cat eating from narrow food bowl

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Are you wondering why your cat is constantly flipping over his food bowl? This behavior is quite common among domestic cats. You might think he’s just being mischievous or playful, but often there’s more to it.

Cats can flip their food bowls for a variety of reasons – it could be an issue with the type or freshness of the food, dissatisfaction with the bowl, or a means of communicating with us.

Let’s dive into the specifics of this particular behavior to better understand why your cat may flip their food bowl and how you can address it.

Key Points

  • Cats may flip their food bowls out of boredom or to seek your attention. Providing quality playtime and stimulating activities can mitigate this behavior.
  • Anxiety or stress can sometimes manifest as food bowl flipping. Understanding the signs and addressing the root cause is crucial for your cat’s well-being.
  • Cats are instinctively drawn to fresh food. If your cat is flipping her food bowl, it could be an attempt to access fresher food at the bottom.
  • The type of bowl used can significantly influence your cat’s eating behavior. Cats generally prefer wide, shallow bowls that don’t touch their whiskers.
  • Experiment with different types of food, bowls, and feeding locations to discover what your cat likes best and help curb the bowl-flipping behavior.
  • Consistency can be comforting for cats. Establishing a regular feeding schedule can provide a sense of security, potentially reducing behaviors like bowl flipping.

Reasons Why Cats Knock Over Their Food Bowl


Believe it or not, flipping the food bowl could just be your cat’s way of entertaining himself. Many cats, especially those that are indoors and have less exposure to environmental stimulation, find joy in the little things – even if it’s causing a bit of chaos.

The act of batting a food bowl around and seeing the food scatter can provide a source of amusement, not to mention a little exercise.


Cats can be experts at seeking attention, and what better way to get your attention than by causing a mess? If you catch your cat flipping his food bowl over and then giving you “the look,” it’s possible he’s trying to engage with you.

Try spending more quality time with your cat or introducing toys and food puzzles to their routine. This way, they may be less likely to resort to bowl flipping for your attention.


Another reason cats and dogs flip their food bowls is stress or anxiety. These issues can cause all kinds of unusual behaviors in cats, and knocking over the food bowl is one of them.

Changes in the environment, new additions to the family (human or pet), or disruptions to their routine can lead to such behaviors.

Food Freshness

Cats evolved as hunters, and in the wild, they eat fresh food. If the food in their bowl has been sitting out for a while, some cats will flip the bowl in a bid to get to the fresher stuff beneath, emulating their ancestral digging behavior. Make sure you’re replacing their cat food often enough, and try feeding your cats smaller amounts more frequently to keep it fresh.

Picky Eater

Let’s face it, cats can be incredibly finicky eaters. If your cat doesn’t like the food you’re providing or is used to a different type (for instance, if you’ve recently switched from wet to dry food), she might flip the bowl in protest.

Bowl Issues

The problem might not be the food at all, but your cat’s food bowl. Cats dislike deep, narrow bowls as their whiskers might brush against the sides of the bowl – a sensation they find unpleasant.

Also, if the bowl isn’t stable and moves when your cat is trying to eat, she might flip it over in frustration. Try replacing the bowl with one that has a broad, shallow design and a non-slip base.

cat eating from food bowl

Steps to Stop Your Cat from Flipping Her Food Bowl

Provide Mental Stimulation

Cats need stimulation to keep them happy and occupied. Providing toys, scratching posts, and even food puzzles can encourage your cat to channel her energy elsewhere. This can help reduce the likelihood of her flipping her food bowl.

After all, why knock over a bowl when there’s a fun puzzle to solve or a new toy to explore?

Establish a Routine

Cats prefer routines. They like to eat the same food each day, at the same time, in the same location.

If your cat’s bowl-flipping behavior is attention-seeking or stems from anxiety, establishing a set feeding routine can provide a sense of security and predictability, which might decrease the unwanted behavior.

Address Anxiety

If you suspect that your cat is knocking over her food bowl due to anxiety, it’s essential to address this underlying issue. Create a safe, comfortable space for him to eat without interruptions.

If you have multiple cats, ensure each one has his own food and water bowls, as competition can cause stress.

If the anxiety persists, it may be worth discussing with a vet or a pet behaviorist.

Keep Food and Water Fresh

As mentioned earlier, cats evolved to prefer fresh food, so it’s essential to keep their food as fresh as possible. If your cat is flipping his bowl to access fresher food, try feeding him smaller amounts more frequently.

Also, make sure his water is fresh – cats don’t like drinking stale water any more than we do. If you’re not replacing his water often enough, he might flip the bowl to signal his displeasure.

Choose the Right Bowl

The type of bowl you use can make a significant difference. Cats dislike deep, narrow bowls that can touch their whiskers while they eat. Instead, choose a shallow, wide cat bowl with firm bases.

Some cats even prefer plates or tray-like dishes. A heavier bowl can also deter flipping. Non-slip bowls can prevent your cat from pushing her bowl around, reducing the chance of flipping.

Experiment with different bowls until you find one that your cat finds suitable.

Place Bowls in a Suitable Location

The location of your cat’s food and water bowls can also contribute to her behavior. Some cats prefer a quiet, low-traffic area where they can eat in peace.

Others might not like their food and water bowls placed next to each other. Try placing your cat’s water bowl in a separate location away from her food bowl.

Experiment with different locations to find a spot where your cat is happy with her bowl, and you might just stop the bowl from flipping entirely.


Whether your cat is a picky eater, prefers wet food over dry, or simply doesn’t like the feel of a deep bowl against their whiskers, each cat is unique and requires a tailored approach.

Don’t be discouraged if you have to try different solutions, like a non-slip bowl or moving the food to a different location. With patience and understanding, you can stop your cat from flipping its food bowl and make mealtime an enjoyable experience for both of you.

Remember, while bowl flipping can be normal, if it’s excessive or accompanied by other worrying signs, it’s important to consult a vet. After all, our ultimate goal is to ensure that our cats are happy, healthy, and comfortable in their homes.

Written by Tom Cashman

I have grown up with pets for almost fifty years. My family has strong ties to the animal shelter community in Chicago. Currently I have two cats: an orange tabby named Zelda, and a gray mixed named Zander. Like all of my pets, they were adopted from a local animal shelter. Pet Zone represents my passion for sharing with the pet community.

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  1. I used to think my cat was rude lol. Every meal I put in her bowl, she would eat a little then swash her tail and pretty much spill it. I gave her up when I got a really tight schedule job and no one could take care of her at home. Sometimes I miss the mess. Sometimes.

  2. I love learning about why Cats knock over their food bowl. I learned something new. I want to pass this on to one of my friends who has a cat.