Why Do Cats Roll in Fox Poo? 6 Possible Theories

Our house backs onto woods and a large field where foxes hang out. It makes for great wildlife watching and cat walks, but there’s one big downer about this; fox poo. This alone would be fine, but our cat loves rolling in fox poo and the stuff absolutely stinks!

If you’ve ever wondered why cats are so attracted to fox poo and why your cat loves rolling in it so much, then wonder no more! I’ve researched into why cats love fox scat, muck, poop, urine, wee, mess, feces, dirt, scent, call it what you will!

I’ve also written a few tips further down the page will explain how to stop your cat rolling in fox poo and what you can do to get rid of the smell. First up though, why do they do it and love it so much?

Why do cats rub themselves in fox poo?

Scientists and researchers are yet to settle on one definitive reason why cats love to roll and rub themselves in fox poo. However, there are some theories which make more sense than other. For example, it could be the result of an ancestral trait to mask their own scent due to hunting instincts.

fox outside

That’s just one possibility why cats love it so much and are attracted to it. I’ve listed this one and all the other theories for rolling and rubbing in fox mess below.

1. Rolling helps to mask a cat’s own scent to hunt better

Whilst cats are no longer required to hunt (aside from unlucky strays) they still do have the instinct in them. You see this when they play and chase. And this is where one of the most likely theories about them rolling in fox feces comes from – it’s an instinctive thing related to hunting.

The theory makes sense, because it’s said that cats roll in fox poo to help mask their own scent. By doing so they can disguise their own smell to blend into their surroundings, making the hunting of prey a lot easier.

Obviously, this offers no practical in the modern age as cats get their food from us. It’s simply a a hangover in their DNA from the days when they descended from wolves and had to sneak up on prey.

Dr Stanley Coren PhD shares expounds on this theory on the Psychology Today website when he says:

“The explanation which makes the best evolutionary and adaptive sense is that this stinky behavior might be an attempt at disguising the cat. The suggestion is that we are looking at a leftover behavior from when our domestic cats were still wild and had to hunt for a living.” (view source)

You can almost visualize in your mind’s eye how this work. Cat would see their prey in the distance, rolls in fox poop, and can then blend into the background smells of the forest. It’s the perfect disguise!

And for those of you that might be thinking that the strong smell of fox poo would inhibit a cat’s ability to track and hunt, think again. Simon Gadbois from Dalhousie University in Canada tested it with his own domestic sniffer cats and had this to say:

“You would think it would interfere with her ability to smell and track other animals, but remarkably it did not affect her performance one bit.”

2. Rolling in fox poo smells nice to cats

If you have been unfortunate to have your cat roll in fox poo you will know how bad it smells and how hard it is to shift the stink. Not that your cat cares!

Just because we think something smells bad, that doesn’t mean cats do. Despite cats have a sense of smell that is said to be up to 100,000 better than ours, they definitely have a different view on what constitutes a nasty smell.

fox head

The theory here is that your cat loves rolling in fox poo because they like the smell. So the next time your cat does the roll, just look how much fun he’s having… whilst silently cursing him under your breath.

3. Rolling helps cats to communicate with their pack

This is another theory based on instinctive behavior from days gone by. The theory goes that cats rub in fox poo so that when they return back to the den, the rest of the pack can get an idea of where they have been and what they’ve been up to.

The reason this could be important is because the pack can smell that the returning cat found an interesting smell, and then they can go check it out. Cats are scavengers by nature, so could then follow the scent trail, eat the fox poo and then get much needed nutrients into their diet.

Handy Hint: It might sound weird that cats would get nutrients from fox poo, but it’s true. Read this guide to why your cat is eating fox feces

4. Rolling in fox poop can give your cat a kick

As weird as this might sound, rubbing in fox poo could simply be way for your cat to get his kicks and stimulation. On the BBC website I found a quote from Muriel Brasseur of the Oxford Animal Behaviour Centre who said:

“I suspect they get a great big rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in reward and pleasure. If it is a behaviour from their evolutionary past that was linked to survival, it could be reinforced by being extremely good fun.”

