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The Mysterious Feline: Cat Rolling Behavior Explained

Most of us who know and love critters of the feline persuasion understand that cats tend to march to their own beat. Many quirky and odd behaviors that we may observe are fondly noted, but we seldom spend much energy searching for a cause. These things that cats do can  have some meaningful purpose behind them, however, and kitty behavior is actually a very interesting topic for those who care to get to know their pets on a deeper level.


West Park Animal Hospital is dedicated to helping our clients better understand their pets, and are excited to help you decipher the meaning behind cat rolling behavior.

Cat Rolling Behavior Observed

If your dog rolls over and reveals his or her fuzzy tummy, it just might be a solicitation for a good rub or to let you know that you are the boss. Not always so with a cat.

Cat owners will often tell you that when their pets roll around on the ground, it is a much more intense and sometimes aggressive action. Cats tend to roll around, feet flailing and tail twitching. Some may vocalize as well. It may even appear that your pet is in distress.

This often amusing action is not just a funny thing your cat does, though. In fact, cat rolling behavior seems to be deeply ingrained in the feline ethological catalog. Studies have shown that this behavior is found just as commonly in wild cats as it is in our domestic house cats.

Causes for the Quirk

There are several underlying explanations for cat rolling behavior. Depending on the individual situation, your feline may be flailing like a fool because:

  • He is seeking attention
  • She is marking her scent
  • He is enjoying a good back massage (especially in the dirt or on rougher surfaces)
  • She is getting an itch that she just can’t scratch
  • He is inviting you to play
  • She is in heat
  • He is submitting (especially to another cat)

When a cat shows his or her belly, it is tempting to give it a scratch. Because the behavior can mean so many things, it is prudent to proceed with caution. If your cat is asking to play or is in the middle of a massage, your well meaning scratch may be met with a bunny-kick or nip.

Cat behavior is an intriguing topic. With a little education, many of those strange kitty quirks you observe on a day-to-day basis are very explainable. Cats, true to their character, like to remain mysterious, though, and many cat behaviors are still not fully understood. These complex and beautiful creatures have a lot to teach us if we are willing to learn.

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