Cats are animals that have some very curious habits, which sometimes can even be a bit weird. If you have cats as pets, it’s likely that you’ve seen them occasionally engaging in some interesting behaviors and attitudes. One example of this is rolling in the dirt. You’ve probably noticed that, when they are outside, many cats go straight towards the dirt and spend some time rolling around it.
As a matter of fact, it’s not only cats who do this, but there are many other animals who tend to do so as well! Particularly regarding felines, there are many different reasons which explain why they have the regular custom to spend time rolling in the dirt. Do you want to know more about what triggers this behavior in cats? Read along to find out all about it!
They are trying to cool their bodies off
One of the reasons which explain why cats tend to roll in the dirt when they have the chance is that they are trying to cool off their bodies. At certain times of the year and depending on the season, cats can have quite a high body temperature, either from spending a lot of time under the sun during summer or from being next to heaters during winter. In this sense, it’s usual to see that cats roll in the dirt more often in the hot days of summer.
The soil and the dirt have cooling properties which attract cats when they are feeling very warm in summertime. When cats roll in the dirt, they are taking off the first layer of soil and trying to get to the bottom layers, which are the ones that are cool. As you may know, most of the cat breeds are not very fond of water, so going into a pool or a pond to freshen up on a hot summer day is not an option for them. This is why they choose to cool down their body temperatures by rolling in the dirt.
Communication with their fellow cats
As happens with many other creatures from the animal world, cats are very much scent-driven. They have a very sharp sense of smell and can communicate and transmit a lot through scents. Have you ever thought about how and why cats communicate through scents and their sense of smell?
The fact is that there are specific glands on some parts of their bodies such as their tails, their mouths, their paw pads and their cheeks, which secrete a particular pheromone that is unique and special for each single cat. It would be like the signature or the seal of every cat.
By rolling in the dirt, cats are spreading their scent in the soil. In this way, the pheromone they secrete will be impregnated in the soil, and this is a way of marking the spot, as if the cat was saying “I have been here”. Therefore, when other cats approach the same spot, they will know that another cat has been there, because of the scents it left in the soil.
In this same way, by rolling in the dirt cats can know many things about the environment and the neighborhood, and see if there are any cats around and if other cats have been on the spot. Overall, by rolling in the dirt, cats can communicate between each other through their senses of smell.
They are expressing a feeling of safety
When cats roll on their backs it’s possible that they do so because they are feeling safe and sound in their current environment. If you see that your cat is rolling around on its back, then rest assured that this is most probably because it’s feeling safe, relaxed and calmed.
In this sense, when cats roll in the dirt it may be because they are feeling this way and they are comfortable enough to roll around airily. And this is a very good sign! It means that your cat trusts you, that it’s comfortable in its environment and that it enjoys spending time with you and around you.
Getting the itchiness away
Another possible and very logical explanation that might illustrate the reasons behind the habit that cats have of rolling on the dirt is that they are just trying to get the itchiness away from them. Rolling on their backs is one of the ways that many cats have of scratching their itches. This is actually also common in many other animals, such as dogs, horses, and even birds!
Particularly with the case of cats, as we have mentioned they are usually quite reluctant to be around water. This means that they won’t tend to choose to wash off potential itchinesses by getting into water. In this sense, one of the only ways they have to scratch their itches is by spending time rolling in the dirt.
Moreover, this habit is also a way they have of getting rid of possible parasites or fleas. If you find that your cat is rolling in the dirt and you suspect that it has to do with the need to alleviate an itchiness, do be attentive to other possible signs that might indicate that this is what’s happening, as it may be important for you to take action and consult a veterinarian for your cat’s itchiness.
In this sense, look up for other signals such as excessive grooming or chewing of some areas of its fur, especially if this happens right after they roll in the dirt. Also check for spots, bald sections or scabs on your cat’s skin. These signs can indicate that your cat is having a flea or parasite infection. Remember, when in doubt, always contact your veterinarian.
Protection of their digestive systems
Another reason that many cats have of rolling in the dirt is protecting their digestive systems. What happens is that the coats and furs of the cats tend to pick off many bacteria. These bacteria are not necessarily harmful for them. In fact, there are many which are even beneficial for their digestive processes. In this sense, when they groom and lick themselves, they ingest these specimens.
And this is one of the ways that they have of supplementing their digestive systems with good bacteria. As you may imagine, this plays a very important role in the cat’s digestion. So, overall, the habit of rolling in the dust is actually something that is good for the health of your furry feline friend.
Craving for attention
It’s possible that an explanation behind the habit of cats to roll in dirt is that they are simply trying to call your attention. When rolling in the dirt, cats might be trying to communicate to you a message to tell you to look at them and to pay attention to them. Cats are usually quite independent animals, but for sure they sometimes crave attention too!
Take into account that, if you want your cat to stop rolling in the dirt, then you shouldn’t give your attention to it when it’s doing this. Answering to your cat’s claim of attention is a way of reinforcing and encouraging this behavior. So be sure to not give it what it’s looking for if you don’t want it to roll on the dirt so much.
Expressing feelings of wellbeing and happiness
Many cats enjoy spending time outdoors, climbing trees, exploring the surroundings, and going round the neighborhood. In this sense, rolling in the dirt may also be a way of expressing a feeling of wellbeing and happiness. They enjoy very much being outside, and the rolling can be interpreted as a way of expressing this feeling and sensation. So, the next time you see your cat rolling in the dirt, consider that it’s quite possible that they are simply telling you that they are really having a very good time! what more could you want as an owner?
To sum up, as you can see there’s quite a wide variety of different reasons that can explain the motivations that cats have of rolling in the dirt. Depending on the context, the particularities of the environment, the specific situation and your cat’s personality, the explanation can be either one of the ones that we have described here, or even some others! Anyways, one thing is for sure: most of the time there’s nothing to worry about when you see your cat rolling in the dirt, as this is a behavior that is part of their nature and their regular habits.
Moreover, rolling in the dirt is also a habit that many other animals also have, such as dogs, birds or horses. So the fact is that this is a perfectly normal behavior that’s recurrent not only in cats, but also in many other creatures of the animal world. Do you usually spot your cat rolling in the dirt? Which of the reasons described here do you think best explains why your cat does this? Let us know in the comments below!