Many cats like to roll. I don’t think all do; in fact, I know some of mine don’t.
Tungsten will roll when she’s happy, such as when I come home from a day’s work. She will follow me into the bedroom and, while I change my clothes, roll about the bed. She will also roll when she wakes from a good sleep. At both times, she likes to have her chest and belly rubbed vigorously. But she never seems to roll at other times.
Josie rolls even less. She will fall over with a thud that must be a bit painful when she wants some attention. She will thereafter let out grunty squeaks if I don’t come over and pet her. But she doesn’t wait long for me, and she doesn’t roll.
Tucker doesn’t roll, either. He will lie down and subside half-way onto his back, with his paws frozen in the air, as if he had been turned to stone and pushed over. Eventually, his legs will sag with gravity in a manner which, for a cat, should hurt somewhat. But he evidently finds it comfortable. And in any case, he doesn’t roll.
Renn rolls. He sometimes does it after waking from a snooze, sometimes after a soft-food dinner. He likes the top of the tallest cat-tree, if he can get there before Josie occupies it. He rolls this way, then that. He hooks his claws onto the short parapet around three sides of the uppermost platform and twists and turns. His lower body goes one way, while the rest goes the other. His head is upside down, and he rubs the top of it on the carpeting that covers the platform. Often, he ends his rolling with a stretch.
My big boy likes strong sensations. When I rub his chest, it must be with a force others might see as harsh; Renn, however, stretches his legs, purrs and curls his feet with pleasure. I think that’s why he likes rolling on the cat-tree. The superficial material, though comfy to lie on, can be like a brush if one digs himself in for a good, concentrated rotation. Moving first left, then right, then both directions at once may give Renn a feeling akin to being stroked all over with a comb - which he also likes.
More than any other cat in the family, he is a voluptuary. This joy he takes in what his senses feel, combined with his scientific pursuits, makes me think that he would have made a most characteristic gentleman of the Age of Enlightenment: mind and body, reason and sense, work and pleasure. I’m sure Renn and the likes of Isaac Newton would have gotten along. And I’ve no doubt that Newton enjoyed a good roll under the tree, waiting for the apple to drop…