5 Reasons Why Cats Roll In Dirt

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Everyone that has been around cats long enough has seen them suddenly dropping down and roll around in the dirt outside. This behavior is also referred to as dust bathing and is not unique to cats. Both of my cats love to do this, but they don’t limit it to dirt surfaces, they also love roll around on the stone patio outside or on the lawn. No matter the surface, the question still remains – why do they do this?

Based on research and my personal experiences my 5 theories for this behavior are:

  • Because it feels good. When I see either Thor or Freja roll around like this, it reminds me of when I scratch my back against the door frame or wall. One can hypothesize that rubbing against the dirt, pebble, grass straws etc. really scratches their itch, literally. 
  • Dirt can help cool down your cat. This is probably why this is Thor’s favorite activity on a hot summer day in the garden at my in-laws. 🙂
  • Scent marking. When cats rub their head against you they are marking you with their scent. Other animals can use this technique to spread their pheromones and scent so it is quite possible cats do it for the same reason.
  • Because it can remove fleas or unwanted bugs. Rolling around on the ground can help dislodge unwanted guests in your cats’ fur. Remember to routinely inspect the fur with a comb while looking for fleas, red spots or irritation on the skin. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect your cat has a flea problem.
  • To pass the time / entertain themselves. There is no question in my mind that cats find this an enjoyable activity. Whether that is because they find the activity itself fun, or because they enjoy scratching itches (I know I do), we can’t know for sure, but Thor even purrs sometimes while he is rolling in the dirt.

Of course, these are only some of the possible explanations for why cats do this, and it is hard to get a definitive answer. There was not much available in terms of academic or scientific material on the topic so it is left up to us to hypothesize.

What are your best theories as to why your cat likes to roll in the dirt? Share in the comments below!