Of all surfaces, why does your cat choose to roll on the most uncomfortable one—concrete! From the perspective of a human, it can’t feel all that comfortable, but he chooses to roll around on concrete for a reason.
Why does my cat roll on concrete? Your cat rolls on concrete because he can mark his territory with his scent. In this context, it serves as a sign marker. He can use it to navigate and tell other cats that he owns this area. Concrete is porous, making it highly scent absorbent, and the wind doesn’t remove the odor easily.
Scent marking gives you the chief reason that your cat rolls on concrete, but you do have other reasons, which we will explore further. Follow along as we go much deeper into scent marking and the psychology behind why your cat rolls on concrete.
Leaving Scent in Concrete: Territory Marking
You may not realize this, but cats only have sweat glands in their footpads. They can’t sweat through the skin. This lets them mark their territory through their sweat. One of the most common places for scent glands also happens to be in the paws.
In other words, your cat may roll on concrete as a way to spread his scent over the concrete, but the sweat from his paws will also leave a scent marker.
Cats communicate largely through scent, and a cat that feels ownership of his territory is a more confident cat with fewer misbehaviors.
If cats only sweat through their pads, how do they stay cool? Your cat may resort to panting or licking themselves to cool off.
Your cat may also put his scent on the concrete because it could later serve as a way to find his way home. If you want to know how important scent is to a cat, watch this video from Jackson Galaxy, star of the hit TV show My Cat from Hell, on scent marking. It will explain why your cat rolls on concrete:
Sign Marking with Scent
For those who didn’t watch the video, we will summarize it in saying that nothing in the cat’s world is random. He doesn’t randomly roll on the concrete.
Jackson Galaxy talks about porous and semi-porous materials acting as a scent soaker—what is concrete? Concrete is porous, making it a scent soaker. While Galaxy doesn’t directly say this, we can assume it.
Concrete is more porous than Swiss Cheese. The pores make up 12 to 18 percent of concrete. That makes it the perfect scent marker for your cat as he rolls around on it to claim it.
Rolling on Concrete a Good Thing?
A cat that feels like he owns his space through scent soakers like concrete will display fewer annoying behaviors. That is why letting your cat roll on concrete is a good thing. It lets him mark his territory with his scent in a harmless way that won’t cause you trouble.
Troublesome scent-marking behaviors from an insecure cat include:
- Spraying under every window and space with open air
- Scratching all the furniture to pieces
- Hiding at the first sign of strangers
- Over aggression toward strangers
- Freezing in place
- Constant crying when in the home
If your cat displays any of these symptoms, you may try to help by finding scent soakers that your cat can use to feel more confident in his environment.
Besides letting him use the concrete to roll on for a scent soaker, other great choices include:
Any porous or semi-porous materials will serve as an excellent scent-soaker. It has usually been made from soft material, and it will retain the cat’s smell.
If you’d like to know about a cat bed that would make a good scent soaker, check out the Ayisoro Luxury Donut Cat Bed.
Now that we have covered the chief reason that your cat rolls around on concrete, let’s explore some of the lesser reasons that cats roll on concrete. While this is the main reason, you do have other reasons that he does this behavior.
Scratches an Itch
Your cat may roll around on the concrete because it scratches an itch. Concrete’s hard, scratchy and uneven surface makes it perfect for a cat that can’t itch himself. Cats do the same thing when they roll around in dirt (I wrote about that here).
I would personally think of concrete as an even better location to scratch an itch than the dirt. Here’s why: Have you ever rolled around in dirt trying to scratch yourself? I have…I had poison ivy once on a camping trip. In comparison to rubbing yourself up against rough tree bark, dirt doesn’t even compare to scratching the itch.
That’s the main reason that concrete makes a better location for your cat to roll around and scratch himself. While harder than tree bark, the two surfaces share resemblances in that you could scratch well with either of them.
