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Why Is My Cat Avoiding The Floor?

If you have noticed your cat is avoiding the floor you may be confused and wondering why this keeps happening…

Why is my cat avoiding the floor?

Your cat may associate the floor with a bad experience. For example, if something happened to your kitten or cat, such as pulling on the tablecloth in the kitchen and having to dodge a falling plate, then they might remember most ‘this bad thing happened when I was on the kitchen floor’ and erroneously assume that the higher ground is safer.

So, now you know. But, will my cat be avoiding this forever? How can I prevent this from happening? Why is my cat acting weird on the floor? Keep reading for these answers, and much more… 

Will my cat be avoiding the floor for ever?

Cat lying on a central heater.

Cat lying on a central heater.

They’ll learn in time that the floor is okay, they just need to see that it’s safe enough times to build new associations.

Cats are very quick to create associations with people, places, or things. The bathtub is a good example. Your cat associates getting soaked and soap and probably the word ‘bath’ right along with it. When you bring out the cat carrier, your cat probably runs, because the cat carrier means a visit to the vet.

How can I prevent my cat from avoiding the floor?

The best thing that you can do is not to respond with amusement – stay calm whenever your cat seems scared of the floor or walks on it carefully and speak reassuringly. Tell your kitty ‘it’s okay, don’t worry’ in soothing tones and if you have a toy that they love, such as a rubber ball or a laser pointer, it’s a good time to distract them.

Toss the ball on the floor and let their predatory instincts to chase it take over. Point the laser on the floor and keep moving it around, so that they forget about the fear to chase this fun and interesting little red dot. You get the idea!

Over time they’ll forget all about their fear of the floor, you just need to build new memories to replace the scary old ones that your kitty currently has.

Why is my cat acting weird on the floor?

Cats get stressed sometimes, just like we do, and they also pick up on our own stresses. They are also very much creatures of habit.

If you’ve just moved somewhere new, then this odd behavior might be the result of ‘moving stress’. Everything is new and doesn’t yet have your cat’s scent on it, and this makes cats very uncomfortable.

If it is simply a matter of your own stress from moving, the cat might be picking up on this is well, so you’ll want to consider the context. Has anything dramatic changed in the past few days? If it is simply a move, your cat will calm down once they’ve had a chance to rub up against things in the house to spread their scents.

Other signs that can help to determine if your cat is actually stressed include your cat being extra-needy, grooming more than usual, and changes in temperament or appetite. If you see that your cat is stressed, a little extra petting, playtime, and reassurance can go a long way towards settling them down. 

How do you know if your cat is traumatized?

You’ll want to keep a close eye on your cat and look for certain behaviors. Hiding, going to the bathroom in places other than their litter box, shaking, and loud vocalization are all symptoms, but you want to see if they occur around certain stimuli.

When your cat demonstrates these behaviors all of the sudden, take a quick inventory of the room. Are there any other animals or people in the room? Has a new item been introduced or any major changes in the room? Identifying the ‘trigger’ for traumatized behavior can help a lot towards treating it.

Ask your Vet about your cat as well, as they can recommend a good animal behavior specialist to help you to quickly get to the core of the issue and to strategize a treatment plan to help get your kitty to relax.

Remember, rescue animals aren’t the only ones that can get traumatized. It happens to non-rescue cats as well, they just can’t tell us what it is that they are frightened of so it’s up to the owner and behavioral specialists to get to the bottom of the issue. 

Why is my cat avoiding my carpet?

The two most common reasons for your cat avoiding the carpet are their claws or the presence of fleas. For claws, if your cat has very long and curved claws, then they might simply be getting caught in the carpet a lot and your cat is getting irritated with this.

Visit your vet and bring some claw trimmers, and your vet can teach you the proper way to keep them safely trimmed at home.

As far as fleas, cats notice quickly that spending time on the carpet means getting itchy, so you might get some Flea powder from the store, powder the floor, and vacuum them up. Once the fleas have died out, your cat will eventually notice, and should stop avoiding the carpet.

