Cats are known for their cleanliness, so it's understandable why any cat owner would be concerned by contrary behavior such as rolling in dirt.
Occasionally, cats get out of character and exhibit some "not-so-clean" behaviors. This can be annoying if your cat has unlimited access to all areas of the house, such as your white couch and bed. However, your cat may have some valid reasons for rolling in dirt.
Why Do Cats Roll In Dirt?
1. To Stay Cool
Like dogs, cats also tend to roll in dirt to keep cool. Underneath dirt is a soft and cool top layer of soil that cats love making use off, especially during hot summer days. If you are a pet owner, you may have noticed small burrows in your yard. Your cat may have made this to find a cool spot to relax in.
You can provide a cooling mat to help your cat cool down in the summer. This will help prevent your furry friend from rolling in dirt and making burrows in your yard.
2. To Scratch Hard-To-Reach Areas
Your cat may also roll to scratch their back, among other hard-to-reach areas on their body. While cats are incredibly flexible and tend to reach every inch of their body, there are certain spots that may be hard to access effectively. In such instances, an aggressive roll in dirt over some gravel gets the job done.
3. To Get Rid Of Parasites
Your cat could also be rolling on dirt because they are infested by itchy parasites. Constant scratching coupled with rolling in the dirt and scratching against furniture may be an indication of a pest infestation.
It is advisable to inspect your cat's coat to see if they have fleas, ticks, or any other pests. While some pests may be invisible to the naked eye, you can look for red patches, dander, or hair loss. If such signs are present, you need to visit a vet. Rolling in dirt can help your cat scratch an itch caused by parasite movement and bites. It can also help to get rid of the pests.
4. To Get A Dose Of Friendly Bacteria
This may be a weird reason, but cuts do roll on dirt sometimes to uncover friendly bacteria. Instead of eating dirt, cats may roll to coat their cat fur with bacteria present in the soil, which they ingest later when grooming themselves.
This behavior may be well calculated. When cats are grooming themselves, they lick their coat and everything on it. If they have been rolling in dirt, they'll ingest friendly bacteria important for their digestive system.
Like most animals, cats need bacteria in the gut to break down food properly and prevent gut diseases. Rolling in dirt is an effective way of ensuring cats maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria (probiotics) in their gut.
5. To Dust Bath
Sometimes cats roll on the ground as it can feel good and be a lot of fun. Like other animals i.e., elephants, birds, horses, and dogs, cats love to bath in dust. While they may get other benefits, they may just roll for fun.
Dust bathing is an unusual way of cleaning for many animals with notable benefits like keeping the skin/coat healthy and offering a pleasant feeling. For a cat dust bathing may also be your felines way of enjoying a self-massage.
6. To Scent Mark Their Territory
Your cat may also have ulterior motives when rolling in dirt. Besides enjoying a massage, he/she may be intentionally leaving their scent on the ground.
Since cats have an unmatched sense of smell (they have numerous scent glands on their bodies such as on their paw pads).
Your cat may be sending a message to other cats in the vicinity that your home and surrounding environs are his/her territory. Your cat may also be rolling in dirt to get rid of another cat’s scent in their territory.
Cats are territorial pets that love to leave a "mark" on their dwellings. Cats rub their heads on the floor to spread their mark as they love their own space. Your cat may be rolling in dirt to keep other cats in your neighborhood from accessing their territory and belongings.
Besides rolling in dirt, your cat can also mark their territory in other ways, such as urinating or defecating on specific things or areas.
7. To Initiate Play
Cats can be very playful. Rolling in the dirt can be a way of unleashing their playful nature when they go outdoors. The rolling may be accompanied by erratic sprints all over the compound. If your cat is restricted indoors, they are more likely to be overly playful when they get an opportunity to go out.
The same applies to kids. While they may be restricted to play indoors, they unleash their playful nature outdoors. If your cat rolls in the dirt near you, they may also be inviting you to play with them. Frequent belly rubs can do the trick and stop counterproductive behavior like playing in dirt.
Investing in some toys can also control excessive dirt rolling. You may not have the effort or time to play with your cat at every instance. Some pet toys can help your cat entertain themselves and get rid of boredom and excess energy that can be used counter-productively.
8. When In Heat
There are studies showing that female cats tend to roll in dirt when in heat. Adult female cats tend to roll for adult males while their younger counterparts do so for older male cats.
Rolling in dirt or on the ground is common among female cats that are in heat. While most female cats will roll mostly when in the presence of older male cats, they may also exhibit this behavior around younger male cats.
Also, although both male and female cats tend to roll, males do it more often than females. What’s more, male cats (regardless of age) tend to roll anytime to catch the attention of adult female cats. However, female cats tend to roll only when in heat.
9. To Communicate
Since cats won’t talk and tell you exactly what they want, they’ll use signs like rolling in dirt to get your attention. This sign is usually accompanied by another sign.
For instance, if your cat is rolling in dirt while twitching their tail, he/she may very well be sleepy. If the rolling happens near you, he/she may be inviting you for a belly rub. It may also be a sign that he/she needs a bath.
Pet owners should understand the body language of their pet in-depth to be able to understand their pets better.
10. To Get Rid Of Smell
Cats also roll in dirt to get rid of bad or unpleasant smell. Cats are adventurous and bound to get dirty and pick up bad smell.
Since they are adventurous and known for their cleanliness but hate water at the same time, they tend to have peculiar cleaning habits like rolling in dirt and licking their coat.
If your cat rolls in dirt and the above reasons don’t seem to apply, he/she may be trying to get rid of smell picked up in an adventure.
This may be impossible to tell for pet owners since cats have a very powerful sense of smell (many times more powerful than humans).
However, if he/she rolls on loose dirt that isn't cool, he/she maybe trying to remove a disagreeable smell.
11. Response To Catnip
Sniffing on catnip can send your cat rolling in dirt and twisting, among other weird cat behavior. Cats tend to have psychoactive responses to catnip – a perennial herb in the mint family. Catnip contains a chemical compound (nepetalactone) that attracts as well as affects most cats temporarily.
Catnip triggers behavioral responses in cats such as rolling, head shaking, cheek and chin rubbing, and spontaneous vocalization. Catnip toys or exposure to the herb itself outdoors can cause your cat to roll and elicit other responses associated with exposure to catnip.
12. Response To “Highness”
Your cat could also roll because he/she is “high”. Catnip is believed to elicit responses that match those of an intoxicated cat. Other herbs that your cat comes across in outdoor gardens like marijuana can result in similar reactions when chewed and ingested. It's, therefore, advisable to research what you should/shouldn't grow when you have pets.
There are other basis for cats rolling in dirt; however, the above information is based on the most common reasons for the behavior. Armed with the above info, you can have an easier time pinpointing the exact reason for your cat's behavior. If it's a pest infestation, you can deal with it adequately.
When your cat just wants to play, you can find ways of keeping him/her engaged. If the rolling is related to probiotics, you can look for some cat food that offers everything your cat needs. Rolling in dirt can be an annoying habit, especially if it happens often and your cat brings dirt indoors.
Luckily, you have everything you need now to deal with the habit. If the problem persists, visit a vet.
Does Your Furry Friend Roll In The Dirt Often?
We would love to hear how often you notice your cat rolling around in the dirt in the comment section below!