An orange cat on a dark hardwood floor, looking up.
An orange cat on a dark hardwood floor, looking up. Photography by Murika/Thinkstock.

The Best Flooring for Cats

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If you have cats, you’re going to have issues with your floors. Whether it’s carpeting that catches every single cat hair and thrown-up hairball, wood floors that stain if your cat pees or vomits on them or any number of other problems, keeping your floors in good shape is certainly a challenge. Here are some tips on getting the best flooring for cats:

Tips to keep in mind when choosing flooring if you have cats:

A fluffy cat on a hardwood floor.
Photography by Grase/Thinkstock.

1. Carpets and cats don’t mix

If you have carpets, you already know why I’m recommending this. I don’t know about you, but my carpets have endured just about every kind of cat mess possible. Carpet is very difficult to clean, especially if your cat urinates on it, because the urine goes through all the layers of the carpet and sometimes even into the underlayment and floorboards beneath. This makes the smell almost impossible to remove.

2. Avoid porous flooring if you have cats

Hardwood floors are beautiful, and they’re very popular for that reason. The trouble with hardwoods is that they are porous, and if a cat urinates or vomits on them, it will leave a stain that’s almost impossible to remove. Add to that the fact that if there are any gaps between the floorboards, the urine or vomit will sink into the cracks and stay there until you remove the flooring.

3. Use area rugs that can be easily washed

A close up of a cat sitting on an area rug.
Photography by Murika/Thinkstock.

If you need carpeting for noise abatement or comfort purposes, use area rugs that you can easily toss in the washing machine. Carpet tiles are another good option because you can easily replace soiled tiles before any liquids soak through to the flooring beneath.

4. Invest in litter and food mats

If you don’t want your cats tracking kitty litter all over your house, invest in some good-size litter mats — at least a foot longer and 6 inches wider than your litter box. Also use inexpensive, easy-to-wash, 3-by-5-foot throw rugs as litter mats. Put mats under your cat’s food and water dishes to avoid problems from spills there, too.

5. Flat flooring is best if you have cats

Any time you can use a flooring material that doesn’t have cracks or crevices, you’ll have better results. Some of those choices include poured concrete (this must be sealed, otherwise you’ll have a porous floor that will trap odors and liquids), terrazzo and even vinyl/linoleum.

And the best flooring for cats is…

1. Bamboo

Bamboo floors.
Photography by Nimnull/Thinkstock.

This is a great choice for homes with cats. It’s stain-resistant, harder than the hardest of hardwoods and completely renewable. Although it may cost a bit more up front, you’ll save money in the long run because bamboo is so durable.

2. Cork

Cork floors.
Photography by Aleksphotografer/Thinkstock.

Another green choice, cork is antimicrobial, so it will reduce the growth of mold and other allergens. It’s sound absorbent and will help to calm the thundering noise of cats at play. Although it’s also water-resistant, you should still clean up any urine, vomit or other liquids quickly.

3. Tile

Tile floors.
Photography by Geerati/Thinkstock.

Whether you go with stone, porcelain or ceramic, tile is a great choice because of its water-resistance. Some porous types of stone, such as marble, slate or travertine, should be sealed in order to avoid staining.

4. Vinyl

Vinyl floors.
Photography by Luckeyman/Thinkstock.

I know — if you’re of a certain age, vinyl floors are the stuff of nightmares. But vinyl and linoleum have come a long way. You can buy vinyl flooring that looks like hardwood, for example. It’s scratch- and stain-resistant, low in allergens, easy to clean and maintain. An extra bonus: It’s quiet to walk on.

5. Laminate

Laminate floors.
Photography by Sasinparaksa/Thinkstock.

Laminate is popular because it looks like traditional hardwood floors. Because of the way it’s made, it may be more stain-resistant than hardwood. It also tends to be scratch-resistant, so it’s a good choice to avoid damage from kitty claws.

What do you think? In your opinion, what is the best flooring for cats? Tell us in the comments below.

Thumbnail: Photography by Murika/Thinkstock.

JaneA Kelley is the author of the award-winning cat advice blog Paws and Effect and a contributing writer at Catster.com. She is the board secretary for Diabetic Cats in Need, a nonprofit that helped save her diabetic cat’s life.

April is Spring Cleaning month here at Catster! Stay tuned for a few articles every week on all things spring cleaning and cats — whether that’s cat-safe ways to clean your home, spring-cleaning your cat’s grooming routine with advice on brushing and bathing — and much more.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you

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31 thoughts on “The Best Flooring for Cats”

  1. OK people, here's a new option. We had Luxury Stone planking installed several months ago now and our cats and dog love being able to slide across it while playing ball or just for treats. This flooring was guaranteed not to mark. As a matter of fact the salesman had a steel grinder run across it several times to show us that how mark proof it was. We were sold. Although it is planking we have had no problems with clean up of any kind and we do have oopsas every now and then like any other pet family. It cleans up beautifully and never marks. This is a product I strongly recommend. Again it's called Luxury Stone Planking by AFA Forest products.

