Putting Vacuum Cleaners To The Cat Hair Test

Among the seven different tests that our science-minded sibling publication Consumer Reports used for its most recent vacuum ratings, the one that seems to get the most attention is the fur test. Steven Colbert once accused CR — jokingly, we hope — of killing cats and tearing their fur off. Fortunately for everyone involved, that’s not how it works.

In truth, a cat groomer send Consumer Reports bags of fur brushed from a Maine Coon cat. The fur is then weighed out into equal portions and pressed into the test carpeting with rollers.

Each vacuum then has 14 tries to passes over the fur to pick it all up. Afterward, the tester weighs the hair remaining on the carpet. He also weighs the hair that gets stuck in each vacuum’s brush and roller mechanism.

According to CR’s latest tests:

Kenmore’s Intuition 31100, a CR Best Buy at $250, is among the uprights that aced that new test without letting us down on regular carpet cleaning, which is still a vacuum’s toughest challenge. If you prefer a canister, Kenmore’s Progressive 27514, $300, a CR Best Buy, was also impressive in our pet-hair and carpet tests. Panasonic’s MC-CG902, $210, also a CR Best Buy, cleaned carpets comparably for less.

For all of Consumer Reports’ vacuum ratings, head over to their website or pick up the current issue of the magazine.


Edit Your Comment

  1. trey says:

    never had a problem with my Rainbow brand vacuum. Expensive, but it works so much better than others that i have owned.

    • senior chick says:

      I agree with you. I bought a used Rainbow from EBAY 2 years ago, and it works great. Our dog sheds like heck, and it picks all of it up. And even better, I can use the brush attachment on our dog also to get more of its hair.

      • One-Eyed Jack says:

        I bought my Rainbow on eBay, too, about 15 years ago. It’s really a great vacuum, but it’s cumbersome for quick jobs.

    • Yentaleh says:

      My Rainbow is almost 20 yrs old. I love it so!

    • kinickie says:

      My mom’s had her Rainbow since I was born, and it’s still going like a champ. She refuses to use anything else.

  2. Brunette Bookworm says:

    Aww, the cute kitten picture is story applicable today!

    Interesting on the testing process. I have cats and I know that sucking up the cat hair is a true test of a vacuum. Next time I need a new vac I’ll check out CR’s ratings.

  3. nbs2 says:

    Still not sure how I feel about pushing articles where the bulk of the information is hidden behind a paywall.

    • frank64 says:

      I know how I feel. I don’t like it. Makes the post an advertisement.

    • apd09 says:

      Well it is their sister publication so we need to accept that they will try to increase readership and subscriptions for it. I agree, I don’t like it either, not do I like the articles that link to slideshows. The article will be something like the 15 things to avoid doing while your children are sick or something like that and they are each individual slides instead of an article. But the sites do that to increase page views and clicks, which then means they can charge more for advertising on the pages.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      I agree to a certain extent; it is annoying to be linked to an article that I cannot view without a subscription. But often the summary of it here gives me enough information on the subject that I get the gist of the discussion, and can choose at that point whether I wish to go through the extra hurdle of reading more. Usually that is not the case, but CR is one case where I am considering shelling out the dough.

    • chefboyardee says:

      I completely agree with frank64 and nbs2. Very scammy.

      apd09, the difference between this and a slideshow is, as a reader I can get to all the content on a slideshow for free. A pay wall is a pay wall, the content is inaccessible unless you pay.

      • apd09 says:

        Yes I understand the difference, I was just saying along with not liking the links to pay site I also do not like the links for slideshows, that is why I said “I don’t like it either, nor do I like the articles that link to slideshows.” just adding a bit of info that although not directly relevant was indirectly relevant regarding the type of links most of us do not like.

        Does that makes sense to you?

    • freelunch says:

      in a world were everything is free, nothing has any value.

      • frank64 says:

        We are not complaining that Computer Reports website has a cost. That is fine(although I don’t like that print subscribers don’t get the site for free, but that is their choice). This is like the “Good Morning America” pushing Disney Theme parks on its show. I guess they have a right to do it, but we have a right to complain(here, it depends on if Consumerist lets us, but they are letting us).

  4. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    “…killing cats and tearing their fur off.”

    Toasted cat syndrome!

  5. apd09 says:

    I used to have the bissell pet hair eraser upright because we have a persian cat that leaves hair everywhere. It worked great but was a pain to drag up and down the stairs to clean them since they were rug. The vacuum broke on us after replacing the belt, so we bought the bagless Bissell Lift-Off MultiCyclonic Pet Upright Vacuum with Detachable Canister and have had great results with it for the carpet and the detachable canister is great for the stairs.

    It could be a bit more powerful but we usually go over the rug 2 to 3 times anyway no matter what vacuum we had and it gets everything up.

