Did I accidentally short-circuit faline advancement?
June 5, 2011 7:18 PM   Subscribe

My cat eats with his hands. Is this at least somewhat normal?

I have two cats. Fitz is perfectly normal, if large (not fat at all, just very big and healthy and fit.) Gatsby is smaller, more standard sized, but polydactyl. He's got two "thumbs" on both of his forearms. Fine, he's a Hemingway cat, and they don't cause him any problems. But recently, since I started feeding the cats only wet food, I've noticed that while he will take occasional bites with just his mouth, his preffered method of eating is to reach out his paw and take a handful, and then eat from his paw.

This itself is sort of weird to watch from a cat. Just grabbing a bit of food and eating it like it was from a bag of chips or something. He's been neutered, of course, but now I'm faintly curious: is this at all common? Or have I pre-emptively ceased what could be a cool part of kitty evolution? Has anyone seen this sort of behavior before?
posted by Navelgazer to Science & Nature (42 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've seen a cat do this with kibbles -- not only remove kibbles from a dish with his paws then eat them off the floor, but actually put a kibble on his paw (I think mainly scooping - he wasn't polydactyl, but the dish had sloping sides and he was clever about it), then eat the kibble off the paw.
posted by amtho at 7:21 PM on June 5, 2011

Cats are weird. My mom's Hemmingway calico eats and drinks with her paw.

I've seen non-Hemmingways use their paw to knock dry food out of the bowl one kibble at a time and eat it. I'm guessing the polydactyl cat just takes this behavior a little further.
posted by Wossname at 7:21 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, I have seen at least three cats do this. It is super cute. They pick up one piece at a time in their paw palm and lift it up to their mouth. The same cats also enjoyed a little game that no other cats found amusement in. Try taking an individual piece and sliding it across the tile floor. The cat will likely chase after it, pick it up, and eat it. Adorable!
posted by thebestsophist at 7:22 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Normal. Cats are strange. That's all you need to know.
posted by dfriedman at 7:23 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

My weirdo (non-Hemingway) cat totally does this. Can't say it's "normal", per se, but other cats do do it.
posted by katemonster at 7:23 PM on June 5, 2011

There's a common kind of question we get here on metafilter. The basic form goes something like this:

Q: "My cat does this weird thing, and I'm confused."
A: "Yeah, well, it's a cat."
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:26 PM on June 5, 2011 [32 favorites]

My cat used to drink water by dipping her paw in and then licking it.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:27 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a cat who would use his paw to knock bits of kibble from the food dish to the water dish, bat them around for a while, and then scoop one up and eat it. He did the paw-drinking thing too. It's not super-common, but it is normal.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:32 PM on June 5, 2011

This is my cat Smooshie. He's a Persian, and his face is too flat for him to eat right out of his food bowl.
posted by amro at 7:32 PM on June 5, 2011 [8 favorites]

Yup, my cats will sometimes do this. They'll also sometimes take a mouthful of kibble out of the bowl, turn away, deposit it on the floor, and then eat it. (Yes, my kitchen is covered with a fine layer of crunched kibble.)
posted by restless_nomad at 7:34 PM on June 5, 2011

I didn't think there was anyone with cats that hadn't yet read the standard MeFi answer:

Cats are weird. Your cat is weird. So's mine, just weird in a different way.

(Yours is especially weird--he has hands!)

I've had cats that would eat soft food with their paws, scoop and drink water, and knock a single kibble out of the dish to eat One. Kibble. At. A. Time.

And where, pray tell, are the obligatory kitty pics?
posted by BlueHorse at 7:40 PM on June 5, 2011 [8 favorites]

My cat eats with her mouth, but often transfers the food from her bowl to the floor first. Crazy things, cats.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:44 PM on June 5, 2011

My cat is not polydactyl, but does the exact thing that amtho described. She's also a fan of playing with her kibble and hunting it on the kitchen floor before eating it.

I also have a friend whose cat drinks water by dipping her paw into it and then licking it off her paw.
posted by Fuego at 7:50 PM on June 5, 2011

Yup, one of my two cats does that, too. It's because cats are from Mars.
posted by brownrd at 7:52 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

It might be normal-for-cats. But it might be evidence of a rare but deadly disease. Luckily, that particular disease can be diagnosed by adorable youtube videos of your cat eating with its hands -- just post the link, and we can all tell you if your cat is a normal metafilter cat.
posted by jeather at 7:52 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

My non-polydactyl cat does this with all food. He prefers to eat (and drink) from his paws.

My polydactyl cat is a messy eater who shoves his face right into the food bowl and water dish, and almost always can be found after eating being held down by the alpha cat, who carefully cleans his face/whiskers before she lets him go.
posted by shamash at 7:56 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

My cat drinks off his paw too. So yeah, cats are weird and that is normal.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:57 PM on June 5, 2011

One of my cats does this with spinach--I give him small pieces and they're hard to get off the counter with his mouth, so he picks them up with his paw.

Yes, he is destined for YouTube greatness, if I can ever catch this on video.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 7:57 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

In all honesty, without a picture, we cannot say.

