Why Do Cats Roll In Dirt? Cats’ Dust Bathing Explained

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS
Cat Behavior February 16, 2022


Why Do Cats Roll In Dirt? Cats’ Dust Bathing Explained

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If you’re a cat parent, you have probably experienced your cat gleefully rolling around in the garden and covering themselves in dust and dirt. This is known as dust bathing and is a common cat behavior.

Since cats are such clean animals, with meticulous grooming regimes, it  might seem particularly odd that they also enjoy rolling around in the muck! It might also be pretty frustrating if your cat has a beautiful, luxurious coat and you find yourself spending lots of time grooming them, only for them to go and bath in dirt again!

Although it may not make much sense to us, this behavior is normal and usually nothing to worry about.

Cats dust bathe for a few reasons, so here are the most common reasons why cats roll in dirt:

1. To Cool Off

Your feline’s fur is warm and fuzzy, which is perfect insulation in the cooler months. However, on a hot sunny day, this thick coat makes it harder for your furry friend to cool down.

As you probably know, cats love to sunbathe, but their body temperature goes up when they spend too much time lazing in the sun. Therefore, on a hot day, your cat will grind and squirm in the dirt, digging down below the surface to cover themselves with the cooler layers of soil beneath.

2. Catnip

Catnip is part of the mint family and, when inhaled, it helps your cat to relax. The herb’s active ingredient is called nepetalactone. Nepetalactone gives your cat a ‘high’ feeling and you might see them licking, head shaking, sniffing, rolling or rubbing against things. Although catnip is a bit like cannabis for cats, it’s harmless and non-addictive

3. It Might Help Digestion

Cats roll in dirt is because it scratches an itch they can’t reach.

You may wonder how rolling in the dirt could help your cat’s digestive system, so here’s the theory:

When your furball rolls in the dirt their coat picks up bacteria from the soil, which will be ingested during grooming. These bacteria may contribute to the good bacteria or flora within your cat’s gut, aiding their digestion as well as their immune system.

4. They’re On Heat

Cats communicate through their scent.  When your female furball is on heat, they will roll around or rub against things to communicate to a potential mate that they are fertile. They will also roll on the ground to get rid of any male scent after mating. If you have a male cat, he might roll on the ground near females to catch their attention, think of it as feline flirting!

5. They’re Itchy

Your cat may be rolling in the dirt because they are trying to scratch a hard-to-reach area. The fine, coarse pebbles and debris in the soil is perfect for relieving itchy spots on your feline’s skin.

However, If you notice your cat rolling in dirt constantly, they mighthave a parasite infestation. Dust bathing accompanied by biting,scratching, or hair loss may indicate that your poor puss has fleas or other unwanted visitors.

To check for a parasites on your cat look out for scabs, red spots, flea dirt, or bald patches.. If you notice any of these signs, seek treatment from your vet.

6. Territory Marking

Scent is really important for cat communication,  and they have a great sense of smell. Your feline has numerous scent glands around their face and body which secrete their own unique pheromone.

Your cat rolls around to help spread this scent, which alerts other cats in the neighborhood that they’re in their territory, and to stay away.

7. They’re Playing

Rolling on the ground is a behavior not only seen in domestic cats, but also in larger cats.

Sometimes, cats roll in the dirt to entertain themselves. Just like climbing trees, chasing balls and pouncing on toys, rolling in dirt might mean it’s playtime!

When your cat is relaxed and comfy, they might roll in the dirt to invite you to play with them. This is the perfect time to have some fun, , but if you don’t have time to play, get some cat toys to keep them entertained when you’re not around.

8. Attention Seeking

Have you ever noticed that your cat comes near you and rolls over, exposing her belly, when you’re about to leave? You might also notice this behavior when you arrive home too.

Well, your cat may be doing this to get your attention and this attention-seeking behavior is especially common in multi-cat households. If your cat is behaving this way, they’re inviting you to fuss them, so there’s no better time to give them some love.

How Can I Stop My Cat Rolling In The Dirt?

Dust bathing is a natural cat behavior and is often a sign that your purr-fect pal is in a good mood! It can also help to maintain their gut flora, so don’t be too quick to stop them – as well as being perfectly normal, the behavior might also be good for their health.

If they tend to roll in the dirt when it’s hot, you should make sure that you provide cooling points for your cat. For instance, you can place accessible water points around the house or a fan to help your cat cool down. If you have an outdoor cat, provide a water fountain where your cat can drink fresh water on a hot day.

If you think your cat might be rolling because they’re itchy, it’s worth making sure they’re up to date with parasite control, and your veterinarian can help you with this.


Now that you know why cats roll in dirt, you’ll know that it is usually a normal behavior and hopefully won’t get annoyed every time your kitty tracks dirt on your clean floor. However, you should keep an eye out for scratching and other signs of itchy skin or parasites, especially if your cat’s behavior has changed recently.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do cats roll in the dirt when they see you?

Your cat might roll in dirt when they see you because they want your attention. Or they might simply be telling you that theyfeel safe and comfortable around you. Rolling on their back exposes their belly, which is your feline’s most vulnerable part. So, showing you their belly indicates that your furry family member is at ease around you – a big compliment!

Do cats do dust baths?

Yes, dust bathing is common behavior in cats and shows that your cat is happy or relaxed. Sometimes cats may be dust bathing because they are itchy or to get rid of parasites like fleas or ticks. So, if you suspect your cat is suffering from itchy skin or parasite infestation, take them to the vet for treatment.

Why do cats roll on concrete?

Cats roll on concrete to transfer their pheromones onto the floor. This behavior helps your feline mark their territory. Cats will also roll on the concrete when they are in season and want to attract potential mates.

Agnes is a freelance writer with big love for all fluffy creatures, especially her Maine Coon cat. She's written over 200 articles about animal care, ranging from how to raise kittens to the healthiest pet snacks on the market
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