We’ve all seen it, on warm summer days if the cat is allowed outside he runs over to the first patch of mud he can find and has a good old rub around in it. This is not a behaviour exclusive to cats, many other mammals also enjoy rolling in the dirt, but why?
- This behaviour is known as dust bathing. I can guess that to a cat it actually feels quite nice, a bit like a massage. Releasing tension in the skin, rubbing itchy spots, and stretching the body in various positions. It could also help to remove loose hairs from your cat’s coat.
- Dirt has a cooling effect on your cat, so it feels nice in to do on a hot day.
- Some say that it helps to remove parasites such as fleas, I’m not entirely sure if that is true. It could be.
- Scent marking may play a roll in dust bathing. As the cat rolls, he marks the area with scent glands which are located on their paw pads, cheeks and the top of their head.
- Others speculate that it’s to get rid of the smell of the indoors. It would be interesting to know if stray and feral cats also roll in the dirt. I suspect they do, which would blow that theory.
I believe the main reason they roll in the dirt is that it feels good, and they can do it. A bonus is that it annoys us when they traipse dirt back into the house and leave a gritty little patch on the sofa or in the bed! This may be slightly annoying, but cats seem to derive so much pleasure from rolling in the dirt that it’s a small price for us to play. Besides, we should be grateful, dogs like to roll in much worse things than dirt. I have never attempted to stop this behaviour in my cats.