(Ok, fine. Cats are weird. This is normal enough, and I've had a few cats with the regular number of toes that had done this.)
posted by bilabial at 8:00 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I knew a cat who would scoop a kibble out of the food bowl and into the water dish (it was donut-shaped kibble); she would bat it around in the water, pick it out with a claw, and eat it. Her teeth were fine (we had the vet check), so we figured she was just part raccoon.
posted by rtha at 9:03 PM on June 5, 2011

I think everyone is here to say "pics please".

Even if it is odd and unusual...what are you gonna do, train the cat to eat with its jaw only?

Uncivilized, I say!
posted by hal_c_on at 9:54 PM on June 5, 2011

My one cat does this, my other cat does not. When I first saw her do it, I thought to myself, "Those fuckers are evolving, and I'm concerned." I also wonder to myself if somehow, someway, they are modeling the behaviour of humans, who use utensils to bring the food to their mouth, instead of mouth to food. Possible, but definitely doubtful. Now I just think it's really cool she does this.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 10:08 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've known a few cats who did this. Maine Coons seem to do it pretty often, possibly because they're big and have fairly nimble paws.

I read one time on the Internet(TM) that cats in the wild sometimes snatch fish out of lakes using their paws in that motion - so it might have some instinctive basis, too.
posted by SakuraK at 10:20 PM on June 5, 2011

The reason a number of cats do this has to do with their whiskers, I believe. I read somewhere that a cat's whiskers are basically sensory devices letting them know how close they are to something -- for example when they are getting around in the dark, it's not just that their eyes adjust to the darkness, but they sense with their whiskers when they're near things. Some cats seem to have extra-sensitive whiskers, and a deep food dish that brushes against the whiskers might bother them. So they scoop the food out and eat it off the floor, or lick water off their paws. You might try a flat shallow bowl and see if your cat eats more "normally" from that, or a plate.

Not that there's any such thing as normal where cats are concerned, of course. Cats are weird.
posted by stennieville at 10:43 PM on June 5, 2011

Yep, one of mine does this. She also really likes licking the yogurt off the bottom of the foil seal, and has learned to step on it with one paw while she licks so it doesn't go skittering across the floor.
posted by vorfeed at 10:45 PM on June 5, 2011

My grandparents' late cat Bubba drank this way. Cute as hell.
posted by brundlefly at 11:52 PM on June 5, 2011


Perhaps Gatsby has a career in cat food adverts ahead of him... (I remembered the name of the cat, not the brand of cat food, to find this)
posted by sianifach at 12:04 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Even if it is odd and unusual...what are you gonna do, train the cat to eat with its jaw only?
Uncivilized, I say!

I think the OP should set out cutlery and see if the cat uses it. Now THAT would be a Youtube sensation.
posted by Diag at 12:20 AM on June 6, 2011

Meet my best friend's cat Kiki. I went crazy laughing the first time I saw her do this... it was the first time I'd seen any cat do it.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:44 AM on June 6, 2011

My cat does the paw thing if the food is warm.
posted by biffa at 1:50 AM on June 6, 2011

Our cat does this, mostly when eating broccoli. He also does the dippy paw thing to drink on occasions too. He's a big fan of batting stuff about and chasing it, so I imagine he found out he could grab onto stuff and eat it at some point.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 2:08 AM on June 6, 2011

My late Stinky (not polydactyl) used to put one kibble at a time in her water dish, then fish it back out with her paw to eat.
posted by motsque at 4:19 AM on June 6, 2011

This is how my excentric Mini eats. I think eating like a Roman emperor is normal for a cat. The downside is the surroundings of her food tray are always kinda dirty.
posted by Tarumba at 4:29 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tarumba, that is adorable. And as soon as you catch her on video clapping her paws for dancing girls, this is a FPP.
posted by likeso at 6:32 AM on June 6, 2011

One of my mum's cats is constantly on the verge of starvation because she'll only eat One. Kibble. At. A. Time. and it has to be scooped out, placed on the floor, satisfactorily "killed", and then eaten. Yeah, cats are freakin' weird, man.
posted by anaelith at 6:57 AM on June 6, 2011

Quite common behavior. In our house, it's referred to as 'hooky paw'.
posted by pentagoet at 7:38 AM on June 6, 2011

Perfectly normal. My cat has her food in a free-feeder, with a little reservoir on top of the food dish. She sits on top of the reservoir, leans over the edge of it, and picks up a few kibbles at a time in her paw to eat. This same cat has been known to knock the top off of the reservoir and eat the kibbles off of the top, instead of the ones in the perfectly open food dish. Cats are weird.
posted by kro at 8:01 AM on June 6, 2011

Arthur the Kattomeat cat ate cat food with his paw for years in TV adverts.
posted by essexjan at 10:05 AM on June 6, 2011

This question is no good without pictures!!

Anyway, I have two cats, and I have never seen them do this, so your cat is weird. Sorry.
posted by desjardins at 10:31 AM on June 6, 2011

I've seen non-Hemingway cats do this plenty. One of the cats at my house likes to drink water this way, which is even weirder when you think about it.
posted by Sara C. at 10:46 AM on June 6, 2011

One of my cats will do this with treats. My other cat, by the way, is named Gatsby.
posted by Ruki at 5:46 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Am I too late??

(This is the best thread ever!)
posted by polly_dactyl at 3:29 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

« Older On-Spot Recording/Transcription   |   Newbie to Spin Class Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.