Why Do Cats Roll On the Ground?

Dancing Musubi
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A cat drops to the ground, flails back and forth on her back, often with head rubbing against the floor and meowing. No, the cat is not having a bizarre fit, experiencing a sudden loss of balance, or under the influence of some potent kitty beverage. Does your cat "flip?" What is going on?

Why Do Cats Roll?

To figure this out, look at the timing, the location, and the circumstances. Seren "flips" every morning, right in front of my husband as he tries to get ready for work.

In particular, she'll do this as he sits to put on clean socks, making sure she rolls on top of his feet as well as the floor. She also rolls and cries in every puddle of sunshine she can find, especially on cold winter mornings. Finally, she rolls in the evening, mostly when the dog (spit!) is getting attention.

You may notice similar rolling behavior in cats that are in the throes of catnip intoxication. Unless you're a responsible breeder, you may not realize that female cats also roll after mating. That's one reason people used to think catnip was a feline aphrodisiac.

Not a Dog Behavior

While dogs roll onto their back as a sign of deference or submission, kitty rolling instead serves as a solicitation for attention. Rolling also spreads self-scent when Kitty rubs her head and cheeks on the floor, as well as providing a self-massage. Cats love routine, so once a pattern is established, the rolling also becomes a comforting kitty ritual.

Giving her that attention "pays" her for rolling—that's positive reinforcement of the behavior—so she'll repeat the rolling again the next time she wants more of the same. Just don't assume she's asking for a tummy rub the way dogs do when they roll over, or your hand may get grabbed and bunny-kicked into submission!