Could my cat be avoiding the floor because it’s confused?

While this is possible with very old cats, as they can develop dementia, only your vet can tell you for sure if this is the case. In the meantime, there are a few things to check. If you have carpet, have you recently started using new cleaning solutions or powders?

Cats are very particular about scents and when you see them rubbing up against you or the furniture, there are scent glands on their face and body that are hard at work spreading your cat’s scent to mark their territory. New cleaning solutions interfere with that smell and cats don’t like this one bit!

Next, check your cat for fleas. They are easy to miss but they are also a good explanation for your cat jumping down to the carpet and suddenly springing up with surprise – it’s flea bites!

If you don’t have carpet but you recently cleaned the floor, it might simply be slippery and finally, if something recently happened to your kitty on the floor when you weren’t around, then they are still associating the floor with whatever happened and this will generally pass after a few days of safe-floor play and travel reassures them that it’s safe.

Could the temperature of the floor affect your cat?

Heater gauge showing 30.

Heater gauge showing 30.

If you have floors that get chilly in the winter, such as hardwoods, then your cat might very well not like how it feels underfoot. More often than not, however, when your cat takes to the ‘high road’ and avoids the floor, it’s just your kitty being the apex predator that they were born to be.

Higher points in the house give a better vantage point and allow them to effectively pounce on prey from above. Giving your cat a brown-paper grocery bag or a box is another way to see the cat’s innate predatory behavior.

The reason they go nuts and bat at everything that gets close to the entrance, is because their backs are safely guarded and they can peer out while remaining hidden.

Why does my elderly cat avoid the floor?

With an older cat, it could be an issue with temperature or with lowered eyesight and reflexes. As far as temperature, heat rises and your old kitty might be starting to develop a little more sensitivity to the cold.

Pay attention to where they are spending their time and if they are avoiding the floor to go rest in a particular spot, the odds are it’s simply warmer and cozier then the cold floor. Turn up the central heating a few degrees or consider a kitty-safe space heater to help your older cat to feel more comfortable and this behavior may cease.

If it happens to do with your cat developing poor eyesight and slower reflexes, then these higher areas of the house might simply help your cat to keep tabs on everything around.

 Make sure that you are closing doors to other rooms to help reduce the amount of space that they are keeping track of and if there is another animal in the house then consider installing a ‘baby-gate’ to block off one room so your cat has somewhere they can get away and relax.

Can cats notice fleas on the floor?

Yes. Cats are quick to notice that jumping on the floor leads to flea bites and being itchy, and once they make this association then they’ll sometimes avoid the floor or run across it quickly when this is not an option. Treat the house for fleas with over-the-counter options such as powder or take the kitty to a hotel with you and flea-bomb the place.

An exterminator can also help immensely if it’s out of control. Once your cat knows the floor is safe, then they’ll start spending time there again, but not until those fleas are gone!

Why won’t my cat walk on my new rug?

It’s the smell of the carpet, the texture of it, or both! Cats are creatures of habit and they hate any big changes to begin with, but they also have scent glands all over their bodies, and while you don’t smell much of a difference with a new carpet, it smells weird and scary to your cat.

They will adjust over time and you can speed along the process by ‘tricking’ them into spending more time on the carpet. Don’t just put them down on it, that won’t work, and your cat might hate the carpet just a little bit more and give you a swat or scratch for your troubles.

Instead, drop some treats there and a little catnip, and invest in a laser pointer. After a while they’ll associate that new carpet with treats and play and the time that they’ve spent chasing that mischievous red laser dot will have also made the carpet smell a little more like them.

Just be patient with it and if your cat marks it with urine, clean it quickly and try not be too angry – cats rely on scents more than even their eyesight, so until they get used to that new carpet smell they’ll be essentially playing the famous kid’s game ‘The Floor is Lava’.

Lindsey Browlingdon