Is your cat afraid of your vacuum cleaner? Why wouldn’t he be? Cats are prone to being scared of things that are loud and unfriendly, especially if that particular cat has had a previous bad experience with vacuums.
In this article, you are going to learn how to train your cat to accept the vacuum cleaner and not to be so afraid of it!
Provide your cat with an ability to climb
It is pretty much natural for a cat to be scared of a vacuum cleaner. Why? Because it is a roaring beast and, in your cat’s view, it could eat him. Rather than undertaking any training to convince him otherwise, it is easier to provide your cat with security against the machine!
In the wild, a cat would climb up a tree if a roaring beast approached. It’s safer there.
In other words, you do not train a cat to accept a vacuum cleaner. Instead, you make him feel safe.
How can you achieve this? Provide your cat with as many elevated locations as you can. We’re talking about cat trees, furniture tops, window ledges, shelves, and perches. And don’t just add one place; having more places to hide, and having them in most rooms your cat hangs out in, is crucial. Besides, climbing has many benefits beyond providing a safe haven from vacuum cleaners!
You can find how to make your house more appealing to your cat in our article here.
But is this all you can do? No; there are also other things you can do to make your cat less afraid of your vacuum cleaner.
Don’t hide your vacuum cleaner from your cat
A huge problem with cats and vacuum cleaners is that most people get the device out only when using it to clean. And that sucks (pun intended!). Your cat won’t have a chance to “get to know” Mr Vacuum Cleaner if you keep putting it away because there’s no way he’ll want to explore it while it’s roaring!
Leave the vacuum cleaner accessible at all times. Do not hide it in the closet. Place it in the corner of the room when your cat is around.
If the cat is trying to run away from the vacuum cleaner like crazy, then let him do it. Don’t chase or grab him or yell at him, or do anything else that he doesn’t like.
- Do nothing. Just let the cat and the vacuum cleaner get to know each other at their own pace.
- Provide a ton of attention to your cat. We mean playing – a lot of playing. Use an interactive toy, such as a fishing pole toy or a feather on a stick. Play with your cat several times a day, including in the room where the vacuum cleaner is based. It is a known fact that playing helps to reduce anxiety. Besides playing, petting, brushing, talking, and other activities can be enjoyed with your cat.
- Feed your cat near the vacuum cleaner. You can either give your cat one or a few of his meals near the machine, or provide treats near it. Of course, don’t get too close – you need your cat to eat. Place the food as close as you can so that the cat will still eat his food and, we promise, you’ll be able to decrease the distance over time.
- Make sure the vacuum cleaner does not limit your cat. What we mean here is, is your cat’s fear of the vacuum cleaner preventing access to drinking water, the litter box, food, or a particular part of your house? Some cats would starve to death rather than pass the vacuum in the hallway. If this is the case, relocate the vacuum cleaner so that the cat doesn’t have to pass it.
- Don’t force your cat. Let his curiosity take over, whether it takes an hour, a day, or a month.
Once you are able to get your cat to play next to an unplugged vacuum or even to sniff at it without being afraid and running away, it’s time to get him used to the sound by starting the engine. But don’t move too fast.
Ladies and gentlemen. Start your engines! But where is the cat?
Okay, we don’t have to tell you when or how to turn on a vacuum cleaner. This will happen anyway because you have to vacuum! However…
If you start the vacuum cleaner right when your cat is next to it, he’ll probably run like hell, and this might mean that all the effort you have put in so far seems a waste.
This is why you should turn on the vacuum cleaner when your cat is in another room. You can either:
Option #1: Keep vacuuming and leave your cat alone. Let him find the way to the nearest cat tree and climb up. This is a good strategy because it puts an end to the training; your cat feels safe and we believe that this is the way it should be.
Option #2: Stop vacuuming and go to your cat (or have someone else vacuum the room so that the electricity is not wasted). Do everything to turn your cat’s attention to something other than the vacuum cleaner. Play with him, feed him, groom him, etc.
If your cat tries to get away, let him do so. You can follow him to another room when the vacuum cleaner changes location or you can let your cat climb up a cat tree (as above).
Pretty soon you should see significant improvement in your cat’s relationship with the vacuum cleaner. Why? Your cat’s attention will be focused on you during vacuuming and/or your cat will have an ability to climb up out of the way. By leaving the machine in the room, your cat will also be able to see that the vacuum cleaner turns off when you are finished.
See our list of most common cat behavior problems, and their solutions.