Why Does My Pet... Make a Mess When She Eats?

Behavioral Issues

It’s true that for many pets, messy eating may be a sign of a behavioral problem. For example, some dogs and cats will pick up their food and relocate it before consuming it. While this behavior can be innocent, it can also be a resource-guarding scenario, in which the pet attempts to protect her food from people or other pets. (Of course, not all pets with this behavioral problem will make a mess.)


In other cases, they’ll drink or eat immediately before walking around and licking their lips, making repeated passes at their food and water before getting their fill. In this case, resource anxiety may play a role. This anxiety may have an underlying genetic component, or it may be exacerbated by experiences. The behavior may also be influenced by the environment where the food and water bowls are located, as well as the people and pets that are nearby.

Other pets may play in their food and water bowls, gleefully pawing or snouting the stuff about. Although this could be a form of instinctive cache behavior (an attempt to hide food and save it for later), it may also simply be a form of benign entertainment for your pet.

Get to the Bottom of It

Whatever the case, whether it seems natural or abnormal, sloppy eating or drinking should always be brought to a veterinarian’s attention. This becomes especially crucial should the issue come on suddenly or become progressive in nature. Your veterinarian can help determine if there's a medical or behavioral cause that needs attention or if it's simply one of your pet's adorable quirks.


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