Why Do Cats Roll Around in the Dirt?

"I can make myself a little bed right here in my human's herb garden."
i David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

As soon as the sun goes down, you realize that Sasha has not come inside yet. Soon she strolls in, nose held high and coated in dirt. She has been rolling around outside again. While you may think she is getting dirty just to make you mad, she actually has a good reason.

Staying Cool

Cats romp around in the dirt for many of the same reasons as dogs, including to stay cool. If you have ever dug a hole in your yard, you surely have noticed that the dirt underneath that dry top layer is moist and soft. This dirt layer has some water, making it a bit cooler than the outer crusty layer that gets hit by the sun. So naturally Sasha makes herself a little burrow to roll around in to cool down after an afternoon hunt.

Leaving Her Mark

Sasha relies heavily on her sense of smell. After all, it lets her know everything about her environment. She has a specialized scent organ in the roof of her mouth, known as the Jacobson’s organ, that allows her to gather even more information if she senses something especially interesting. Maybe another cat left his mark there recently, making the spot smell funny. She will roll around in the dirt to put as much of her own signature perfume -- from the scent glands on her rear end, paws and face -- in the dirt as possible. That way when that unfamiliar feline comes scurrying over again, he will know that this property is spoken for.

Scratching That Itch

If Sasha constantly scratches herself and rubs up against furniture after her day of rolling around in the garden, it could be a sign of parasites. Fleas or other varmints might be lurking around in her fur, making her do everything in her power to nix that itch. Check her coat carefully for signs of unwelcome bugs. While evaluating her skin, look for irritated red patches and dander. These other clues let you know that she also could be suffering from an abnormal skin condition and needs a trip to the vet.


Your backyard is like a big magical playground for your four-legged family member. She has trees to climb, birds to chase, grass to nibble on and your flower bed to roll around in. If she spends most of her time out there, she might be rolling around in the dirt to keep herself entertained. She can only climb the tree so many times so burrowing herself into the dirt is another way to stay occupied until you get home.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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