Why Do Cats Roll in Dirt?

Your cat’s behavior can seem overwhelming if you’re a first-time dog owner.

You’re here to learn more about why cats roll in dirt. Since we can’t actually see your cat’s brains, scientists research their behavior to understand what makes them roll.

So, why do cats roll in dirt?

Cats roll in dirt for several reasons.

Some cats roll in dirt to hide their scent from predators. Other cats roll in dirt to mark their territory.

However, it’s most common for cats to roll in dirt as a stress reliever. Stressed cats often roll in dirt to reduce stress and relax themselves.

Why Do Cats Roll in Dirt?

To Assist Digestion

Dirt provides the ideal environment for a cat to digest their food properly and soothe their stomachs.

When a cat eats grass, it not only digests the grass but also kills off bacteria that live within the grass itself.

The digestion process also begins in the stomach of the cat before it reaches the intestines where digestion takes place.

Rolling in the dirt can help clean the cat’s digestive tract and remove any food particles that remain after a meal.

Bacteria adhere to cats’ hair, so when a cat rolls in the dirt, it removes these bacteria from their fur as well.

This bacteria will be carried from the cat’s fur to other areas of the house where the cat will groom themselves.

Marking Their Territory

Cats, like dogs, have scent glands in their paws which they use to mark their territory with urine or feces.

Cats usually mark their territory by urinating on vertical surfaces such as walls or furniture.

Rolling around on the ground is one of the greatest ways for cats to mark their turf because they are able to leave an odorous trail behind them.

Itchiness Relief

Cats have itches in locations they cannot reach on their own, such as between the toes and under the outer ears.

Because they cannot reach these areas on their own, they resort to rolling around in the dirt to relieve the itch. Sometimes this relieves the itch temporarily but other times it causes them to scratch the dirt out of the skin.

This can cause some discomfort for the cat because it causes irritation to the skin.

If the itching continues, consult a veterinarian about providing medications that will take care of the problem.

Cats scratch themselves by rubbing their claws against something rough or jagged in order to remove the old outer layer of skin and reveal the softer, newer layer underneath.

Feeling Secure

If your cat rolls onto its back, it’s a sign of trust towards you.

Kittens love to play with their mother by rolling over on their backs so that their mother can rub her belly against them to stimulate them to move and play more.

Eventually, the mother stops doing this and they stop playing and roll onto their backs out of habit.

They feel safe when in this position and trust you not to harm them while they’re in this position.

They’re Cooling Off

You may notice your cat spending a lot more time outdoors during the warmer months, rolling around in the grass to cool down.

The moist ground provides the perfect place for them to cool down on a hot day.

In addition, the damp soil cools down their body and helps to regulate their body temperature.

Because cats are more closely related to small wildcats than dogs, they are excellent at regulating their own body temperature in the wild environment.

The simple explanation is because it is hot, and cats like to curl up in a shady spot under a tree or under a bush to cool off.

A Reaction to Catnip

According to Bennett, rolling onto their backs in response to catnip is a sign of submission and trust towards humans.

However, some experts disagree and believe that this behavior has nothing to do with catnip at all.

Catnip includes the chemical nepetalactone, which releases a smell similar to female feline urine. When a female feline smells this chemical from a male feline, she becomes excited and ready to mate with him.

In fact, most domesticated male felines are neutered for this reason because they have a tendency to spray around the house and attract the attention of other female felines.

This spray contains higher levels of nepetalactone than found in catnip plants.

Therefore, it could be possible that when cats roll around in catnip they are simply smelling the chemicals on the leaves of the plants and not the actual plant itself.

Attention Seeking Cats

Cats may sometimes roll on their backs in order to catch your attention and make them look like they are being submissive to you.

However, this behavior can also mean the opposite. It is a form of attention seeking behavior where the cat is trying to get you to pay attention to them or play with them.

They are trying to get you to play ball with them or just give them a little attention.

They do this in order to get your attention and if you ignore them then they may begin to meow or stare at you until they get their response.

They may even begin making eye contact with you and beckon you with their eyes to get their attention back.

Cats may be rather energetic, and they can sometimes toss themselves down on your bed, sofa or couch as a way to get your attention to play with them or just give them some affection and love from you.

Should I Be Concerned If My Cat Rolls in the Dirt?

Dust bathing is widespread in many other animal species including dogs and horses.

However, if your cat has rolled in the dirty mud recently and you notice that it has become covered in dirt, then you should wash its coat with a gentle shampoo to remove the dirt and debris from its coat and skin.

This will help prevent it from scratching itself due to the dirt that is embedded in the skin. In addition, it may help them feel better by eliminating any parasites that may have been lurking in its fur.

Dust bathing or rolling in snow, dirt or sand is a common occurrence in many mammals including dogs, cats, horses and sheep.

As previously said, most of the time, a cat will roll in the dirt to remove ticks and fleas from their skin.

Also Read: Why Is Your Cat Sniffing The Floor And Rolling Around?


Even though we think rolling about in the dust and dirt is adorable, it can actually lead to many problems such as allergies and infections.

Rolling about in the mud serves a variety of purposes for the cat including removing parasites from the skin and allowing them to cool down.

It also aids in their health by aiding in their digestion and helping with their respiratory system.

Because rolling in dirt serves such a crucial role to the health of our feline friends, it is only natural that they will engage in this behavior.

If you’re worried about your cat bringing dirt into your house, there are a couple of things you can do to limit the amount of dirt that comes into your home.

This allows them to satisfy their need to roll around in the dirt without allowing as much soil to come inside of your home.