Most domestic cats, if given the opportunity, will roll in the dirt. While we tend to view the behavior as kitty just getting dirty it’s actually a beneficial activity.
Below are some of the common reasons why cats roll around in the dirt.
If your cat is vigorously rubbing himself against the ground, then chances are he could be trying to remove fleas or other insects from his back which are causing itchiness.
Be aware that if chemical weed-killers are used in the garden where your cat likes to play, some of it may get deposited on his fur and cause irritation. To find relief, the cat may rub his back in the dirt.
Cats are territorial animals. They like to mark their territory with their unique body scent, which is used to ward off other cats that may be tempted to venture into their space.
Cats have scent glands located in their paw pads, cheeks and on the head and when they lie in the dirt and shuffle around, these scents are released into the environment.
As soil contains bacteria, dirt rolling may be a way for the cat to coat its fur with these micro-organisms, which when licked travel to the gastrointestinal system and replenish the gut bacteria.
Bacteria in the gut is a safeguard against intestinal infections and also assists with the break down of food in the stomach.
Catnip can have a psychoactive effect on cats that chew on the plants. A cat may experience a euphoric feeling and roll around on the ground or on the plant as a side effect of their intoxication.
Catnip attracts cats and mainly has a calming effect, hence its inclusion in so many pet toys.
If you are growing catnip in the garden, you may also attract some visits from neighborhood cats.
Kittens in particular play around in the dirt as a way of passing time. Rolling around is a form of playfulness for any cat.
On a hot day, the cat may slightly burrow in the soil and spin around as a way of keeping cool. Usually, the layer of dirt found just below the surface is cooler.
Sometimes, female cats may roll around in the dirt as a way of advertising themselves to male cats in the neighborhood when they’re in need of a companion. It helps them leave behind a trail of pheromones in the soil that male cats can use to identify their location. These chemical signals also tell the male cats crucial information about the female’s health and readiness to mate.
Likewise, younger males may exhibit this same behavior when in the presence of older males as a sign of submission. Cats usually have a ranking order of dominance, and those in the lower positions will show respect to their higher ranking counterparts by lying on the ground and rolling before them.