If you have a cat, you probably need cat litter. Unfortunately, cats can be very messy and scatter litter from their litter boxes after each use.
So, can you use your regular vacuum cleaner to remove pet hairand messes from your carpet or your floors?
The short answer is yes. But the best cat litter vacuum needs to have strong suction, a good filter, and an easy to empty canister.
Here, we’ll detail what you should be looking out for when buying a vacuum for pet litter. And you can read our reviews of the best vacuums for cat litter to pick one that’s the best fit for your home.
Our Top Picks
- Best Cordless Stick - Dyson V11 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner
- Best Handheld - BLACK+DECKER Dustbuster Handheld Vacuum
- Best Wet/Dry - Armor All Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum
- Best Upright - Shark NV352 Navigator Lift Away Upright Vacuum
- Long 60-minutes run time
- Easy dust bin empty process
- Extremely maneuverable
- Power button needs to be pushed while cleaning
- Cordless & lightweight design
- Brush and crevice attachments tool
- Powerful suction
- Five versatile attachments
- On board attachment storage
- Powerful suction
- Small capacity
- Easy to Maneuver
- Great Suction Power
- Reusable Filters
- Short Cord
- Don’t leave cat litter in your vacuum after you’ve finished cleaning. Get into the habit of emptying the bag or dirt canister each time and then you won’t have to deal with unpleasant odors!
- Think about having a dedicated vac that is only used for your cat’s litter box and surrounding area. This can remove most of the litter and then you can use your general vacuum to pick up any finer particles left behind.
- Get your broom out before you vacuum, especially if the litter is very soiled! This way, you can remove the bulk of the smelly debris and then vacuum afterward. This is definitely a good idea if your cat leaves lots of mess around its litter box every time it uses it. Most vacuum cleaners aren’t designed to handle large amounts of litter, so sweeping first will help.
- Use the hose on its own. Save any special attachments or brushes for other use.
Read Full Review: Dyson V11 Animal Vacuum Review
Get to grips with scattered litter and pet hair with this Dyson cordless model. It’s a slimline and lightweight vacuum that’s easy to maneuver, but with strong suction that’s a big improvement on Dyson’s previous models.
In our tests, we found that the roller brush head is ideal if you’ve got a larger home because it covers a wider-than-average cleaning path. And the filter will trap those very fine particles of kitty litter and pet dander that are invisible, as it’ll capture particles as tiny as 0.3 microns.
We were impressed by the range of accessories that come with this stick vacuum. There’s a mini motorized tool and a stubborn dirt dusting brush that’ll allow you to tackle litter and other pet messes that might have gotten embedded in your carpets.
The powerful 7-cell lithium-ion battery on this vacuum gave us the chance to do a lot of cleaning in one go. We found that it had a longer battery life than other brands or other Dyson models we’d used before.
We also appreciated the intuitive LED light screen displays. These are really useful in telling how much battery life is left, what mode is being used, and also reminded us when the filters needed maintenance.
What Customers Are Saying
Customers were awed by how well this cordless stick model sucked up all their litter and pet hair, even from thicker carpets. The boost mode was particularly effective and meant you can give your floors a real deep clean.
Some customers didn’t like there being no on/off switch – instead you have to continuously hold down the power button while cleaning. This meant some discomfort after having to grip the handle for prolonged periods of time.
Price at time of publish: $533
|49.65 x 9.84 x 10.28 inches
|Combination tool, crevice tool, mini motorized tool, stiff bristle brush
Cleaning up cat litter in seconds is easy with this compact, light model. And after our tests, we agree with its rating as the number 1 bestseller in Amazon’s Handheld Vacuums.
We think that it’s the perfect vacuum cleaner for cleaning all those hard-to-reach areas with its nozzle that rotates 180o and the extendable crevice tool. And the cyclonic cleaning system makes sure that debris stays away from the filter, keeping the suction strong.
And we found that both the filter and the dirt cup were easy to wash in warm, soapy water.
Plus, this handheld vacuum only takes 4 hours to recharge and uses Smart Charge technology that uses 50% less energy in the process.
We also liked how quick and easy it was to get this handheld vacuum out to clean up the mess from around our litter box. And due to its size, we could store it anywhere.
The handle is comfortable to hold, too. Even when vacuuming for longer periods.
What Customers Are Saying
Customers found that this hand vacuum was easy to transport due to how light it was. But they also said that it still did the job of more robust vacuum cleaners as it still had great suction power – particularly on hard floors.
