whiskers move against the side of a bowl.
- A non-slip bowl. If your cat is otherwise happy with the bowl but doesn’t like it sliding around, a non-slip bowl may solve the problem.
Make Sure Your Cat Isn’t Suffering From Anxiety or Stress
If your kitty suffers from anxiety or stress, there’s no point trying different bowls or methods of feeding until you have addressed the cause of the anxiety.
Causes Of Anxiety Or Stress
There are many possible causes of anxiety, including:
- Illness or physical pain. Any time your cat is ill or in pain, it may become anxious as a result.
- Trauma. An experience that may not seem traumatic to you could be perceived as traumatic by your cat – cats are sensitive creatures, after all. For example, being confined during a firework display could result in trauma for your cat. Some cats have to live with another pet who frightens them, too.
- Poor socialization. Cats who have not had enough exposure to other people (and pets, where applicable), can become highly anxious or habitually fearful.
- Separation anxiety. This is fairly common in companion animals – if your cat was previously abandoned, or if they are prone to being afraid of loud noises, they might become overly anxious when separated from you.
Your vet will first conduct a thorough physical exam, including urine and blood tests, to rule out other conditions that might make your cat anxious, such as thyroid disease or pain.
Symptoms of Anxiety
In addition to flipping its bowl, signs your cat could be suffering from anxiety include:
- Restlessness or pacing
- More vocalizations than usual
- Excessive grooming
- Excess salivation
- Decreased appetite
- Tail flicking around (not just the tip, which often indicates happiness or curiosity)
- Increased respiratory rate
- Avoiding eye contact
- Ears held back or to the side
- Leaning away or crouching
- Freezing in place or trying to escape
- Fur standing up on end
Note: If your cat is displaying any of the above signs of anxiety, a vet visit is the best course of action. Your vet will know whether you can sort the problem yourself or with the help of a cat behaviorist.
If your cat is flipping her bowl, rightly, you will want to address it.
How simple it is to resolve, however, will depend on context.
Thankfully, you have a few options as we have explored here today.
And hopefully soon, clearing up spilled cat food becomes a thing of the past.
Related cat guides you may want to see:
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.