  2. Laminate is neither moisture proof or scratch resistant. Even sweeping can cause scratches. You really should do research before recommending something. The slightest moisture will cause it to buckle.

  3. Jennifer Eide Bibler

    Wow. I came to this site looking for info on flooring that is safe FOR cats, but all I find is info on flooring safe from cats. No info on low VOC, nontoxic flooring here. Maybe you could do an article on that someday.

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      I too am disappointed – I wanted info "from the cat's point of view". I have found (contrary to many comments I have read) that my cats are more comfortable playing on my wool carpet than hard smooth surfaces. They can run, stop, jump and pivot much better and more securely. But then I play with them daily – with a wand toy – for exercise and to satisfy their hunting behaviour. When they are at full speed then "sliding around" is not a great feature. It's really too bad that there is so little written (here and in general) that focuses on the cats' needs rather than our own. I was hoping to find both angles covered.

  4. I have luxury vinyl plank flooring in my living room, hall, and bedrooms and it’s great. My cats have all their claws and they love to run and slide on it. It’s a game to them. and they haven’t scratched it at all. Easy to clean, doesn’t warp, doesn’t hurt if it gets wet. I also didn’t get the most expensive, in fact, I probably have a cheap brand compared to others I’ve seen (Aqualok Woodland Collection).

    1. “Luxury” vinyl is, as far as I can tell, just an advertising ploy. It comes in planks, or tiles, and therefore has gaps or grooves where pee can get in and smell and eventually damage your floor. Sheet vinyl is perfect for cats and dogs and people – warmer and softer than other hard flooring, great color and pattern choices, cheaper, and totally waterproof and cleanable. It’s the best, except that it is definitely not eco-friendly; I truly hope that that issue will be addressed, because it’s what pet owners need. I don’t understand the Luxury Vinyl Plank or tile at all, except as dealer hype – it has the disadvantages but not the advantages of the sheet vinyl. I’ve had mine for 16 years, and it still looks good. I use lots of washable throw rugs for the beasties.

  5. We hv 12 indoor kitties and multiple floor surfaces. The easiest to clean by far is my ceramic tile. My husband insists on carpet for the bedrooms so we keep the doors closed on two of them and change the carpet yearly in the master bedroom.

  6. Chris McChesney

    We have 12 indoor cats. The best investment we ever made was installing vinyl plank flooring. Looks like wood (lots to choose from), is beautiful, quiet to walk on, extremely scratch resistant, and best of all very easy to keep clean. We wish we had done it sooner. The cat love sliding on it too. I should put booties on them to help clean it. :) Oh, accidents like spills, pee drips, throw ups, all clean up and no stains. We do have cat trees, cat beds etc. for their comfort too. But they love playing ball etc. on these floors.

    1. If reat endorsement for vinyl plank! What brand and style did you use? We are shopping now to replace our carpet, which has its share of vomit stains….3 cats, hairballs galore! Yes, high fiber food, pumpkin, brushing, etc….

    2. We’re thinking about vinyl planks, too. Have your cats ever peed on the gap between two planks? I’m worried about it seeping down into the floor under the planks.

  7. I bought my Florida house a year and a half ago. It’s laminate all the way through and I quickly found out that it is NOT very cat-friendly. Especially in the litter pan room, where that now warped and buckled floor will eventually be replaced with tile. Tile just seems to be the way to go. My lanai is tile and nothing hurts it.

  8. Annie in Florida

    I clean houses professionally. I live in Florida, where there is a lot of sand that gets tracked in. Add kitty litter and cat hairs and you can have a real mess! In this area, tile floors are simply the best. Easy to clean, as long as you maintain the darn grout. Hardwood floors – NO! They are lovely but require special cleaning which is time consuming for you or whoever cleans your home. Laminates: BE CAREFUL!! Only use a HIGH quality laminate or you will regret going that route a long time. Cork is nice but is very difficult to clean, IMO. It cannot be mopped, just vacuumed. Vinyl and other plastic” type flooring can be fine as long as it is a high quality product. Easy to clean, and can look quite nice. Bamboo flooring is lovely but it also requires a bit more care when cleaning it. I learned the hard way: do NOT skimp on your flooring! Choose the best quality flooring you can afford – it will pay off.

