Why are cats scared of vacuum cleaners?

We are pleased to present this guest post from Cats Protection.


Want to know how to stop your cat being afraid of the vacuum cleaner? Find out why cats get scared and some top tips to help relax a scared cat when you vacuum.

It’s a familiar occurrence for many cat owners – as soon as you get the vacuum cleaner out to rid your carpets and furnishings of cat hair, your cat instantly becomes terrified and runs away. Why do cats get scared all of a sudden around these household appliances? Read our guide to find out…

Cat stood next to a Shark upright vacuum cleaner whilst owner cleans hardwood floor | Why are cats scared of vacuum cleaners? | Shark UK x Cats Protection

Why is my cat scared of the vacuum cleaner?

The loud noise, as well as the imposing size, of a vacuum cleaner can be very frightening for cats. They like peace and quiet and a predictable routine, and so the sudden appearance of a big, loud machine in their territory can feel very threatening, particularly if it appears to be following them from room to room.

The reason why some cats are more scared of vacuum cleaners than others is usually down to their previous experience with the appliance. If they were gradually and safely exposed to the noise and sight of a vacuum cleaner during their ‘socialisation period’ when they were two to seven weeks old, they are less likely to be afraid of it as an adult cat. Having a positive introduction to the appliance as a young kitten, when their brain is still developing, helps them learn that it’s not threatening.

Some cats may be more scared of the vacuum cleaner if they’ve never encountered one before or have had a particularly negative experience in their past, for example if they’ve been suddenly startled by one when they were feeling vulnerable, or have been chased around the house with one.

How to help your cat relax around the vacuum cleaner

If you have a young kitten, particularly if they’re younger than eight weeks old, then it’s important to introduce them to the vacuum cleaner in a safe, calm and gradual way so they can develop more positive associations with it. For lots of advice on how to properly introduce your kitten to new sights and sounds, including our library of common household noises to play to them, take a look at our kitten socialisation guide.

If you have an adult cat who is scared of the vacuum cleaner then there are some simple steps you can take to help.

Make it smell familiar – Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell to let them know what’s safe. Try gently rubbing a clean cloth on your cat’s cheeks, and then rub that cloth on the vacuum cleaner so that it will smell just like them.

Lay it flat – When you first introduce your cat to the vacuum cleaner, lay it flat on the floor so it looks less imposing and scary, and then slowly stand it up.

Let them explore – Avoid picking your cat up and putting them near the vacuum cleaner as this could cause them stress. Instead, leave it out and let them explore it at their own pace. If they start to sniff it or even rub against it than that’s a good sign!

Don’t vacuum while they’re sleeping – Switching the vacuum cleaner on while your cat is asleep nearby will likely startle them. Instead, turn it on when they’re awake or preferably in another room.

Give them places to hide – When cats are scared they like to run away and hide to help them feel safe, so make sure they have the opportunity to do this while you’re using the vacuum cleaner. If you’re vacuuming in the same room as your cat, give them a clear escape route so they don’t feel trapped and provide lots of hiding spots, such as cardboard boxes and high shelves.

Vacuum for short periods – When you first start using the vacuum cleaner around your cat, only switch it on for short periods and closely monitor your cat’s reaction to see how they cope. If they appear terrified, then switch if off and try some of the previous steps again.

Store it out of reach – When you’re not using the vacuum cleaner, store it out of your cat’s reach so they can’t chew through any wires, and also keep it away from your cat’s resources, such as their litter tray and food bowl. If they are scared of the vacuum cleaner, they might be put off using their resources if it’s nearby.

For cats that really don’t cope with vacuum cleaners, help is at hand! Get in touch with your local qualified behaviourist from the Animal Behaviour and Training Council.



Shark is pleased to partner with Cats Protection, registered Charity No. 203644 (England and Wales) and SCO37711 (Scotland).

Posted in: Tips & Advice