However, several users were disappointed that the battery only lasted around a maximum of 10 minutes. As we’ve said, it’s great for quick, day-to-day clean-ups. But it might not suit you if you also want to use it for a full house clean.
Price at time of publish: $49
|17.25 x 5.5 x 7.75 inches
|Flip up brush, crevice tool
Power up this 2-in-1 shop vac and pick up both dry and wet cat litter! There’s a reusable cloth filter for dry debris and a foam wet filter for soiled litter, so you can quickly clean up all your dry and wet messes in one go.
And you don’t need to worry about cleaning cat litter that’s found its way into tight spaces.
The long, flexible hose and different nozzles let you reach into those hard-to-reach areas and around corners.
There’s also room for you to store the accessories on-board. Plus, this vacuum automatically shuts off when the dirt bin is full, so you’ll always know when it needs emptying and won’t have to deal with any nasty overflow!
Also, we liked the versatility offered by this model. We think it works well as an everyday household cleaning vacuum, but also to clean a car or RV – and to blow leaves in the garden too with the blower nozzle.
What Customers Are Saying
Customers said that the canister was very easy to empty. They simply pulled the clips and poured any debris into their trash can. They also felt that this bagless vacuum was priced at the right amount. And it offered great value for money.
Despite the manufacturers saying that there’s a built-in noise diffuser, several users said that this canister vacuum was really loud! This is something to think about if you don’t want to disturb your neighbors.
Price at time of publish: $58
|10.6 x 14.2 x 14.4 inches
|2-in-1 utility nozzle, crevice tool, deluxe car nozzle, blower nozzle, detail brush
Perfect for pet owners and allergy sufferers is this Shark Navigator Lift Away upright model.
Its Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology and HEPA filter will capture and trap all those tiny particles that tend to gather around your litter box once your cat has used it.
We judged it to work just as powerfully on carpeted floors as well as on hard floors. And the automatic shutoff for the brushroll, as we moved from one surface type to another, meant we didn’t have to change the setting ourselves.
Plus, we think you’ll like the Lift Away feature as much as we did. This converts the vacuum to a small handheld and means that we could easily clean up pet hair from stairs, cars and furniture.
We were impressed by the powerful suction, ideal for households with multiple pets and all the hair/dander/litter mess they create!
Plus, not only does this model come with a HEPA filter, but this is also washable. So you’ll save money in the long term by washing and reusing this filter, and only having to buy a replacement after months of use.
What Customers Are Saying
Despite it being one of the heavier models they’d used, many users found this upright vacuum surprisingly easy to move around their homes. This was due to the swivel steering and long wand which allowed them to clean above-floor areas easily.
Some users weren’t happy with the power cord’s length. They felt that it needed to be longer to cover larger rooms, and to save time on unplugging and plugging as they moved around their house.
Price at time of publish: $159
|15 x 11.4 x 45.5 inches
|Upholstery tool, crevice tool x 2
How We Tested
The best vacuums for cat litter reviewed below include those we’ve physically tested. We conducted different tests on the appliances in our homes – so you know that our recommendations are based on real-life experience.
First, we got the vacuum cleaners out of their box and set them up. We then looked out how much they weigh and how easy – or not – they are to transport around the home.
Then we evaluated how well they move from hard floors to carpet. And we assessed how long cordless models last on their battery, and how convenient the cord is on corded models.
Each vac has been used on hardwood floors and carpeted areas. And of course, we’ve used them to clean up cat litter, hair, pet hair, and flour.
During the tests, we noticed how many passes were needed to pick up the dirt and debris. Plus, we checked the beater bar afterward to see if any hair has gotten tangled in it.
We even created an obstacle course in our living room. Then we could judge how well the vacuum can maneuver around different objects and into tight corners and spaces.
Finally, we checked the end process by emptying the dust cup or bag. We noted how easy or complicated this is, and how messy it can be.
What to Look For in a Cat Litter Vacuum
The best vacuum for cat litter will have powerful suction so that removing the mess from these spaces is easy. And it should be strong enough to suck up pet hair, even when it gets embedded in carpet fibers.
So it’s really important to check the suction power when buying a vacuum cleaner for cat litter. Check that it has advanced features such as a bypass flow motor or the highest suction levels.
This can be measured in different ways. Unfortunately, there’s no industry-agreed standard.