  9. My 4 cats loved the new carpetting we put down before the house fire, which completely destroyed the home. It was replaced with a new manufactured home that was totally floored in linoleum that looks like wood all through it. I do have rugs next to the bed and at all entrances. When I toss a round treat (Dentalife)my tortie tabby skids across the floor. Cici who is a hoot to watch is a bit chunky, but being downsized. One yr. old handles the flooring just fine. It is so easy to keep the floors clean and looking good either Swiffering or vacuum works well. My husband’s nearly 18 yr. old black & white tabby does have accidents and is almost totally blind. She does have trouble navigating the halls. Her messes clean up quite well.

  10. Ceramic tile was the best choice for our Shadows and us. Today there exists Fusion Grout that is stainproof and does not need sealing.

    I was glad to have ceramic tile when our dear Samson had kidney failure and we gave him subcutaneous fluids daily. (The fluids leak a little pink from the site where fluids are injected.)

    Ceramic tile also helps wear down their claws so less trimming is needed. I never had to trim the Shadows’ back claws, for the tile filed them down with their running across the floor.

    They especially loved to sleep on sunbeams in the winter, for the sunshine warmed the tile and kept it cozy. ????

  11. abinico warez

    If you have tile with grout lines make sure a good sealer was used on the grout. Any competent tile guy would seal the grout.

  12. abinico warez

    Once again look at nature for the answer. In their natural environment cats walk/run on a surface that their nails dig into for great traction. In a home environment carpets are a must. Cats hate hard slippery surfaces – they love great traction surfaces like carpets.

    1. Thank you Abinco! Finally someone considering the cats and their natural habitat and needs! Here here!!! What kind of carpeting or flooring best fulfills these needs, is ecological, and durable? Any recommendations?

  13. Not mentioned is Stained Concrete flooring. It’s beautiful and so easy to clean. A little hard on the tender feet but house slippers are welcome in my home. Non slip area rugs add accents and create softness for those not fond of wearing house slippers.

  14. CORK: We went the cork route and found that it’s not only good for cats, but also non-slippery for cats and dogs. Dog nails destroyed our laminate floor because they were always slipping on it.
    Cork IS quiet and also warmer on the feet. So far I haven’t noticed any staining from vomit, however the one down side is that cat claws CAN scratch cork, particularly when they “launch” with back feet. Once they find a flaw in the cork that they can claw in, I’ve noticed that a few of our 8 kitties have exploited it for claw sharpening.
    I sometimes wish we’d gone with bamboo: for the color choices and also more “Swiffer”-able.

  15. Watch out on tile if you have exposed grout lines…such as in a southwestern home that is using porcelain or saltillo tile. The grout lines are part of the “look” and they are just concrete, unsealed concrete, that can soak up anything liquid and stain.

  16. Yup, that’s what I went with, 3,000 SQ FT of it five years ago, and it was the BEST choice we EVER could have made!!

  17. Janice Francis

    We, too, have a multiple cat home. When we replaced the carpet a few years ago I did extensive research on pet-friendly flooring. I found vinyl plank flooring called Invincible and it certainly lives up to it’s name. Litter and food scatter is taken care of with daily sweeping and any other messes are quickly managed with a quick wipe up and a Swifter mopping. I highly recommend a product like vinyl for your cats and you as well.

  18. Amen to all the above. I have 4 (was 5) senior cats and, boy, do they have senior issues. They were once young and resilient and they grew up together. So trust me to understand flooring.

  19. Luxury vinyl planks have been the best option for out multi (multi!) cat home. They look beautiful and are completely waterproof. When bad things happen it is so much easier to clean. Scattered litter is still an issue of course. That is controlled by daily vacuuming and intermittent sweeping. Highly recommend Flooret.com – quality product and managed by a great group of professionals.

  20. Hello, I am a cat lover and also a Flooring Professional. Bamboo and cork are expensive and about the same as hardwood, I would suggest LVT or Luxury Vinyl Tiles which comes in tile patterns and wood looks. Laminate is not waterproof. LVT is completely non-porous, warmer than tile, pet-proof, kid-proof, and water-proof. It is a very cost effective flooring at around $3.99 to $5. sf. It will outlast most other floors and be installed easily by almost anyone. Google Tuffcore. Also you can have carpet stores bind carpet remnants for cost effective rugs that are easy to replace if needed. Enjoy your life and your cats!

  21. I breed Ragdolls, so have both old and young cats/kittens in my house. We quickly learned that vinyl and laminate were the best choice for floors. All my rugs are either washable or inexpensive enough to be thrown out if the wonderful Resolve rug cleaner can’t get the stain out. We did find that our laminate, which was put down over 15 years ago, will buckle if liquids sit on the cracks. Modern laminate may have fixed that issue. But vinyl flooring comes in a huge variety of styles and is soooo easily cleaned!

  22. But the floor that CATS love the best is carpet, because they like the soft feel. To compromise, you could have rugs over your hard floors, and when the rugs get too dirty or smelly, just throw them out and buy new ones.

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