He Likes the Hot and Cool Surface
Your cat may like rolling on concrete because it warms him up. Cats have a natural urge to seek the sun’s rays. The domestic housecat descends from the African Wildcat, a cat that inhabits the fringes of the open sand deserts. In other words, heat doesn’t bother them.
Cats also have a higher body temperature than humans. Too much cold, and they become ill. For that reason, your cat may roll around on concrete as a way of sunning himself.
Later in the day, as the shade covers the landscape, your cat may roll on the concrete to cool off. Concrete heats up in direct sunlight, but it cools off fast in the shade. The coolness feels soothing to the body and provides your cat with a fast way to stay cool on a hot day.
Caution: Beware of letting your cat around concrete that is too hot. Concrete absorbs heat easily. If it feels too hot for you, the cat will find the concrete unpleasant, also. It only takes 60 seconds on the pavement heated to 125 degrees Fahrenheit to burn your cat’s paws. Even 77 degrees Fahrenheit outside can feel much hotter on concrete. At around 85 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you may want to keep him inside.
Taking a Dust Bath
Believe it or not, concrete has some dirt and dust on it that may hold appeal to your cat. A white cat that rolls on concrete will come in looking sooty, and a black cat will come in brown and leaving his dirt shadows all over the kitchen tile.
Dust bathing is an instinctive behavior from some animals, cats being one of them. It removes parasites from their fur, and concrete has an advantage over dirt in that it won’t have more parasites like how dirt can sometimes have. The dust bath also keeps your cat’s coat clean while eliminating moisture.
Eliminating moisture has health benefits. The presence of fluid or moisture in your cat’s coat can cause a condition called Acute Moist Dermatitis in Cats. This condition happens from moisture as bacteria spreads. Fleas or mites may also cause this condition.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Hair loss
- Chewing the skin
- Excessive itching
- Small red bumps
- Blood or pus on skin
As you can see, dust baths are one way to prevent moisture, which can lead to health conditions. Think of him rolling on the concrete as a harmless self-hygiene practice.
He Seeks It out Purposely
A lot of cat owners report how their cat purposely and eagerly seeks out the concrete as soon as they open the door. Kitty goes right to it and starts to roll around. “What on earth?” you laugh to yourself. The concrete serves many purposes that he finds attractive.
Cats love hard surfaces, such as concrete, because it lets them stretch out and readjust their body. At the same time, the coolness of the concrete may serve as a type of pain reliever on sore body parts.
It may sound counter-intuitive to humans, but cats even prefer hard surfaces in some cases. They descended from ancestors that would sleep in rough trees. This may explain why it doesn’t bother them.
Concrete feels stimulating as a surface for your cat.
He Feels Happy and Content
You will never see your cat plop down on concrete and start rolling unless he feels happy and content. This behavior also denotes trust and love to the one he does this with. It’s called a social roll when done as a type of greeting or to grab your attention. I wrote about that in my article, “Cat Psychology: The Social Roll.”
Your Cat Rolls on Concrete Because He Wants to Play…
In particular, watch to see if your cat rolls from side to side and watches you contently. This could mean that your cat wants to play. Concrete, however, isn’t advisable to play on if it can be avoided.
You may want to take him off to the side of the grass to play. Concrete can tear up your cat’s footpads and be hard on the joints. Be especially cautious of doing this with kittens because they’re still developing, and the hard surface could damage their joints.
The biggest reason that cats roll on concrete is that they can scent mark it. Concrete is a porous material that makes it easy to mark. It says to other cats, “Don’t you walk here! It’s my concrete. Mine! I own this. I can walk here, but don’t you dare!” This has many benefits, and in fact, you may even want to let your cat do this.
It’s harmless and will make your cat feel more confident in himself.
Keep this in mind: Your cat will scent mark because they experience the world through scent. How they do that is up to you. Allowing them to mark like this weeds out some of the less desirable scent-marking behaviors, such as spraying cat urine at every window or clawing up the couch.
You have other reasons that they roll on concrete, which we also highlighted, but these should be thought of as the lesser reasons—not the primary purpose.