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7 Reasons That Cats Roll Around in Dirt (and How to Stop It)

Big cat after a dust bath

Without fail, this happens: You give your cat a bath, and the next thing you know, they’re rolling around in the dirt and making a mess of things. But when that story goes from figurative to literal, what does it mean, and is there anything that you should do?

This situation is not as uncommon as you might think. We break down everything that you need to know about it here.

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7 Reasons Cats Roll in Dirt:

1. Cooling Down

While you might not think of cats taking dust baths to cool down in the same way that you think about elephants or other desert animals doing so, it’s a trick that works for cats too.

Since they don’t have trunks or hands to spray or throw the dirt on themselves, they do the next best thing by rolling around in it. It’s highly effective, even if it does get them a little dirty.


2. Playing Games

Cats get a bad name as ultra-serious pets. The truth is that most just want to play games and have fun. When they’re out rolling around in the dirt, that’s often all that they’re doing.

If they’re rolling around exposing their belly to you, it means they’re relaxed and happy, so try to look at it as a good thing, even if they are getting dirty.


3. Catnip Fun

Catnip is a completely harmless drug that helps mellow out your cat, and many cats take full advantage of this extra chill time by rolling around in the dirt and playing. It’s similar to them just playing games, but it only happens after they chow down on catnip.


4. Attention Seeking

Big fluffy cat sitting in hay
Image Credit: gayulo, Pixabay

Cats want attention, and some will go to extreme lengths to get it. If you’re making a big deal of your cat rolling around in the dirt, then they’re getting exactly what they want attention.

If you want to get your cat to stop and you think that they’re just doing it for attention, try ignoring the behavior and see if it goes away.


5. In Heat

When female cats are in heat or after they’ve just mated, they might roll around. They do it to spread pheromones and attract a mate, so unless you want kittens, it’s time to keep your cat inside.

We always recommend spaying a cat if you don’t want kittens, to reduce the risk of certain cancers and to help with the booming feral cat population.


6. Marking Territory

Just like your cat will rub up against you to get your attention and spread their scent, they’ll do the same thing with your lawn. Cats communicate through scent, and by spreading their scent all over the property, they’re marking it as their own.

Dogs do this by urinating; cats do it by rubbing their body all over something.

White cat sitting in a dirt path
Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay

7. Scratching an Itch

Have you ever had an itch that you just can’t reach? Now imagine if you couldn’t reach your back at all! That’s exactly what happens to your cat sometimes, and the only way that they have to satisfy that itch is by rolling around on their back.

You can try helping out by scratching that itch for them, but that might not stop them from rolling around to hit just the right spot next time.

How to Stop Your Cat From Rolling Around in the Dirt

British Short-hair Cat beside shoes
Image Credit: horvathta, Shutterstock

If you’re looking to stop your cat from rolling around in the dirt, there’s only one way to do it: Make them an indoor cat. Anything short of that, and they’ll find a way to roll around in dirt when they’re outside.

While it might mess up their shiny coat, there are a few benefits of the behavior. It can satisfy itches, cool them down, and give them a way to have fun.

Also, the bacteria in dirt can help aid their digestion and keep them healthy all around, so there’s no reason to sound the alarm if your cat is getting dirty outside!

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Final Thoughts

While watching your kitty roll around in the dirt can be a little frustrating because of the mess that it makes, there’s nothing to worry about and nothing that you must do to try to deter the behavior.

The best thing that you can do is learn to live with it or keep your cat indoors. Otherwise, the dirt rolling will continue.


Featured Image Credit: birgl, Pixabay