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May 6, 2020 |5 min read |Veterinarian Reviewed

Why Do Cats Like Rolling in Litter Boxes?

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Have you ever walked in on your cats rolling in the litter box? Good news: You’re not alone. Cat parents all around the world have caught themselves wondering, “Why do cats roll in litter?” For many parents, that question remains unanswered.

To those of you who haven’t caught your cat in the act: be aware – he or she probably does it when you’re not looking. Maybe you notice the aftermath when all the litter is outside the litter box. Although humans see cat litter as dirty and unsanitary, for our domesticated kitties, rolling in the litter box is actually quite normal. However, if you’re using low-quality products, your cat can develop an allergic reaction to the litter.
Outdoor cats, along with various other species, have rolled in dirt instinctively for years for a plethora of reasons. We may never know them all, but we do have a general idea of the most common reasons. This article is going to answer the question, “Why do cats roll in their littler box?” so you can have a better understanding of your furry friend.

Connecting With Fellow Felines

In case you were unaware, your cat has special glands that omit various pheromones, and when your feline rubs his or her head against you, they're releasing pheromones. A pheromone is a natural substance produced by an animal that can affect the physiology of or trigger a response from a member of the same species.
When you see your cat rolling around in the litter box and rubbing up against the dust, they're also omitting pheromones. Although humans can't detect them, other cats can, and they use pheromones to communicate and mark their territory. This is especially common if you own multiple cats. Competition in multi cat households can arise which may lead your feline friends to try and compete with one another.
Adult cats release especially strong pheromones when they are ready to mate by rolling on the ground, whether it be in grass, dirt, or cat litter.

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Cleaning Up

Ironically, some cats will "dust bathe" in their litterbox to tidy themselves up. After your kitty concludes a dust bath in their clean litter, he or she will likely lick the dust off their fur to replenish bacteria in their body.
You may initially find your cat's behavior odd, but it's actually a natural feline instinct and nothing to worry about. In fact, other animals, including many types of birds, exhibit similar behavior.

Relieving an Itch

Sometimes you'll catch kittens or adult cats rolling in the litter box to simply relieve an itch. A cat's litter is comprised of rough stones and textures, which can be appealing to kitties. Similar to humans, cats need a good back scratch sometimes, too, which is why you often see cats rolling in their litter tray.
The finely grained pebbles help soothe kitties when they're feeling excessively itchy. Brushing your cat regularly could also prevent him or her from rolling in the litter box, but many cats prefer rubbing against litter tray particles instead of being brushed.

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Combating Fleas, Ticks, & Parasites

Unfortunately, fleas, ticks, or parasites could be behind your kitty's frequent habit. Sometimes cats will roll in their litter to get rid of pesky beings.
Since most cats dislike being exposed to water, you may have trouble soothing their skin via baths. Instead, he or she will probably opt to rub against gritty cat litter to remove bugs and other irritants.
If your kitty seems distraught while dust bathing, schedule an appointment with your vet to make sure their fur isn't crawling with fleas or parasites. Since your pet can't outright tell you when something is wrong, keep a watchful eye on his or her behavior to ensure their health and safety. You may also change your cat litter with other types such as pine cat litter or crystal litter for a cleaner litter box.
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Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.

Links

https://www.linkedin.com/in/christina-tasci-68ab815b

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Geoff DeWire

PrettyLitter's Veterinarian in Chief Dr. Geoff DeWire graduated UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2007 where he earned the Pfizer Clinical Achievement Award for Excellence in Veterinary Medicine.

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