Why Do Cats Always Think Their Food Bowls Are Empty?


Cat owners are no strangers to the mysteries of cat logic. We're often left wondering why our feline friends do the strange things they do. Why do they race down the halls at 4 am? Why do they lick plastic bags? And perhaps one of the most baffling (and irritating, if we're being honest) examples of cat logic: meowing for more food even though their food bowl is clearly NOT empty! 

Some cats seem to be focused on the empty spot in their food bowl and ignore the tasty kibbles around the edges, leaving cat owners to stoop down and even out the kibbles for an even spread. It also leaves cat owners scratching their heads and wondering why

We're going to dive into some of the reasons your cat might think their bowl is half-empty, rather than half-full.

They can't see it.

Some theories suggest that your cat doesn't eat leftover kibbles because they can't see them! Despite being prolific, naturally skilled hunters, cats actually have relatively poor vision when it comes to things directly in front of their noses. Cats actually have a blind spot directly below their nose and chin! 

The bowl causes "whisker stress."

A cat's whiskers aren't just there for looks, as adorable as they are! They serve an important purpose in helping cats sense and navigate their environment. In the wild, whiskers help cats detect predators, prey, weather, and other factors in their surroundings. Whiskers are special "Tactile hairs" called vibrissae with extremely sensitive follicles. These sensitive whiskers compensate for a cat's poor eyesight.

Some cats' whiskers may be more sensitive than others; if you observe your cat eating their food directly from the middle and refusing to touch the food on the outsides, it may be because their whiskers brush up against the side of the bowl and cause irritation and discomfort, called whisker stress or whisker fatigue. This may also be a reason your cat refuses to drink out of their water bowl

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Ingrid King, a veterinarian and author, writes, “Whiskers are extremely sensitive, and when a food bowl is too narrow and too deep, a cat is forced to put her face all the way into the bowl to reach her food. This causes her whiskers to bump against the side of the bowl, which causes discomfort. In extreme cases, cats may refuse to eat out of deep, narrow bowls altogether.”

Your cat is a hoarder.

Another theory suggests that thanks to your cat's innate survival instinct passed down from their wild ancestors, they might be hoarding the food for later. Yes, your cat might be trying to build a food store to ensure they have as much food as possible. This is plausible especially if you've ever observed your cat trying to "bury" their food. In the wild, cats often bury their hunted prey to try to hide the scent from predators that could potentially steal the meal.



As with most things feline, it's hard to pin down a 100%-definitive answer to why cats do the things they do. Every cat is different and may have their own reasons for doing the odd things they do. But you can try a few things to get your kitty to chow down on the whole meal, instead of just the center! Try a wider, shallower dish to reduce the possibility of whisker fatigue. Even a flat plate with slightly raised edges would do, too! 

If your cat is still being picky about the food, try shuffling the food around in the bowl to look like you refilled the bowl. It couldn't hurt to add a bit of theatrics and make it look like you're actually refilling the bowl, too! I use this trick on my cat, and it works 9 times out of 10. 

Do you have any tips and tricks to get your kitty to see the bowl as half-full? Let us know in the comments! 

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  • Tammie Brandstrom

    My cat does this all the time, he doesn’t eat the hole price he leave crumbs lol, in the mornings he will wake me up to feed him and there is still food in his bowl lol.

  • Yeah sure

    Cool kitty cats

  • Christopher Yurgal

    Don’t fill the bowl. Just put a little in at a time. My cat eats her serving in it’s entirety every time. Do you maybe think cats don’t like eating stale food? I sure as hell don’t. Don’t treat them like animals. Treat them like family.

  • Meda Arbour

    I bought one of those water fountain thingies for my cats. One loved it, but the other one wouldn’t get closer than about 3 feet from it. So, I had to move it away from his food bowl because he stopped eating! Since the first cat did love the fountain, we kept it. But, we found ourselves saying things like, “Oh, I need to fill the scary thing.” LoL

  • Maggie Fraser

    Put the food on a plate

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