Are hard floors bad for cats? No, it’s quite the opposite in fact. Carpets are potentially bad for cats but hard floors are not. I would, personally, highly recommend hard floors over carpets if you have a cat companion. There are multi-benefits in my view although this is not a massive issue. But in terms of overall domestic cat welfare, a home with hard floors and perhaps some rugs is better than a home with fitted carpet wall-to-wall.
Carpets and health
Years ago I wrote about the chemicals incorporated into carpets to preserve them and give them a longer life. Carpets are, at the very least, potentially dangerous to cats in an insidious and hidden way (and for infants too). It isn’t just the chemicals, the American Lung Association say that carpets trap a range of pollutants such as dirt and dust, pesticides, lead, mould spores, allergens, pet dander (a source of allergy to cats), dust mites, toxic gases sticking to small particles that settle into a carpet and of course the dreaded flea, and so on. Cats fleas can remain passive in carpet and jump onto cats when passing.
When you think about it, although a carpet is visually and emotionally warm and pleasant to use in the home, they are a product which is uniquely designed to trap pollutants. You can hoover the carpet but does it remove all of these pollutants and unhealthy objects and parasites?
I think I have to mention hot climates. With global warming there are more hot climates! Hard floors are cooler particularly non-wood hard floors. Long-haired cats will like to use the cooling effect of a ceramic tiled floor when it’s hot, to cool down. When the weather becomes cold they can go to their bed, tucked away in the boiler room or some other cosy place.
The American Lung Association advise that you vacuum your carpet at least three times a week with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. This will be beneficial and detrimental to a certain extent because it may disturb settled particles at the bottom of the carpet sending them airborne. Carpet should be deep cleaned annually and dried properly to avoid the potential for mildew. How many people hoover their carpet 3 times a week?
Buying a carpet
Try and select one which releases fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are the nasty chemicals are referred to above which you don’t see but which can slowly evaporate into the air over a long period of time. I’m not saying that these chemicals are highly dangerous, they are not. It’s just a question of maximising health and minimising hazards.
On the insulation of carpets, request that glues and adhesives are non-toxic and low VOC. The carpet should be ventilated for 72 hours before living on them.
Another issue comes to mind: you often find hard floors in very nicely ordered and well-maintained homes in which a very houseproud owner lives. I don’t think it is good for a cat if a home is too sterile and ordered. It shouldn’t be too empty and sheer in appearance because I think that kind of environment is less natural for a domestic cat than a more normal one which is lived in.
I’ve come to the conclusion after many years that if you have a choice, a hard floor is better than a carpeted one if you live with a cat or cats. There are other benefits to the ones stated above. If your cat gets cystitis and pees on the floor it’s much easier to clear it up with a hardwood floor. Cat urine can be removed completely from a hard floor without any special enzyme cleaners whereas with a carpet you have to use enzyme cleaners and a lot of patience. And if you have a flea infestation removing fitted carpet would probably be a godsend.