Cats and dogs bring joy, comfort and companionship to your household. But they also bring hair — lots of hair, on your clothing, on your furniture and all over the floor. As with children and mess, controlling cat and dog hair in the house is a running battle, one you signed up for when you brought those bundles of chaos into your house.
A vacuum cleaner is a crucial tool against pet hair, dander and dust, especially for people with allergies, and many models now include specially designed floor heads and accessories for cleaning up after pets. We’ve found the best vacuums for pet hair among the seven cordless stick vacuums, 10 robot vacuums, six uprights and nine canister vacuums we’ve tested.
Best robot vacuum for pet hair: iLife V3S Pro
- Navigation style: bump and run
- Capacity: 0.08 gallons (0.3 liters)
- Run time: 90 minutes
- Dimensions: 11.8 inches wide by 3 inches high
Of the 10 robot vacuums we tested, the iLife V3S Pro was the best at removing pet hair without clogging, thanks to its lack of roller brushes. At around $160, it costs hundreds less than most robot vacuums.
The iLife V3S Pro does a great job removing pet hair and cat litter from hardwood floor and low carpet. It uses bump-and-run navigation, rather than mapping, and it can’t avoid cords or poop like the Roomba j7+ can, but it’ll clean your whole space eventually. It can’t empty itself, unlike more expensive robots, and it doesn’t have a bin fill indicator. But if you make it a habit to empty the dust bin every day, it’ll drastically cut down on pet hair in your space for very little effort on your part.
Best robot vacuum that allegedly won’t smear dog poop all over your house: iRobot Roomba j7+
- Navigation style: mapping
- Capacity: 0.07 gallons (0.25 liters) internal dustbin, 0.63 gallon (2.4L) external dustbag in base.
- Run time: 100 minutes
- Dimensions: 13.3 inches wide by 3.4 inches high
If you have money to spare and want a robot vacuum that’s smarter than you are, consider the iRobot Roomba j7+. Unlike the iLife V3S Pro, it’s not bump-and-run: It maps your house, including no-go zones, and it has built-in object detection that helps it avoid power cords, headphones and — most importantly — pet waste, so you can hopefully avoid pooptastrophe.
The j7+ is self-emptying, unlike the iLife V3S Pro, which needs to be emptied after each run, and its rubber multi-surface brushes were second only to the V3S Pro, which has no brushes at all, in avoiding pet hair tangles. The Dirt Detect feature lets it focus on specific messes, like a cat litter spill, and go back over the area until it’s clean.
The Roomba j7+ is the best robot vacuum you can buy, but it’s expensive, and in our testing its self-empty cycle briefly made a noise like a jet engine. If you have the money, though, and especially if you have pets prone to pooping inside, it’s a compelling upgrade over the iLife V3S Pro.
Best cordless stick vacuum for pet hair: Dyson V11 Animal
- Weight: 6.68 pounds
- Capacity: 0.2 gallon
- Battery life: 30-45 minutes in Auto or Boost mode, up to 60 minutes in Eco mode.
The Dyson V11 Animal is the best cordless stick vacuum for pet hair, and the best stick vacuum of the seven we tested. If you live in an apartment or smaller home, it might even be the only vacuum you need. Its swiveling floor head makes fast work of pet hair and dust even in high-pile carpets, and in handheld mode, the crevice tool and mini motorized brush tool are fantastic for cleaning upholstered furniture, cat towers and pet beds. It’s lightweight, maneuverable and cordless, so getting the vacuum out isn’t a hassle like it can be for upright and canister vacuums.
The V11 Animal’s biggest weakness is battery life. At its automatic and Boost settings, it gets 30 to 45 minutes of runtime, which might not be enough. Unlike other stick vacuums with swappable batteries, the Dyson’s rechargeable battery is built in, so once it’s out of juice, you have to wait for it to recharge. The Dyson also uses a trigger-style power switch, which you have to hold down the entire time you’re vacuuming — it’s fine for smaller tasks, but you might find it taxing if you’re cleaning an entire apartment.
Best upright vacuum for pet hair: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lift-Off Upright Vacuum
- Weight: 17.75 pounds
- Capacity: 0.26 gallon (1 liter)
- Cord length: 30 feet
- Hose length: 8 feet
If you have a home too large to vacuum in a single charge of a stick vacuum, especially one with lots of carpet, you should consider a corded upright vacuum. While larger, heavier and less maneuverable than cordless stick vacuums, they have higher suction, and won’t run out of charge.
The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lift-Off Upright is the best upright vacuum for pet hair, thanks to its Pet Turboeraser mini brush tool, which does a better job removing pet hair from stairs and upholstery than the five other uprights we tested (though it’s powered by suction, rather than motorized, so it won’t be as effective as a motorized pet hair tool like the one on the Kenmore BC4026 canister vacuum, below).
The Pet Hair Eraser’s lift-off feature means the canister, hose, wand and motor detach from the floor head, so you can easily use it to vacuum upholstery, drapes, fixtures and other things above floor level. At 18 pounds, the vacuum isn’t the lightest of the six upright vacuums we tested, and it’s not the best on hard floors, but it’s the best upright option for people with pets. However, people with dust or dander sensitivities should consider a bagged canister vacuum rather than a bagless upright like the Bissell.
