It never fails–as soon as your cat goes outside, they drop to the ground and roll around in the grass or dirt. It might seem silly to you, and you may think it’s a weird cat behavior. But why do cats roll around, either inside or outside?
There are many reasons that cats roll around outside. They mark their territory or put out pheromones for other cats, especially if it’s a female cat in heat. They roll around to cool off in the summer’s heat, or they are simply seeking your attention. Or they might be itchy.
This normal cat behavior might look silly to you, but it’s part of how they communicate with you and other cats. Keep reading for more.
Cats Are Marking Their Territory
Cats are territorial creatures and leave their scent on whatever they deem theirs. When they roll around on their backs or rub their head against furniture, they put their scent on the area, so other cats know not to come into that space. They communicate mainly through scent as their sense of smell is much stronger than their other senses.
A cat will also rub against you to make sure other animals or cats can’t claim you as their own. Your cat claimed you, and you’re not going anywhere, according to them. That might be why they get so upset when you come home after petting another cat somewhere else.
When cats roll around on the ground or the floor, they tell every other cat that they live with you. It’s considered an honor in their world to mark their scent near you.
They Have an Itch They Can’t Scratch
Sometimes cats can’t get to a spot on their back that itches terribly, so they roll on the ground to get that itch. Have you ever had an itch on your back that drove you nuts? A door jam or a post is a welcome sight that works wonders for your itchy back. It’s the same for your cat–an itchy back means that your cat needs a quick roll on the ground or floor.
You could do a lot for your cat to relieve any itch before it starts. By regularly petting and scratching your cat’s back, you can remove any loose fur or mites that can build up and cause your cat’s back to itch.
A note of caution: Cats also will use their back legs to scratch their heads if they itch too much. But a cat that spends too much time scratching their ears or head might have an infestation of fleas or something else causing the itching. If it persists, contact your vet.
Cats Are Seeking Attention
Your cat is rolling around outside because they are telling you that they want attention and to play with you as an invitation. It is also a social and friendly, non-aggressive way to tell other cats that they don’t mean anyone any harm. They may want your attention, but they don’t necessarily want you to touch their belly or pet them there.
They are not submissive like dogs when they roll on the ground. In fact, they are seeking attention and friendship, while dogs are submitting to you as the alpha dog. Cats don’t submit but rather see you as friends or companions that will give them attention and love.
If you try petting their belly, you might get a handful of claws from the cat, with several scratches to prove it. When you move to pet your cat’s belly, don’t be surprised to find your cat sitting upright in a fraction of a second to protect their belly, and perhaps a tiny growl to let you know not to pet them there.
When your cat is rolling around on the floor or the ground and is meowing at you, move toward them to see what they will do. If they stay in that position, then try petting their belly. But if they immediately sit up, you might want to keep your petting to their head.
A Female Cat Might Be In Heat
Sometimes, cats will roll around outside to signal to other cats that they are ready for mating. A female cat in heat will roll around outside to send her pheromones to the local male cats. The rolling around might also be a way to remove the previous male cat’s scent before mating with another male cat, which you can recognize by a frenzied motion.
Hormones and ovulation create the need for female cats to mate in any possible way, including them rolling around on their backs to attract a male cat. If you don’t want kittens, you might want to keep her inside until this time passes, or you will have every male cat in the neighborhood calling on your cat.
One other way to stop this behavior is to have your cat spayed.
The Summer Heat Might Be Too Much For Your Cat
While cats might have a higher normal body temperature than humans, they still get too warm if it’s hot outside. Outdoor cats have learned how to cool off in the summer heat, including seeking shade or drink plenty of water. One behavior that you might not know about that they use to cool off in the summer heat is rolling around on the ground.
If you have granite floors, your cat will gravitate towards the floor to stay cool. Wood and carpeted floors also have that same effect if the A/C is on. But when a cat is outside, they will either roll around in the grass or on concrete if it is shaded. The grass will cool your cat down, especially if it has rained recently and the ground is still cool.
If your home doesn’t have A/C, try using several fans to create a cross-breeze that your cat can use to cool off with, and which creates a cooler floor to roll around on.
Cats Show Their Trust By Rolling On Their Back
When threatened, cats will sit or stand upright, waiting for the attack. But if they are comfortable in a situation and trust you or other cats around them, they roll on their back, exposing their most vulnerable area–the belly. By doing this in front of you, your cat is essentially saying that it trusts you and doesn’t see you as a threat.
Cats wouldn’t show you their vulnerable side if they didn’t trust you, so you can assume that if you see your cat rolling around on the ground in front of you, it is telling you that you are its friend. A cat willing to do this in front of you is the ultimate in cat honor and love, which you should feel honored to see. Reciprocate by giving your cat some positive attention.
Rolling around on the ground is normal for all animals when they feel safe and secure or want something from another animal. Cats might also roll around outside to stretch and take in more sunshine or protect their digestive system by licking the dirt and bacteria, creating a stronger immune system.
Cats will sometimes roll around for exercise and entertainment. It takes some energy to roll around and stretch as they do, so if your cat needs exercise, this is one way to get it. Cats sometimes need entertainment, and rolling around on the ground can be a fun pastime that gives them a lot of information about the outdoors.