A young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kitten
Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

Why Your Pet Hates Vacuums (and What to Do About it)

By: Brianna Gunter

A yellow Labrador looks sad with a blue vacuum cleaner in the background.

It’s common knowledge that dogs don’t like vacuum cleaners, nor do many cats. And as a lot of pet parents have discovered, the interactions often don’t seem to get any easier over time. Many pets will even start acting uncomfortably the moment the scary appliance is brought out of the closet.

Much as you’d like to keep your buddy calm, vacuum cleaners remain a necessary evil for the home. So, just why do pets hate vacuums, and what can you do to improve the situation?

3 reasons why dogs and cats are scared of vacuums

In order to best understand how to help your pet, it’s important to look at vacuums from the perspective of dogs and cats.

1. They’re loud

The average vacuum is very loud even by human standards, and your pet’s ears are considerably more sensitive. Dogs have about four-times the hearing capability of humans and can detect sounds at both higher octaves and greater distances.

Seeing as cats can hear at a full octave higher than dogs, it’s understandable that both canines and felines would find the noise of a vacuum cleaner too loud for comfort.

2. They move aggressively

Dogs and cats don’t understand the purpose of vacuums, and so the device’s movement can look exceptionally weird and nonsensical to them. After all, no other item in your house moves suddenly back and forth while suctioning the floor. Your pet also has a lower line of vision than you do, so the vacuum may appear even more aggressive and strange from their perspective.

3. The smells are different

Your pet navigates the world primarily through their sense of smell. Not only does the vacuum cleaner probably smell a little foreign to dogs and cats (especially if it’s usually stored away in a closet or elsewhere out of reach), but your home also smells different after it’s in use. This creates a sudden and unexpected alteration of your pet’s world.

How to help your pet get used to the vacuum cleaner

Close-up view of a vacuum on carpet with a clump of pet fur in front.

There are no guarantees that your pet will ever fully accept the vacuum cleaner, especially if they are older and have been struggling with it for some time. However, there are several steps you can take to help dogs and cats get more accustomed to vacuums and feel a little more comfortable around them.

Introduce a non-running vacuum

If you’re like many pet owners, there’s a good chance you try to spare your furry friend by exposing them to the vacuum as little as possible—you start it up as soon as it’s out and put it away as soon as you’re done. As well-intentioned as this is, it can be counterproductive in helping dogs and cats get more comfortable around the vacuum cleaner.

Instead, try introducing the appliance from a distance while it’s off. Start with it standing in a corner of the room, gradually bringing it more into the open throughout the day if your pet seems comfortable.

Roll the vacuum without sound

Just being in the presence of a vacuum isn’t enough to desensitize pets to them. It’s important to recognize that a lot of dogs and cats react not just to the noise of a vacuum but also its movement.

To help with this, try rolling the vacuum cleaner around without actually turning it on. Go as gently as possible to start, gradually building up to your normal movements and speed as your pet gets used to it.

Break up vacuuming into shorter sprints

Getting all your vacuum done at once is tempting, but it’s not necessarily the best way to get your pet used to the monstrous appliance. Try dividing the amount of time you spend vacuuming into shorter periods, split up by room or area. Take breaks to pet or play with your dog and cat in between.

Invest in a quieter vacuum

If you have an old or particularly loud model, it might be time to look into a quieter option. Using certain attachments may also help keep your appliance as non-aggressive as possible.

Some pets do better with Roombas or other robotic vacuums because they’re smaller and quieter. However, it’s important to still introduce these slowly and stay in the room while it’s running.

Create a positive association

If your pet goes up to sniff it and/or acts calmly when the vacuum is near, reward them with some cuddles and/or a healthy treat. You may also want to play with them right before vacuuming or introduce a toy when it first comes out. All of this will help foster a more positive association with the vacuum for your pet.

Give dogs and cats a safe space

Most pets just won’t learn to love the vacuum cleaner no matter what you do. While you can take steps to help your pal get more accustomed to the appliance while it’s in use, it’s always important to make sure they have a safe, quieter place to retreat to.

The key here is “retreat.” Whether it’s a crate with a blanket or just a cozy spot you’ve set up in the closet, this place should be in a different room that you’re not currently cleaning. It can help to set up some kind of barrier (like pillows), which can both help muffle the noise and create a sense of comfort for your pet. Never trap your pet in the same room as an active vacuum cleaner—make sure they have a clear path to their retreat right from the get-go. You may want to lead them there yourself the first few times.

A ginger cat paws cautiously at a robotic vacuum cleaner.

Your pet’s health and wellbeing comes first

Fear and stress around the vacuum cleaner is normal for dogs and cats. However, it should go away once you are done using the appliance. If your pal is displaying signs of anxiety hours later or acting in a way that worries you, talk with your veterinarian.

Considering alternative methods to help your furry friend calm down? Find out if CBD is safe for pets.

A dog and cat snuggle

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We’re the official blog of Trupanion—chosen by veterinarians as the #1 pet insurance in America. Here you’ll find useful dog and cat care tips, interesting veterinary insights, and fun pet topics galore.

While you’re browsing our pet blog, please note that the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Trupanion. Our articles are reviewed by veterinarians for accuracy, but they are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Always consult with your own pet’s veterinarian for advice.

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