cat_with_vacuum cleaner

When it comes to cats and vacuum cleaners, there seems to be no grey zone: cats either hate them, of, if a slew of videos on YouTube is to be believed, love them. I’ve never had a cat who loved the vacuum cleaner, and with the exception of Allegra, all my cats have always been afraid of “The Monster,” as we call it at our house.

It’s not surprising that most cats dislike vacuums. They’re loud – even to us. Imagine what they sound like to far more sensitive cat ears. They move at the cat’s level, and seem to be able to go anywhere. They eat everything in their path. What’s not to be afraid of?

Feebee was terrified of the vacuum cleaner and would hide under the bed until I was done. Amber’s hiding place was the shower stall in the downstairs bathroom. Buckley was neutral about the vacuum cleaner when she was my office cat at the animal hospital and would watch it go by while sitting on my desk. Once she came home with me, she started to become afraid. Maybe my vacuum was louder than the one we used at the office. Ruby hides either behind an end table in the living room, or under the bed.

Much to my surprise, Allegra, my scaredy cat who used to be afraid of every possible loud noise when I first adopted her, is not phased at all by the vacuum cleaner. She watches me bring it out, plug it in, and doesn’t even flinch when I turn it on. She keeps a close eye on it from a foot or two away, and often follows me through the house as I vacuum. The one thing she does seem to mind is the cord: when I start reeling it in, she gets all puffed up and sometimes attacks the cord. Maybe she thinks it’s a snake?

Ruby, on the other hand, is terrified of “The Monster.” As soon as she seems me go through my usual pre-vacuum routine, she goes to the highest spot on the  highest cat tree in our house.

If your cat is afraid of the vacuum cleaner, respect that fear. It may seem funny in a YouTube video to watch a cat scatter from a vacuum, but it’s not fun for your cat if she is truly afraid. Announce that you’re about to bring out the vacuum. Give your cat time to leave the room. As you move through the house, turn the vacuum off if your cat ends up in its path, and give your cat room and time to get out of the way.

Maybe I should get a Roomba – even though Ruby is afraid of our current upright vacuum cleaner, I could just see her being the cat that rides around on top of a Roomba!

Is your cat afraid of the vacuum cleaner?


39 Comments on Cats and Vacuum Cleaners

  1. Ha! I need a roomba. I can get my kitty to ride it and do the vacuuming for me. She needs to do something. Right now she’s just mooching off of me. 😉

  2. It took me a while to realize why the cats ran for the basement when I started picking up cat toys. It was because the next step was the vacuum. I have one cat that will watch me vacuum from the top of the cat tree. I can vacuum all the way up to her level but I don’t go any further because I don’t want to scare her.

  3. Huh…I guess Charlie really is quite extraordinary then. He is not at all afraid of our vaccuum cleaner. It is a loud, maximum suction vaccuum cleaner too. Charlie would follow me when I vaccuum. If I bring the sucking tube (no attachment) close to him, he would grab it and bite the tip a little.

    I also have a vaccuum robot similar to Roomba. I don’t use it much, since it’s not nearly as efficient as using a conventional vaccuum cleaner myself. But anyway, Charlie chases the roomba robot too. But I do remember him being afraid of it when I first introduced the robot to Charlie. That fear ended real quick.

    Charlie is a brave (but not very bright) Scottish Fold, by the way. His friendliness & openness make him seem more canine than feline.

  4. M. cannot stand it and I give him a chance to leave before turning it on , P. who is phased by everything is complacent about the vacuum cleaner-now bring out the broom and she is mesmerized and will chase it as I clean up.

      • My cat gets very angry when I go to the cupboard that stores the vacuum and he attacks it when I use it. He gets extremely worked up and last weekend I decided to try using it again after a long hiatus. I took it out and put it in visible view so that he would not see it as a threat. Well, as I was walking by it, I accidentally touched it and out of nowhere he (Calvin) came running at lightning speed and attacked my legs viciously. I could not get him to calm down at all and was able to confine him in the kitchen until he was calm. He did NOT calm down until hours later. When he was released, he kinda sat in a corner watching me. I was sitting on my sofa and got up to go to my kitchen and he came at me again that I had to leap on the sofa to protect my feet while he kept trying to get at me. I had to use a pillow to block him as well. I got him into the bedroom to calm him again and he just kept growling. I knew if I let him out he would attack. I had to get some boots on and arm myself with a spray bottle of water in order to go to bed. I got him out and raced into my room, shutting the door and keeping him out as he likes to check in on me occasionally through the night. He stayed outside my bedroom door all night growling and agitated. In the morning, after putting on my boots, I opened my door and retreated to my bed to see his state of mind. He was back to his normal, friendly self but I feel wary around him now. I’m so scared of what else would trigger him to attack. I adopted him when he was almost 2 yrs old and he’s been with me for 9 years now. How can I vacuum without triggering him to attack? Putting him in another room while I do it makes him angry and he gets aggressive after I let him out…that was how I did it. He was also acting like this every time I used the broom until I showed him over time that it was safe when I used it which was why I tried to out the vacuum in view so he wouldn’t see it as a threat. Any advice, please as this has been stressful for both of us. I was thinking of trying Pet CBD tincture…has anyone tried this to calm their cat and it helped?

