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Why Do Cats Roll in the Dirt? 7 Likely Reasons & What to Do About It

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Big cat after a dust bath

Without fail, 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. Cats exhibit odd behavior every day, but is rolling on the ground a concerning habit, and is there anything you can do to stop it? Playing in the dirt is not as uncommon as you might think. We’ll break down everything that you need to know about it below.

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The 7 Reasons Why 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.

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 gets them dirty.

2. Playing Games

blue tabby maine coon cat with dirty fur
Image By: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Cats get a bad name as ultra-serious pets. The truth is that most want to play games and have fun. When they’re out rolling around in the dirt, that’s often all 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 harmless drug that helps mellow out your cat, and many cats take full advantage of the relaxed feeling by rolling around in the dirt and playing. It’s similar to the pleasure they experience when playing games, but it only happens after they chow down on catnip.

4. Attention Seeking

calico cat rolling in the dirt
Image By: Cathleen Wake Gorbatenko, Shutterstock

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, they’re getting exactly what they want.

If you want to get your cat to stop and think 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

Like your cat rubbing against you to get your attention and spreading their scent, they’ll do the same thing with your lawn. Cats communicate through scent; by spreading their scent all over the property, they’re marking it as their own.

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

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7. Scratching an Itch

Have you ever had an itch that you can’t reach? Now imagine if you couldn’t reach your back at all! That’s precisely 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 the 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 want to stop your cat from rolling around in the dirt, there’s only one way; make them an indoor cat. Anything short of that, and they’ll find a way to roll around in the dirt when they’re outside.

While it might mess up their shiny coat, there are a few benefits. 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 its mess, there’s nothing to worry about and nothing you must do to try to deter the behavior. The best thing you can do is learn to live with it or keep your cat indoors. Otherwise, the dirt rolling will continue.

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Featured Image Credit: birgl, Pixabay

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