Why do Cats Roll Around in a Litter Box?

Some cats are more fond of their litter boxes than others.
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Cats roll around in their litter boxes. It’s gross, but it happens. So long as the litter box is kept clean, this behavior isn’t unhealthy. Instead, it’s just a bit dusty and dirty. If your cat is rolling around in a soiled litter box, contact your veterinarian to discuss possible reasons for the behavior.

Dust Bathing

Believe it or not, sometimes a cat is rolling in her litter box to get clean -- or what passes as clean to a cat. This process is called dust bathing. Your cat is doing it so she can immediately lick the dust from her skin. This harmless behavior shouldn’t be occurring daily, but rather every few weeks or so. It may not seem clean to you, but to a cat she's replenishing her body with bacteria. Just like when an outside cat rolls in the dirt, indoor cats roll in their litter boxes. They allow the dust to settle on their fur. Afterward, they lick off the dust, essentially filling their bodies with helpful bacteria through ingestion. You may not be able to stop this behavior, as it’s a natural feline instinct.

Marking Territory

If you have multiple cats, your cat may be rolling in his litter box to mark his territory. Your cat secretes his scent through the sides of his head and along his tail. He then rubs this scent into the litter box to tell other cats it belongs to him. If you want to stop your cats from rolling in the litter box, it may be beneficial to pick up a second litter box.


Perhaps your cat is attempting to scratch an itch when she rolls around in her litter box. The fine pebbles of the litter may be providing her relief. Treating your cat for fleas or just giving her a good brushing every now and again may stop her from continuing this action.

Litter Type

Certain litter types attract cats, causing them to show their affections by rubbing themselves in it. These litters contain cat attract additives, designed to keep your cat from defecating outside the litter box. Because these additives are present, your cats may fall in love with the litter, wanting to cover themselves in it. A simple way to combat this is to switch litters to something less attractive.

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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