    • tvscifi.com says:

      I agree, this is the only vacuum that has ever gotten the cat hair off the rug. A little attachment for the furniture works great too. It has it’s own rotating brush and rubber bristles that pull off the cat hair. It’s bagless and has a detachable canister that’s handy for doing the stairs. Best part, I got it on sale for $99.00.

      Downside, hard to replace the belt, can be tough to clean the hair out of the bagless canister.

  6. dreamfish says:

    The test being whether you can vacuum up a whole cat?

  7. JonThomasDesigns says:

    I have a Dyson Animal Vac and love it

    • jbandsma says:

      That one seems to be the consensus among the animal people I know, especially those who live with cats. The most common comment I’ve seen about it is “I’m no longer eating cat hair”.

    • VeeKaChu says:

      Dyson for the win. I picked one up a refurbed on woot.com for just over 200.00 about two years ago. I’ve had to have it refurbed again for about 90.00 (luckily there’s a Dyson shop in nearby. It’d been worth every penny though. That thing gets up frightening amounts of dander, which to me is a good thing.

      I have a long-coat akita. I imagine my lungs look like inside-out tribbles.

    • dadelus says:

      Completely agree. We had a Eureka canister vac that was a few years old and the carpet still seemed dirty even after a thorough cleaning. We bought a Dyson on a trial basis figuring we could return it if it didn’t work.

      We vaccumed with the Eureka until we weren’t picking anything else up, then grabbed the Dyson. We had to empty the Dyson two or three times until it stopped picking anything up. We’ve had the Dyson for a couple years now and while sometimes it gets annoyng emptying it out several times while cleaning the carpets, it’s nice to know we’re getting rid of all the hair left behind by two cats and a dog that looks like she has mange twice a year as she blows her coat.

    • NORMLgirl says:

      LOVE my Dyson! Had my upright for 5 years and it still gets up all the pet hair. Just bought the small animal for cleaning the car. It works great but has a short battery life!

      • NORMLgirl says:

        I just realized that I have had my upright for 7 years, not 5!
        When this one goes, I am def getting a new one. Not to sure about the “ball” though. Don’t know how sturdy it will be.

        • missdona says:

          I have the Dyson Animal-Ball. It’s completely sturdy. A lot of mechanism and gears and stuff are housed inside the ball, so it’s gotta be tough.

      • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

        And what animal would that be? I have found that using an angora kittten to buff the car after a wax job gives better results than using a bassett hound puppy.

    • andyg8180 says:

      i have a dyson too… went from a hoover which wasnt too bad for a couple years but once i ran a dyson over it, damn was i wrong on how well i thought it did… i cant complain, plus it doesnt smell dusty after i vaccum

    • Urgleglurk says:

      Same here…and we have four Shelties and three cats.

    • Capta76 says:

      I’ve got the original Dyson (yellow) and could NOT be happier

  8. chemmy says:

    Actually, my vacuum brush gets clogged with my hair after a while… never my cat’s hair but I always end up cutting my own hair out of it. I have 3 cats… Go figure.

    • DarthCoven says:

      I have the same problem with my wife’s hair. We’ve got two cats and a dog, but it’s always her hair that clogs up the brush.

    • 99 1/2 Days says:

      Same here. I have to cut my hair off the brush every so often.

  9. eccsame says:

    I have two cats – shorthair – and my Roomba works great. I have to field strip it and remove the hair tangled around the brushes. My girlfriend’s red, wiry Jewish hairitage is the real problem.

  10. aloria says:

    I’d rather see the long-haired dog test. I have both a long haired cat (persian) and a Scottish Terrier, and the scottie’s hair is much longer and more coarse. When I just had the cat, it was easy enough to pull any stuck hair out. Now, I’d love to find a vacuum cleaner where I didn’t have to spend an hour cutting out the hair that gets wrapped around the roller.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      That’s why they use Maine Coon hair. (That, and they probably shed enough on one summer day to supply all their testing needs.) Maine Coon != Persian.

  11. Foot_Note says:

    dads wife has a ooold kirby with the hand unit with the spining brushes? was the best thing to pick up furr off couches :)

  12. Costner says:

    And once again we find the $600 Dyson rated a 68 (15th place), while a $80 Hoover is rated a 72 (4th place). The Hoover earned an “excellent” rating on carpet, while the Dyson only earned a “very good”… and since carpet is where 95% of vacuums are used… well you can draw your own conclusions.

    But hey – Dyson comes in bright yellow, red, and purple – so that is worth something right?

    Year after year, time after time, Dyson never once has rated near the top on any of these comparison tests. Just goes to show a good marketing plan and some gimmicks can earn a very good (albeit undeserved) reputation.

    James Dyson must have took marketing lessons from Amar Bose.

