My dog and cat are afraid of the vacuum – what should I do?


Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – My dog is afraid of the vacuum – what should I do? My cat also runs. Is this uncommon? They act like I’ve done something terrible to them with the vacuum and I have not. I’ve had them both since they were very small and have had not unpleasant experiences to my knowledge.

Thanks for all your daily emails. I love them!

Katie B. Jefferson City.


Hi Katie– thanks for your email and nice comments about my emails. Fear of the vacuum cleaner is very common in both dogs and cats. Some dogs and cats like the vacuum – I’ve actually seen a cat that liked to be vacuumed and ride on the vacuum top when being used. This is uncommon. Most cats I know hate the vacuum. Most dogs will tolerate it, almost none like it and some are afraid of it. So…it is not uncommon for dogs and cats to not like the vacuum.

There is no perfect and easy solution to get them to like it. Many will never embrace it.

If you want, you can try desensitizing them. For example, you could have someone in another room turn on the vacuum while you are sitting with them or playing with them. Tell them it is okay and comfort them. If they are unbothered, give them a treat to positively reinforce their good behavior. You could gradually move the vacuum sound and situation closer to them and as they respond okay, positively reward them.

For most people, it is not worth it. Many pets will be bothered while it is running then be fine after you put it away.

Do any of you pet lovers have any other suggestions or had any success on how you deal with pets and the vacuum? Email me!

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra