vacuums

The 9 Very Best Vacuums for Pet Hair

Even though your pet is covered in fur, your home doesn’t need to be.

Photo: Marcus McDonald
Photo: Marcus McDonald

In this article

If you own a furry pet, you probably spend a lot of time trying to remove its fur from your rugs, couch, and just about every other corner of your house. A good vacuum can help in the battle against the fluff. You want something that gets the job done relatively fast, relatively quietly, and without having to empty the basket too often (and depending on how much shedding you’re dealing with, you might need stronger suction and more storage). I asked nearly 20 pet-hair experts — cat-café owners, veterinarians, and a few pet parents on Strategist’s staff — for their picks for the best pet-hair vacuums.

What we’re looking for

Cord Length (for Corded) or Battery Life (for Cordless)

Most cord lengths are between 30 and 35 feet (the longer the cord, the less you need to switch outlets). Generally, cordless versions can run for up to an hour before the battery needs to be recharged.

Noise Level

A quieter model, like many robot vacuums, can help ensure you don’t disturb skittish pets — or someone on a Zoom call in the other room. The noise from most vacuums is about 70 decibels. According to the CDC, that’s not loud enough to damage hearing, but it can interfere with conversations. Anything above 80 decibels can start to damage hearing after prolonged periods.

Capacity

All of the models we selected have bins that need to be emptied, but a bin with a capacity of one liter or more can save you from having to empty the vacuum mid-clean If you’re sucking up a lot of fur, you’ll “definitely need a big dustbin” because hair fills the bins quickly, says Jeehoon Shin, an industrial-design professor at Savannah College of Art and Design, who previously designed vacuum cleaners for LG and Midea. A vacuum with a capacity of half a liter, like many robot vacuums, might need to be cleared at least once during a cleaning session.

Extras

Here, we focused on the bells and whistles, mentioning features such as LED lights to see under-the-couch dust bunnies, high-powered modes for quick cleanups, or detachable Swiffer-like brushes, which Samantha Bell, a cat expert with Best Friends Animal Society, calls “wonderful” for capturing pet hair caught between couch cushions.

Suction

We included the suction strength whenever it was available. This measurement will be listed as AW, or air watts, and Jon Gibbons, a cleaning consultant for the site Smart Vacuums, recommends choosing a model that lists at least 200 AW in its specifications when shopping for a pet-specific vacuum.

Weight

“The bigger the motor the more powerful the cleaning will be,” says Shin. However, a bigger motor also means a heavier machine to lug from room to room. Cordless models tend to weigh in at less than ten pounds, while corded versions hover around the 15- to 20-pound mark. If a vacuum is a hassle to maneuver “you naturally are not inclined to use it often,” he says. You’ll likely end up with an overall cleaner space if your vacuum is light and easy to use.

Best vacuum for pet hair overall

Battery life: 60 minutes | Noise level: Not listed | Capacity: .76 L| Extras: crevice tool, anti-tangle tool, LCD screen | Suction: up to 185 AW | Weight: 6.61 pounds

Dyson’s V11 cordless vacuum — which is designed for homes with pets — is among the most popular among vets, pet-café owners, and pet owners we spoke to, with many noting they’re so convenient and lightweight the vacuums get used for daily cleanups.

To help pick up the clumps of hair that her hypoallergenic goldendoodle sheds, Rebecca Fadden, founder of the dog-accessories brand Finn + Me, alternates between the head attachments to switch between carpet and couches without a problem. Rita Li, founder of the pet-accessories brand Rororiri, uses her V11 inside her retail shop, which sees a succession of different breeds every day and needs to be constantly cleaned; the vacuum is efficient and lightweight enough to maneuver around displays and underneath furniture. Zay Satchu, a co-founder and the chief veterinary officer at the start-up veterinary clinic Bond Vet, also considers it a must-have as pets come in “bringing New York City in with them.” And because the vacuum has its own charging station, it’s easy to use whenever you might need to do a quick clean.

Benjamin Kalb, owner of Koneko, a cat café on the Lower East Side, uses the slightly older Dyson Cyclone V10 at home to clean up after his cat and dog. Kalb calls this model “pretty perfect” for home use because it’s cordless and “able to navigate nooks and crannies.” He also recommends adding on the upholstery attachment. “I use it on more delicate fabrics like suede and have never had an issue,” he says.