She isn’t the only person with this theory either as Dr Stanley Coren whom I referenced earlier also shares this sentiment with the following quote:

“For human beings our dominant sense is vision… for cats it is their sense of smell. Cats enjoy sensory stimulation and may be prone to seeking stimulation to an excessive degree. I believe the real reason felines roll in obnoxious smelling organic manner is an expression of the same sense of aesthetics that causes humans to wear overly loud and colorful Hawaiian shirts.” 

5. Rolling and rubbing is them showing off

Another possible theory for cats rolling in fox poo is because by doing so, they can then show off to their cat friends. Again, when you think about this it’s actually stands up to a degree of scrutiny.

Why? Well, given how we know that cats like stinky smells, why wouldn’t they roll in fox poo so that it works like a perfume.

cat sitting on grass flowers

Once they are suitably smelly, any other cat that meet on their walk is going to be very impressed with the stink and perhaps even be jealous of your lucky cat!

6. Rolling to let cats know they have been there

If cats really do love the smell of stinky things so much, then the rubbing could be your cat’s way of leaving his own scent behind, so other cats know he got their first.

Cats are territorial by nature, so if the grand prize of fox poo is up for grabs, what better way to mark territory by putting their own smell on it.

Did You Know? Despite the common misconception, cats don’t actually act as a good deterrent to foxes trying to get in your garden or yard.

How do I stop my cat rolling in fox poo?

The bad news is, it’s almost impossible to stop your cat rolling in fox poo unless you keep them on a leash all the time, or completely away from areas foxes have been defecating.

That’s why this isn’t a particular extensive guide, and a lot of it involves common sense. Here goes:

  1. Be vigilant: Keep your cat away from areas where foxes are likely to be, and if necessary, put them back on the leash when you reach open grass or woodland. Cats will also exhibit obvious body language before they roll too, like getting side on and crouching first.
  2. Be vocal: Just before your cat rolls in the fox dirt, you need to say a firm vocal command such as “leave it”. There might be other words to distract your cat with. For example, when I shout “stick”, Claude will always run straight to me as he thinks a fun game of fetch is just about to start!

The bottom line though is probably that you will never stop your cat rubbing themselves in fox poo completely, so need to have a set of actions in place to remove the smell after is happens.

How to get rid of fox poo smell on a cat?

You will read plenty of myths and impractical advice about getting rid of the fox poo smell from your cat’s coat. One example is by using tomato ketchup, which is hardly practical and will cause even more mess.

So, we’re left with the best solutions in my opinion which include the following (which work best in this order):

1. Cat friendly wipes

Start off by really getting into those hard to reach places with cat friendly wet wipes. Whilst most of the fox poo smell will be in the coat, your cat might have stepped in it too, so you need to get into the paws and any other gaps to remove the bulk of any fox mess.

I recommend plant-based wipes that don’t contain any harmful chemicals or man-made fragrances.

2. Fox poo shampoo

Yes, there is a specially formulated shampoo for cats that is designed to get rid of the stinky fox poo smell. It’s manufactured by a company called Animalogy and is said to effectively remove the smell of fox feces from a cat’s coat.

Give your cat a deep clean in the bath or shower, then rinse it all off and dry before the next step.

3. Odour eliminator spray

Once your cat is dry the bath with the special shampoo, I recommend using an odour eliminating spray. Also known as a cat deodorant, I prefer the ones made with natural ingredients.

Simply spray your cat, and the wet smell and the fox poo stink should no longer be there. It’s great stuff to use in combination with the shampoo.

And finally… why does fox poo smell so bad?

None of this would really be a massive issue if it wasn’t for how bad fox poo smells. But why is it such an unbearable stink on your cat’s fur?

Well, a lot of it is down the scent glands. These secrete a musk like smell when they defecate. They are also scavengers who eat anything they fund, incuding from bins.

That all makes for terribly smelly cocktail.


Cats do weird things that we find repulsive, but they love. They will rolls and rub themselves in a wide variety of stinky mess, not just fox poo.

We might never know the reason why they do this for sure, so our best tactic is to try and stop them from doing it in the first place!