Why is my cat still traumatized by the floor?

by Keith
(New York)

I know the reason for the problem, fleas, but the last time I felt one touch me was over three months ago. They don't seem to be in the carpet anymore, but they may still be on her.

I'm just confused as to why she still won't touch the carpet if there are few to no fleas in it. For her to get to the litter box she has to go on the carpet.

I even put a little platform next to the closet, but she has started peeing on the bathroom rug and won't stop.

It's very frustrating as I can't get the scent out. How should I get her to stop being afraid of the carpet after I treat her fleas?

My thoughts: I'm sorry to hear your cat is having problems. Going on the information I've got, let me try to sum it up and offer some ideas and suggestions.

First, though, let me state the obvious move, here.

1. Make sure the fleas are gone. Comb her with a flea comb and wipe it on a wet paper towel. If you see red or reddish-brown spots on the paper towel, that's her blood (flea dirt). She still has fleas and so does the rest of the house.

2. Clean up the bathroom rug with a good urine odor remover product or get rid of it completely. Clean up the surrounding area as well. Leave no trace so she's not drawn back to it by the odor.

3. Place another litter box in an area of the house where she doesn't have to walk across the carpet.

What happens from there will be revealing.

With that out of the way...

To recap, your cat has developed a negative association with the carpet and won't walk on it. That negative association developed due to the fact that there were fleas in the carpet. The fleas may or may not be gone, but the negative association remains.

The only way for her to get to the litter box is to walk across the carpet. Of course, this sets up an impossible situation for your cat.

Your cat may still have fleas, and is peeing on the bathroom rug instead of in the litter box.

That brings up a few questions. Where is she pooping? If she's pooping in the litter box, then I'm assuming she's walking across the carpet to do so.

Why is she willing to brave the carpet to poop but not to pee? That makes me wonder if there's more than just the carpet and the fleas going on with her.

Why is she pooping in the box but not peeing in it? Whenever I hear that a cat is peeing on rugs, it makes me think of urinary tract problems.

While she might not be in love with the carpet, she may also have a urinary tract issue or other medical problem that needs attention. Stress can be a factor here, and fleas are stressful, as is being afraid to walk on the carpet.

If the fleas are not completely gone, then the stress is still there. Also, and the flea eggs and larva are likely in the carpet and elsewhere in the house. You'll need to address this or you won't get any forward progress here.

Once the fleas and medical issues are gone and/or ruled out, you can retrain her. For cats that need help getting back on track with the litter box, I've outlined how to retrain a cat to use the box here.

After all the issues are addressed, if she still fears the carpet, you'll need to work with her. Play with her with her favorite toys, first away from the area, then closer and closer. Get her to focus on the toy and not the carpet.

Feed her treats, even work up to feeding her meals near the carpeted room. Eventually, she should develop enough positive associations with the carpeted area that she'll be willing to walk on it all the time.

You may need to start quite some distance away and then work up to it a little each day. With cats, you often have to take baby steps.

I hope that helps. Please let us know how it goes.

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