Best (less expensive) vacuum for pet hair overall

Cord length: 30 feet | Noise level: 70 decibels | Capacity: .75 L | Extras: Optional Febreze filter, LED crevice tool, detachable extension wand | Suction: Not listed| Weight: 13.75 pounds

At less than half the price of a Dyson, the Bissell Turbo Plus wowed former Strategist writer Chloe Anello with its fur-grabbing capabilities. She used the Bissell on the second floor of her parents’ home, which is completely carpeted. Even though her family vacuumed weekly, she and her family were disgusted by how much dirt and fur came up, Anello says. The vacuum’s optional Febreze filter “left a wonderful, fresh-smelling scent that lasted for nearly two days,” Anello says, and the Smartseal allergen system keeps dust and allergens from escaping the canister while you vacuum.

The Turbo Plus also comes highly recommended by Hadley Raysor, the founder of the Dandy Dogwalker. As the owner of a ten-pound Chihuahua and a 12-pound tabby cat, Raysor likes that its tangle-free brush and the range of attachments — including a crevice tool and extension wand — can handle cleaning hidden clusters of dander.

Best vacuum for allergy sufferers

Dyson V8 Animal Extra Vacuum
$380
$380

Battery life: 40 minutes | Noise level: 78 decibels | Capacity: .52 L | Extras: HEPA filter, crevice tool, dusting brush | Suction: up to 115 AW | Weight: 5.64 pounds

This older-model Dyson, which like all cordless Dysons can convert into a handheld vacuum, still has many fans. Minha Khan, an art director and owner of a longhaired cat, says that while she loves her Eufy robot vacuum, “the Dyson V8 gets used every day.” Khan gives it high marks for being lightweight and easy to use on rugs and wood floors. “I use it so often to do a quick three-minute pickup of hair, dust, dirt and kitty litter to avoid a massive buildup at the end of the week, and also to reduce allergies,” she says. Logan Mikhly, co-owner of dog cafe Boris & Horton, also uses a Dyson V8 at home and in the cafe. “All of the attachments get used,” Mikhly says. “I also have a toddler so there are a lot of crumbs in addition to the pet hair.”

The Dyson V8 comes with a HEPA filter, which captures dander down to 99.97 percent of particles that are 0.3 micrometers in diameter, including dust mites, bacteria, and most pathogens. Anecdotally, Clifford Bassett, M.D., medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York, says he’s seen a significant improvement in symptoms when patients use HEPA air purifiers and a HEPA-filter-equipped vacuum at home. (He recommends looking for one certified by the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America.)

Best upright vacuum for pet hair

Cord length: 35 feet | Noise level: Not listed | Capacity: 1.7 L | Extras: Tangle-free turbine brush, duster, pet grooming tool (included when purchased at Dyson.com)| Suction: up to 290 AW | Weight: 17.3 pounds

Dyson’s Ball Animal vacuums earn high marks for their pet-hair performance and powerful motor. (“Undupable,” in the words of former Strategist senior editor Margaret Rhodes.) The most recent version weighs in at a hefty 17.3 pounds, but the signature ball base allows it to nimbly maneuver across the floor, although maneuvering tight corners is more difficult.

When former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson tested the previous version, the Ball Animal 2, in her home, she emphasized how easily it sucked up tufts of cat fur and “unearthed layers of dust and crumbs that had been buried in my thick living-room rug for months — if not longer.”

Part of what provides that suction is Dyson’s “tangle-free turbine tool,” an attachment designed to prevent pet hair from getting snarled in the brush heads. And though this vacuum is corded, Payton Cosell Turner, the founder of the home-design firm Flat Vernacular and owner of three rescue cats, is another fan, says she can go over area rugs with “absolute dexterity.” That cord also means there’s no limit on run time, so it’ll last until you’re finished cleaning.

It is an investment, but Laura Colagrande, a co-founder of the dog-treat company Chippin, assures us that the Ball Animal she has owned for years has persevered (if it doesn’t, Dyson has a five-year warranty on corded machines like this one).

Best vacuum for heavy shedders

Cord length: 30 feet | Noise level: Not listed | Capacity: 0.83 L | Extras: LED headlights, pet hair brush, HEPA filter| Suction: Not listed | Weight: 15.4 pounds

This upright vacuum has a HEPA filter, and it’s been battle-tested at cat café Koneko, where 15 to 20 cats roam at a given time. “If you want sheer utility, I would recommend the Shark,” says Kalb, noting its powerful suction is effective on cat fur. “We are using it for about 30 to 45 minutes at a time three times a day, and go through one every three to four months.”

