Why Do Cats Roll in the Dirt? 8 Common Reasons

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Cat rolling in the dirt

As a whole, felines have a reputation for being on the prim and proper side. While dogs like to folic around in mud and filth, cats prefer to stay behind and spend hours grooming themselves.

Serious, have you ever taken notice of how much time your cat spends licking itself? Cats devote anywhere between 30 and 50 percent of their day to grooming tasks!

Cat owners expect to see their feline friends in the corner licking their fur to perfection. So, it can come off as a surprise whenever you spot them rolling in the dirt!

Those impromptu romps are so out of character. They’re the complete opposite of what you would anticipate seeing. So, what gives?

Before you start going into a panic, thinking that there’s something seriously wrong with your cat, take a breather.

Despite their reputation, cats aren’t always squeaky clean. Rolling in the dirt is perfectly normal behavior, and cats have many reasons to do it!

Here are some of the most common reasons why you might see your kitty taking a dirt bath!

8 Reasons Why Cats Roll in the Dirt

1. An Attempt to Cool Off

Ever catch your cat basking in the sun? Most felines will move with the passing sun to ensure that they’re constantly feeling nice and toasty! However, sometimes they take that attempt to stay warm a bit too far.

Cats can get pretty warm. Thanks to their thick coats of fur, they can feel the heat just like any other animal. Interestingly enough, cats run hotter than humans.

The average feline body temperature is around 102 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, they can feel a lot warmer than you.

How does that relate to rolling on the ground? A few inches below the surface, the soil is cool and inviting. Rolling in the dirt is often an attempt to cool down.

Think of it as a dirtier version of splashing in a puddle of water. Cats hate water, so they turn to the next best thing!

2. Scratching an Unreachable Itch

That’s right! Sometimes, the reason for your cat tumbling all over the ground is because they’re trying to scratch an itchy spot on the body!

Cats are pretty flexible, but they’re not made of rubber. They, too, have areas that they cannot reach with their mouths or paws.

As an owner, the best thing you can do is buy your cat a scratching post.

While most assume that they exclusively use them to shorten their claws, you’ll find that many rub their bodies against it to address itchy spots.

When they don’t have one available, cats will resort to the ground for relief.

Give your cat a good look-over. There’s a reason that your cat uncomfortable. You might find fleas, mites, or simple hot spots. Address that issue, and the rolling should stop.

3. A Call for Attention

Cats don’t have the complex connection to rolling that dogs do. Canines roll onto their backs to display their bellies as a form of submission.

For cats, it’s to solicit attention. Your cat wants you to give them some belly rubs!

If you give in and show affection, your cat will likely repeat the behavior later. Cats are pretty smart and know how to get what they want. The love is comforting, so don’t be surprised if they roll over even when you’re outside!

4. A Showing of Security and Happiness

This reasoning is similar to the previous one. However, it revolves around concepts of safety more than affection.

Felines are exposed to rough living conditions more than dogs. There are an estimated 70 million feral cats in the United States alone. Even if your cat never lived a day outside, it’s in its blood to be wary of dangers.

That’s why cats seem so guarded all of the time. They’re constantly aware of potential threats and will instinctively react to issues as they come up.

It’s when your cat can genuinely relax that you see its more playful side come out. The act of rolling on the ground to expose their belly is one of the best things you can see! It means that they feel safe and trust you.

Take it as a sign that your cat is happy and you’re doing a fantastic job as an owner.

feline cat rubbing its back in the dirt

5. Communication and Territory Marking

Cats do not communicate by conventional means. Sure, they will meow and purr to vocalize their emotions. But when they’re trying to send messages to other cats, they typically use their sense of smell.

In some cases, rolling in the dirt is an attempt to mark their territory and spread their scent. Cats have scent glands on their face, flanks, and paws. Rubbing their body into the soil is a great way to ensure that some of their smell rubs off.

If a cat wanders into the area, it’ll immediately pick up on the scent.

Your cat might frolic in the dirt if they smell another cat, too. It’s their way of “listening in” and checking for messages.

6. Digestive Maintenance

Believe it or not, cats are relatively independent when it comes to their digestive health. Of course, you should still do what you can to keep your pup’s system in check. But if you don’t, you can rest easy knowing that your cat is doing what they can on their own.

Bacteria is essential for good gut health, and cats use the soil to get it. At first glance, it seems like a convoluted connection. But when you pay attention to what your cat’s doing, it’s genius!

They roll around on the ground to cover their body with good bacteria. The bacteria from the soil will coat the fur, which your cat will later lick up as they groom themselves. As they consume it, the bacteria can flourish in the gut to support the gastrointestinal tract.

In this case, rolling in the dirt is good for your cat’s health!

7. The High of Catnip

If you’ve ever given your cat a bit of catnip, you know that it can have some unique effects. The herb is like a drug for felines. It contains an oil called nepetalactone. When your cat smells the nepetalactone, it creates a chemical reaction that produces a sense of euphoria.

Essentially, it gives your cat a sense of high. With that high comes some oddball behaviors. Some cats will start shaking their heads like mad. Others will start rolling around on the ground. You never know what you’re going to get.

Don’t be startled if you see your cat tumbling in the soil. It’s a normal reaction. If you have natural catnip in the garden, they may do it deliberately to get even closer to the good stuff!

8. In Heat Behaviors

Heat season can make your cat do weird things, too. When they’re in heat, cats are ready to mate. Their hormones are all over the place, and they attempt to spread their scent to attract a mate.

Females will roll on the ground to spread pheromones and their odor. You might see them rubbing on vertical surfaces, too. Males will follow the scent and rub their bodies all over the soil in response.

Some males can also get on the ground to mark their territory if other competitor males are in the area.

If this becomes too much of a problem, consider spaying or neutering your cat. Doing so essentially eliminates heat season. Plus, it helps control the feral cat population.


Those are just some of the reasons why cats might roll in the dirt. The truth is that we never really know what’s going on in their complex feline minds.

But should you be worried? In most cases, getting down and dirty like a dog is harmless. The most significant issue is the amount of grime your cat will track in. Other than that, it’s an innocent behavior with no immediate cause for concern.

Also read: Stop your Cat from Chewing Electrical Cords

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