Look at that picture up there! Just look at it!!! Those are my socks up there, soaking up milk. They’ve been neatly stuffed in a bowl then covered with a re-usable grocery bag. I know many cats will pretend to bury their leftover food, and I’ve heard that some will go so far as to actually cover it with something, but this is a little ridiculous, no?
When I have cereal for breakfast, I save a little milk in the bowl for my two cats, The Dude and Snuggles. I know cats are usually lactose-intolerant, but I only give them a little and their poops seem solid and normal. Well, the silliness with the socks and the milk started when one day when I forgot to pick up the bowl and put it in the sink before leaving the house for work. When I came home later that day, I found the bowl where I left it, in the middle of the floor, covered with a reusable grocery bag.
At least they were being neat and tidy, I thought, as I took the soaked and smelly bag down to the washing machine. Soon after, I started catching Snugs moving the bag over to the bowl before I even left for work. He would pretend to bury the bowl, then, upon realizing the carpet would not give, he would cover it with the bag. I’ve interrupted this process a few times, but every now and then he gets the bag in the bowl before I get there.
Then one morning I made sure to move the bag away from the bowl. Out of sight, out of mind, right? While proceeding with my usual morning routine, I saw both of my fuzzy friends walk by looking very content and licking their lips quite loudly. When I went back to pick up the bowl, there was the bag, as well as two dirty socks soaking up the milk that the cats didn’t finish drinking. Snugs grabbed the socks, which were lying nearby, and tucked them inside the bowl. Then he hunted down the bag, located on the other side of the room, specifically to cover the bowl. I’d be lying if I said I was mad; it was incredibly funny and cute. And I was impressed with his creativity — soaking up the liquid with socks is a nice touch, Snugs.
Burying behavior has been observed in house cats for a long time. In 1853, Reverend John George Wood described a similar case in his Illustrated Natural History. The cat in question would often steal a piece of paper or even a handkerchief from her owner’s pocket to neatly cover her leftovers. There are several theories on why cats do this: dislike for the food, the cat is overfed, an attempt to save the food for later like a squirrel; but none of these are the official explanation. It’s believed that cats naturally want to bury food and poop to hide their presence from unfriendly cats or predators. This instinct is why cats so easily learn to use litter boxes.