Best (less expensive) vacuum for heavy shedders

Battery life: 55 minutes | Noise level: Not listed | Capacity: 0.75 L | Extras: Anti-tangle brush head, LED lights | Suction: Not listed | Weight: 10.8 pounds

Shelby Semel, a canine-behavior expert and trainer, has a samoyed at home, who sheds “basically pounds of hair a month,” she says. To get all of that fur out of her carpet, Semel likes this Black+Decker stick vacuum, which she uses along with a robot vacuum. For her, the selling points were the low price and that it’s cord free. It also boasts a longer charge time at up to 55 minutes and a comparatively large dustbin for a cordless model. It also converts to a hand vacuum.

Best robot vacuum for pet hair

Battery life: 100 minutes | Noise level: Not listed | Capacity: 0.7 L | Extras: laser home-mapping technology, zoning, app-controlled | Suction: Not listed | Weight: 8.07 pounds

We named the Neato our best overall robot vacuum for pet owners, so it’s only fitting to include it here as well. The D8 is the updated version of the now discontinued D7, which was name-checked by our experts, and this new model has almost identical features. One of those functions lets you block off sections of your home and control the vacuum from your phone. Ryeon Kim, co-founder of pet e-commerce retailer Little Beast, bought a Neato in 2016 and likes that you can use the app to set the device to spot clean a particular area. “To be honest, I still think it’s great,” says Kim. The D-shaped design gets into the corners and crannies you might otherwise miss. Jamie Richardson, veterinarian and chief of staff at veterinary start-up Small Door, uses hers for pet hair, but also to get rid of sand in her beachside Bermuda place.

Best (less expensive) robot vacuum for pet hair

Eufy BoostIQ RoboVac 11S Max
$150
$150

Battery life: 100 minutes | Noise level: 55 decibels | Capacity: 0.6 L | Extras: remote control, scheduled cleanings| Suction: up to 25 AW | Weight: 5.73 pounds

This more affordable model from Eufy took our second-best ribbon in the guide to best robot vacuums for pet hair. Its slimness is the reason Khan relies on it so much. “I love that this vacuum reaches areas that my stick vacuum can’t,” she says. The RoboVac also has the Strategist seal of approval: Senior writer Liza Corsillo describes it as the “robot vacuum that helped me avoid couples therapy.” Although it’s meant to be ignored, Corsillo couldn’t ignore how much it helped clean much-argued areas, including “devouring dust bunnies” underneath their bed.

Best handheld vacuum for pet hair

Battery life: 15 minutes | Noise level: Not listed | Capacity: 0.7 L | Extras: motorized brush, upholstery tool | Suction: Not listed | Weight: 3 pounds

This vacuum is like a miniature version of our best (less expensive) vacuum for pet hair. Raysor uses it whenever their Bissell Turbo misses a spot — with their two-pet household, they are constantly shifting between vacuuming and sweeping. The handheld model is strong enough to get deep-rooted dog hairs between couch cushions and the “renegade litter bits” that sometimes get stuck into corners. As a cat owner, Strategist writer Lauren Ro was equally impressed. When she tested out this Bissell, she was happy to find that it picks up everything from “tumbleweeds of cat hair” and dust bunnies to strands of her own long hair.

Some more vacuums for pet hair we’ve written about

Our experts

• Chloe Anello, former Strategist writer
• Clifford Bassett, MD, medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York
• Samantha Bell, a cat expert with Best Friends Animal Society
• Laura Colagrande, co-founder of dog-treat company Chippin
• Liza Corsillo, Strategist senior writer
• Payton Cosell Turner, the founder of the home-design firm Flat Vernacular
• Rebecca Fadden, founder of the dog-accessories brand Finn + Me
• Jon Gibbons, cleaning consultant for the site Smart Vacuums
• Karen Iorio Adelson, former Strategist senior writer
• Benjamin Kalb, owner of Koneko, a cat cafe on the Lower East Side
Minha Khan, an art director and owner of a longhaired cat
• Ryeon Kim, co-founder of pet e-commerce retailer Little Beast
• Rita Li, the founder of the pet-accessories brand Rororiri
• Logan Mikhly, co-owner of Boris & Horton, dog cafes in the East Village and Williamsburg
• Hadley Raysor, the founder of the Dandy Dogwalker
• Margaret Rhodes, former Strategist senior editor
• Jamie Richardson, veterinarian and chief of staff at veterinary start-up Small Door
• Lauren Ro, Strategist writer
• Zay Satchu, a co-founder and the chief veterinary officer at the start-up veterinary clinic Bond Vet
Shelby Semel, a canine-behavior expert and trainer
Jeehoon Shin, a professor of industrial design at Savannah College of Art and Design

Additional reporting by Ambar PardillaNoël Duan and Chloe Anello

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The 9 Very Best Vacuums for Pet Hair