For example, some cat litter vacuums will demonstrate that they have good suction power with a high number of Pa or Pascals. This is a unit of pressure.
But other models will focus on the RPM of the motor, or how high the air wattage is. So with different units being used, it’s difficult to compare one model with another.
Therefore, look at customer reviews and product information to help you make an informed decision.
You should look for a filter that can pick up fur balls and tiny bits of pet debris and trap them. Otherwise, as you vacuum, these tiny fibers can just end up being circulated in your home’s air.
The best vacuum for cat litter and pet hair will have a three stage filtration system or a HEPA filter. These can trap and filter 99.97% of particles that are even as small as 0.3 microns (1).
But, make sure that the filter is a true or absolute HEPA. HEPA-type or media filters claim to do the same job as proper HEPA ones but they don’t have to meet the same standards.
You can check that the filter is a true HEPA by looking for a serial number (2). They may be more expensive than HEPA-type filters, but they’re worth it in terms of the number and size of particles they’ll capture.
Also, see if the HEPA filter is washable. This will cut down on costs as you won’t have to buy replacement filters as often.
As you need it to clean up around your litter box, which can often be a small space, it needs to be easy to maneuver into tight areas. Therefore, a cordless handheld vacuum will be better suited as these are usually lighter than a bulkier, regular vacuum cleaner.
A shop vacuum is also a good pick as this moves around on wheels and normally has a long hose. So the weight of the motor and canister isn’t as much of a factor.
But, as we’ve said above, the vacuum still needs to have strong suction. And some really lightweight models aren’t as powerful – so they won’t be suited if you have lots of pet hair and kitty litter to pick up over larger areas.
If this is your household, a shop vac or upright vacuum is the best option. You can still look for a model that isn’t too heavy.
Dust Collection (Bag or Bagless)
A bagged vac is a good pick, especially for cat owners. This is because when cleaning, you don’t need to open up the dirt canister and see all the soiled litter you’ve just picked up!
Instead, after vacuuming, you can just throw the bag in the trash. You don’t need to be exposed to the nasty debris you’ve cleaned up, but only need to replace the bag for the next use.
So bagged vacuums tend to be more sanitary. On the other hand, with a bagless vacuum cleaner, you’ll need to open up the dust bin after you’ve vacuumed and throw all the debris into your trash bin.
This may seem like less maintenance. And it’ll save you money on replacement bags.
But because the kitty litter might be soiled, you’ll have to empty the canister after each use. It wouldn’t be pleasant to leave it in your vacuum until you next use it – yuck!
Plus, the very fine particles in cat litter can clog up the inner machinery of a bagless model over time.
Therefore, it’s down to your personal preference whether you opt for a bagged or bagless model.
For example, a crevice tool, dusting brush, or pet power brush will all make your life easier when it comes to cleaning up after your pets.
This Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Vacuum comes with a mini motorized brush. This will pick up pet hair and debris from your surfaces, and also pollen and other tiny bacteria.
The more tools you have at your disposal, the better. This way, you’ll be able to pick up scattered litter no matter where it’s reached on your carpets and hardwood floors.
Tips On How To Vacuum Cat Litter
Alternative Tools To Catch Cat Litter
Gorilla Grip Litter Mat
Trap cat litter as soon as it comes out of the litter box with this mat. The deep grooves and thick mesh are designed to capture litter that flies out of the box, and any that gets stuck on your cat’s paws.
This mat is affordable, durable, and designed to stay in place under the box. And you can clean it easily and pick from a variety of color options.
DuraScoop Jumbo Cat Litter Scoop
Get rid of soiled litter and leave clean cat litter for your pet when they next use the box. It’s designed specifically so that it won’t bend or flick when you’re cleaning – so no mess will escape!
This scoop is lightweight, has a soft non-slip handle, and is rust-resistant. And its small size means that it’s easy to store.
Why Trust Thehousewire?
This article was written by Claire Onidi, writer and editor for Thehousewire. She’s been writing professionally since 2013 and with Thehousewire since 2018. Her family’s cat, Tika, spreads her hair and litter everywhere. She personally developed and ran vacuum tests at her own home, evaluating features such as suction power, filtration system, weight, attachments and so much more. For this piece, she not only consulted her firsthand testing insights but also scoured the web to find retailers’ websites, customer reviews and usage demos, and technical and user guides. She did thorough research to find the latest and greatest model for vacuuming cat litter and she considered real-life scenarios.