Best canister vacuum for pet hair and thick carpet: Kenmore BC4026 Pet-Friendly Pop-N-Go
- Weight: 22 pounds
- Dustbag capacity: 0.8 gallon (3 liters)
- Cord length: 28 feet
- Hose length: 6.5 feet, including handle
- Wand length: 22-33 inches
For folks with pets, carpets and dust or dander sensitivities, a canister vacuum can offer even more powerful suction, deeper carpet cleaning and better air filtration than an upright. The Kenmore BC4026 Pet-Friendly Pop-N-Go isn’t particularly maneuverable, even by canister vacuum standards, but its electric floor sweeper brush pulls an unbelievable amount of dust and pet hair from the thickest of carpets. Like the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser upright, it has a mini turbo brush (here called a Pet Powermate) that makes quick work of cat hair on cat trees, microfiber upholstery and pet beds. Unlike the Bissell, Kenmore’s version is motorized, so you can change the suction level without changing the brush speed, which really helps get pet hair off of upholstery without inhaling the fabric.
Both the dust bag and exhaust filter of the BC4026 are HEPA-compliant, and offer much better air filtration and dust containment than a bagless vacuum, as well as three times the dust capacity of the Dyson V11 Animal stick vacuum or Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lift-Off Upright. But that’s at the cost of portability and maneuverability; at 22 pounds, the Kenmore is 4 pounds more than the Bissell upright, and neither its floor head nor canister are as nimble. But for sheer power, you can’t beat a canister vac, and the Kenmore is far more affordable than the much more maneuverable Miele Complete C3 Kona.
Best handheld vacuum for pet hair: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser
The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser is the best handheld vacuum for pet hair — it has a motorized brush that lets it pick up pet hair from upholstery, floors, in the car and everywhere else we found the stuff (which, as you know if you’re a cat or dog parent, is pretty much everyplace). Even though the Pet Hair Eraser is on the larger side (thanks to its sizable canister) at 17 inches long and weighs around 3 pounds, it’s still well balanced and comfortable to use.
The motorized pet hair brush attaches securely and let us get at dog hair embedded deep in carpeting, rugs, and couches, and even in our test vehicle’s carpeting. The 23.6 ounce canister—the largest of all the handheld vacuums we tested—sucked up a large amount of hair before needing to be emptied, and along with the 17-minute runtime let us work until the job was truly complete, and the long crevice tool and flat upholstery brush let us get into nooks and crannies where the motorized main brush couldn’t go.
The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser is versatile enough that you could use it as your only handheld vacuum. whether you’re looking for something to use around the house or to keep your car clean, though it’s extra power and capacity makes it a bit bulkier and a bit more cumbersome to handle than some of its competitors. You might look elsewhere if you are looking to pick up after kids, as the nozzle was too narrow to suck up Cheerios. It also doesn’t have a charging base, but comes with a wall-wart power supply cable — a less convenient setup than our other favorite handheld vacuums.
How to choose the right vacuum for pet hair
The bristles on a vacuum’s brush head are designed to agitate carpet and to lift dust, debris and hair from the floor. As anyone who’s used a hairbrush knows, though, over time hairs get caught in the bristles. If you have pets that shed a lot, the hair can accumulate so fast on the brush that it clogs the vacuum, lowering suction or preventing the brush from turning at all. That’s why many companies sell vacuums optimized for pet hair, with brushes designed not to clog on hair, along with powered mini brush head attachments to get pet hair off of upholstery and stairs.
Pet-specific vacuums often include HEPA filters, aimed at controlling dust, dander and pet-related allergens in general. If you’re concerned about such issues, you may want to seek out a bagged vacuum rather than a bagless model; the bag provides an extra filtration stage and also lets you avoid dust spillage when emptying.
If you have a houseful of cats and dogs, a canister vacuum or upright vacuum will give you the power and tools to deal with animal hair, dander and dust on any surface. These corded units have more-powerful motors and stronger suction and pet-friendly models offer powered brushes designed to make short work of hair without clogging. While they may be a little more ungainly than cordless sticks, they won’t run out of power midway through your weekly cleaning.
An apartment or small house can likely get by with a cordless stick vacuum, especially if you have mostly bare floors. If you have a large house or lots of carpet, an upright or canister vacuum is a better choice; they can provide more suction than cordless stick vacuum, and won’t run out of batteries in the middle of a job. Many of these also double as handheld vacuums, which are great for keeping upholstery hair-free or for tackling small pet-associated messes.
A robot vacuum probably shouldn’t be your only vacuum if you’re trying to clean up after pets, but it’s a great complement to a cordless stick, upright or canister vacuum. Running a robot vacuum daily can keep the day-to-day buildup of fuzz to a manageable minimum so your weekly chores are less of a chore. The small roller brushes on most robot vacuums can clog quickly with pet hair, however, so you’ll want to pay attention to regular maintenance. Our current favorite in the category, the iLife V3S Pro, avoids this nagging issue by not using a roller brush at all.