        • I can only imagine how stressful this is for both of you – it’s a pretty extreme case of redirected aggression. These situations are terribly distressing. I would recommend working with a feline behaviorist. I can highly recommend Mikel Delgado and Dr. Marci Koski Both offer remote consultations. Calming tinctures or CBD may help. You may also want to discuss medication with your vet, but I think you need to work with this from a behavioral standpoint. Calming remedies or medication can support that process, but will probably work alone.

  5. So I don’t need to feel funny when I hold up the working end of my tank sweeper and announce, “I’m going to turn on the sweeper now, is everyone ready?”

    I don’t mind giving them a little goose, but I don’t like outright frightening them.

  6. My cats are terrified of the vacuum cleaner, but nonchalant about the Roombas. I think it is because the Roomba is “below” them, so they don’t feel threatened by it. It’s not looming like the other vac. Hard to be afraid of something that you see as smaller than you.

  7. From my personal experience my cats absolutely hate the vacuum, in fact they seem to think it is the devil himself. However I’ve seen a lot of videos on youtube that made me almost pee myself watching cats lazing like gods getting massaged by vacuum cleaners!

  8. I have a built-in vacuum and I only need to get the hose out for Bella to scurry under the bed. If I take a bit of time between grabbing the hose and plugging it in, she will come back to the bedroom door and watch. As soon as I lift the end to plug it in – she is back under the bed. Shadow will walk around with me sometimes, but if I move the vacuum in his direction he will go and keep Bella company. I don’t have any carpet, so I don’t use the really noisy parts of the vacuum.

  9. I foster cats and most of them are terrified of the vacuum but I had one litter of kittens that would sit on the climber while I vacuumed it and would just move out of the way to another side of the climber when it came close. That was probably because they got so used to the vacuum as they had ringworm and I had to vacuum/disinfect their room every day for 9 weeks. Got to be old hat for them by the end of that time.

  10. My cats don’t hide from the vacuum though they will make way for it. Boomer isn’t the least bothered by it and will even allow me to vacuum his body.

  11. the cats are afraid, but the rabbit kicks the tar out of it. probably thinks the vacuum is going for its food.

    ps. would love an article about the best vacuums for the price.

    • Catherine, I’m not a vacuum tester, but I can vouch for the Riccar line of vacuums (the one in the photo with Allegra above is a newer model of the one I have). I’ve had mine for more than 20 years, and it’s awesome. I get it cleaned and serviced professionally once every five years or so. At the animal hospital, we had an Oreck, which was also excellent, considering that it got used a dozen times a day every day.

  12. Lucy completely hides under the bed. Rikki is a little bit more brave and sometimes watches from a distance.

  13. Everyone here, (Frankie, Jasper, and Daisy) all agree that The Monster is not a friendly guy. Up to the loft they scurry at the merest hint of Monster activity. So I always warn them when about to start and give the “all clear!” message when the deed is done. I am amazed at the cats who allow their people to vacuum their fur and I wish my cats were up for that because I probably vacuum 3 times as often as a person who has no cat family.

    • I’ve had several people leave comments on our Facebook page already about how some of their cats like to be vacuumed with the hand attachments. It amazes me, too, Candace.

  14. Seeing Ruby ride a Roomba. Now that’s a Youtube hit in the making! The acoustics really vary with vacuums. The Dyson Animal is quiet but pricey. Lately I’m recommending the Hoover EmPower which offers a feature called Hush Mode with the flip of a switch it’s quieter.

    • Roomba Ruby – it even has a nice rhyme to it, Layla! I’m going to check out that Hoover you mentioned, I really like the idea of the Hush Mode.

  15. Sam isn’t crazy about the Closet Monster either….I won’t turn it on until he’s left the area (usually he heads for the basement) and once he hears that I’ve finished, he’s back upstairs in a flash continuing with his nap or whatever. Once in a very great while he will watch from some distant spot – and follow me around very carefully……but that’s VERY rare. I’ve often wondered just how much all that racket WE hear translates to the cat’s ultra sensitive sense of hearing….has to be borderline unbearable!!

    Pam (and Sam)

  16. My cats are like Spunky Doodle and Manny — they vacate the room if they happen to be at floor level with the vacuum cleaner, but anyone with a perch will just lay there and watch. No real panic around here; I think their attitude is “oh, DaddyCat is walking the loud beast again and making the carpet fluffy for us.” 🙂

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