Why Are Cats Scared Of Vacuums?


two cats crouching warily in front of a robot vacuum cleaner in its docking station

If you’re a cat owner, you’re familiar with what happens when you bring your vacuum cleaner out to clear your furniture and carpets of pet hair — your feline freaks out and runs to another room. While this is a common issue, it’s still quite distressing for both cats and parents. Here, we explore why cats are scared of vacuums and provide practical tips to help them relax while you use your appliance to clean your home. At ECOVACS, specific models are designed to avoid obstacles, as they navigate around pets, their food bowls, and pet waste during cleaning cycles.

Why Are Cats Afraid of Vacuum Cleaners?

The noise, movement, and strange smell that accompanies the appearance of a vacuum cleaner can be very frightening for cats. This fear can be compounded by their perception that this large appliance has suddenly emerged on their territory and is chasing them from room to room.

Some of the reasons that cats are scared of vacuum cleaners include:

Loud noise: Conventional vacuum cleaners are typically noisy and emit noise levels ranging from 70dB-80dB. In addition, cats have the broadest hearing ranges among mammals (48 Hz-85 kHz for sounds of 70 dB), which means they can detect ultrasonic frequencies not typically picked up by humans.

Imposing size: Most vacuum cleaners are bigger than cats, so they could perceive the device as a threat and flee for the nearest exit. Cats also have alower line of vision than humans, so the machine may seem more intimidating from their point of view.

Unpredictable Movement: Cats are not aware that their owners control the cleaner, so the machine’s darting movements appear chaotic and make them feel like they’re being followed around the house.

Lack of Familiarity: Some cats may be more jittery around a vacuum cleaner if they’ve never encountered them in the past. Cats that have been around these appliances during their socialization period when they are 2-7 weeks old are less likely to be afraid of them than an adult cat that has never been exposed to one before.

Negative Experiences: Your cat may be skittish around a vacuum cleaner if they’ve had an unpleasant experience with one in the past, such as being startled by it when they’re feeling vulnerable.

How To Help Your Cat Relax Around Vacuums?

There are different types of vacuum cleaners in the market and each of them can be stressful for a cat. Your furry friend might find an upright vacuum cleaner too loud, canister vacuums very big, and robot vacuum cleaners quite unsettling because they move around by themselves. Find out how to introduce your cat or kitten to vacuum cleaners with gradual and positive experiences. The following methods will help your cat overcome their fear of the device and become comfortable with it:

Familiarize Slowly

Place the machine or the docking station (in the case of a smart vacuum) in an open area where your cat can easily see it, but not where they eat or sleep. Put it on the floor and reduce the height so it looks less imposing. This way, your cat will feel free to investigate the machine.

Positive Associations

Reward your cat with treats if they approach the vacuum cleaner and sniff it or act calmly when your smart vacuum is cleaning or mopping. Try playing with your furry friend or introducing them to a toy immediately before you begin a cleaning session.

Reduce Noise Impact

Start your vacuum away from your cat and keep initial cleaning sessions short. You may have to change your usual cleaning routine by working on different rooms at different times instead of finishing the vacuuming at one go, until your four-legged companion is comfortable with the machine. Auto vacuums produce less noise compared to their traditional or cordless counterparts.

a collage showing two cats getting comfortable with robot vacuum cleaners

Create Safe Spaces

Provide your cat hiding spots in the areas you vacuum so they have safe spaces to retreat to when you clean your home. The situation might be different if you use a robot vacuum or a cordless vacuum cleaner, or just a corded device. Ensure your cat has a clear escape route by keeping the doorway clear. Put cardboard boxes on the floor and give your cat access to high shelves so they can avoid the machine.

Avoid Surprises

If you’re using a regular vacuum cleaner, don’t turn it on near a sleeping cat to avoid startling them. It’s better to turn it on when they’re awake or in another part of the house. Follow the same practice with a robot vacuum cleaner and your four-legged companion will eventually get used to how it moves around by itself.

Foster Smell Familiarity

Your cat is more likely to get used to a vacuum cleaner if the appliance has a familiar scent. Gently rub a clean cloth on your cat’s cheeks and then rub the cloth on the cleaner so that it smells like your cat. You can even place a towel or a sheet that your pet uses on the machine when you’re not using it. If none of the steps mentioned works, and if your cat exhibits severe stress reactions to the cleaner, consult a vet or cat behaviorist.

Are ECOVACS' DEEBOT Good For Cats?

ECOVACS DEEBOT robot vacuums have many features for pets and their owners. The smart vacuum’s advanced AI and RGB camera can identify and safely navigate around your cat and obstacles like pet beds, food bowls, and litter boxes. It even has a quiet cleaning mode that minimizes any disturbance and disruption to your pet’s environment.

If you know that your cat will be in a certain room while your auto vacuum is on, you can set a no-go zone to prevent the device from entering that area. DEEBOTs also allow you to monitor and communicate with your pets remotely and in real-time with the Video Manager.

two cats in close proximity of a robot vacuum cleaner

DEEBOTS are robot vacuums with mops that make the home-cleaning experience easier and more effective for pet owners as they can pick up pet hair and cat litter from hard-to-reach places like under furniture, and clean muddy paw prints. They have tangle-free brushes and powerful suction, which enable them to pick up pet hair from various surfaces, including carpets, hardwood floors, and tiles. DEEBOTS that come with auto-empty stations also deposit any litter they collect while cleaning into their docking station.


How can I clean my house without stressing my cat?

Cats find loud and intrusive gadgets stressful, so use a small, quiet vacuum cleaner that can clean your home without entering areas that your cat frequents. Robot vacuums are smaller compared to corded vacuum cleaners, can run in a quiet mode, and can be programmed not to go in parts of the house where your cat is sleeping or eating.

Can kittens be trained to not fear vacuum cleaners?

Yes, kittens can be trained to not fear vacuum cleaners during their socialization period, which lasts between when they are 2-7 weeks old. Gradually expose your kitten to the sight and sound of your vacuum cleaner by leaving the appliance out and allowing them to explore it, and running the device in quiet mode while using it.

Can cat ears be damaged by loud vacuuming?

It’s unlikely that a cat’s hearing will be impaired by loud vacuuming as they can suffer hearing damage when exposed to noise levels above 95dB for an extended period of time. However, most vacuums operate within 80dB, and robot vacuum cleaners emit sound levels of up to 70 dB.

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