Best Vacuums for Pet Hair

These upright, canister, stick, handheld, and robotic vacs effectively pick up the fur

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Dog and vacuum Photo: iStock

As far as we know, there’s no vacuum called the Golden Retriever Fur Reliever, but there are a lot of models sold with fuzzy claims about their ability to whisk away what our furry friends leave behind. Some even have “pet” in their name. But do they work?

Some are capable vacuums overall, but others are good at pet-hair pickup and little else. To test such claims, Consumer Reports devised a very tough pet-hair test for full-sized upright and canister vacuums.

First, technicians take 5 grams of long, feathery fur from Maine Coon cats and scatter, stomp, and smash it into medium-pile carpet. Then they make multiple passes with the test vacuum to see how much it picks up. Vacuums that rate an Excellent collect all the fur in a bag or bin. Average vacs leave behind visible patches or the fur becomes entangled in the brush.

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We also test smaller vacuums like robotic, stick, and handheld models for pet-hair pickup. But because we don’t expect them to accomplish the deep cleaning of a full-sized vacuum, we use less cat hair. In other words, we design our tests to challenge the cleaning capabilities of each type of vacuum we rate.

“Typically, a vacuum that does well in our carpet and bare-floor tests will also do pretty well in our pet-hair test,” says Susan Booth, who oversees our vacuum testing. “Although we do see some exceptions, so if you have a pet that sheds a lot, look for models that get our top score in that test.”

Our testers have another tip for pet owners: Consider a bagged vacuum over a bagless model, because every time you empty a bagless bin, the fur can fly.

Here, listed alphabetically by type, are some of the best for pet hair from our tests of upright, canister, robotic, stick, and handheld vacuums; all earn an Excellent rating in that test. For more choices, see our full vacuum ratings and recommendations.

Best Upright Vacuums for Pet Hair

Upright vacuums are a good choice if you have a lot of carpet and area rugs in your home because they tend to be better than canisters at carpet cleaning.

Best Canister Vacuums for Pet Hair

If you have stairs in your home, a canister may be a good solution. This configuration is easier to use on stairs because the weight is distributed between the powerhead and the canister, and it’s convenient to carry from one level to another.

Best Stick Vacuums for Pet Hair

Stick vacuums are great for quick messes, and their cleaning power has been improving in recent years. They’re lightweight and easy to pull out of a closet. Some also ace our pet-hair test. Here are some top picks.

Best Handheld Vacuums for Pet Hair

Handheld vacuums aren’t designed for heavy cleaning, but they’re a good choice if you’re whisking up cereal from under a highchair or off the floor mats in your car. Few can tackle pet hair, but there are some notable exceptions. Note that CR doesn’t collect reliability or satisfaction data on this type of vacuum because consumers tend to replace rather than repair handheld vacs, given their relatively modest price. 

Best Robotic Vacuums for Pet Hair

Robovacs have gotten better and cheaper since we first began testing them several years ago. And they’re fun. Put your feet up and watch them scoot around.

Mary H.J. Farrell

Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials "H.J." A veteran of online and print journalism, I've worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.