    • CortJstr says:

      I’d be interested to see CR test these vacuums after 2 or 3 years of regular use. Supposedly that’s where a Dyson shines. The claim is since they don’t get weaker the higher up-front cost leads to a longer lasting product.

      Would the $80 Hoover still outscore the Dyson after 6-months/1-year/3-years? I’m genuinely curious.

      • DaWezl says:

        Exactly. Until our Dyson (which was nowhere near $600), we never had a vacuum survive more than 2-3 years before it needed to be replaced. Our Dyson is still going strong after 8 years of heavy use–besides pet hair, it is called upon to keep the area around our wood stove clean, so it’s constantly sucking up big chunks of wood and bark as well plenty of ash. It is so simple to empty, and it’s also really easy to clean the individual parts as well. To me, it’s not how a vacuum performs the first minute you buy it, but how it performs over time that’s the most important.

        • trey says:

          15 year old rainbow… but it cost twice as much as a dyson so i guess i am about even with you

        • Costner says:

          I personally have a Hoover Windtunnel bagless that is around 8 or 9 years old. Paid around $200 for it, and other than a few bucks worth of replacement belts and a new $20 filter a year ago it hasn’t cost me a thing since.

          Still has plenty of suction, still gets my carpets clean, and I’ve had both a dog and a long haired cat put it to the test so I can’t really complain.

          Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting Dyson makes a bad product, but the simple truth is there are other manufacturers who use the same exact “Cyclone” design but cost hundreds less. Even Hoover makes a very similar model that costs around half of what a Dyson does, and years ago there was the Fantom vacuum that actually licensed the cyclone technology straight from Dyson… yet their vac was hundreds of dollars less than a Dyson.

          However, Dyson has a multi-million dollar marketing budget to maintain, so he probably needs to sell his vacs for a few hundred dollars more just to maintain the same level of profit. That is the issue that rubs me, because his vacs have never performed better in any independent comparison test, yet due to marketing hype and silly sales pitches (Dyson actually tries to convince people vacuums have four wheels and are therefore difficult to steer??), he feels his vacs are worth two to three times more than other namebrands like Hoover or Kenmore?

      • freelunch says:

        I use a 25+ year old Hoover ‘Concept One’ vacuum… I love it – it still picks up all the dog fur from the carpets with its old (now slightly stiff) brushes…. I stole it from my parents about 10 years ago, and it still performs better than my wife’s modern ‘bagless’ vacuum.

        I hope Hoover vacuum cleaners are still built with the same reliability, because this thing is awesome.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        I have a $150 Hoover that still works great after 5 years. It picks everything up. Love it.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      Before I bought a Dyson, the most reliable vacuum cleaner I had come across was a no-name $70 Black Friday deal my wife picked up from Wal-Mart. It outperformed the upright Hoover that I had been lugging around for a few years, and it didn’t produce an unpleasant odour. The Dyson has been far more effective on pet hair, particularly on the couch, and it isn’t constructed with cheap plastic parts (I’m looking at you, Dirt Devil). I wouldn’t call Dyson a marketing gimmick, especially considering how long they supposedly last, but I was happy with only spending $330 on mine.

    • msbask says:

      I had a Hoover for 10 years (1999-2009). It broke the day after it turned 10 years old, so I replaced it with the most similar model I could find.

      I’ve replaced that vacuum 3 times in the last 18 months (the store I bought it at keeps letting me exchange it when it breaks). I’m disgusted and will probably never buy a Hoover again.

  13. cashxx says:

    I have the Roomba 550 and a Shark Navigator with two long hair cats (Ragdolls) and thats all I do is un-tangle the hair after using the vacuums. The shark the hair gets wrapped around the main roller and the pet attachment that also spins for furniture has the same issue and a huge pain to clean. The Roomba after each use or every other use I have to strip it down and clean it. It can be a pain too but not as bad as the pet attachment on the Shark. I wish they would design something sealed so the hair can only wrap around the main roller, its easy to clean. WIth the attachment it gets tangled in the bearings and you have to use a knife or small screw driver to dig at it.

  14. SharkD says:

    Is “Steven Colbert” the unheralded love child of Steve Carrel and Stephen Colbert, conceived in an impassioned round of makeup sex following a particularly-heated taping of “Even Stev/phen,” or was that a typo?

  15. Nighthawke says:

    My Jeeves (Roomba 550) has been a real trooper. I’ve had it for over a year and it has done a fine job of keeping my floors clean. I just recently overhauled it, replacing the battery, and vacuum module with upgrades. Only the brush module I was forced to replace due to a shaft getting hot from friction and melting the housing.

    Only thing that creeped me out about the stuff Jeeves picked up was the red spider mites early on. Yikes! I set him up to run in that room twice more to ensure that they were all picked up.

  16. FeelinFroggy says:

    How about shaving the cat outside? Is that an option? I personally prefer my kitty shaved.

  17. reishka says:

    Okay, now find me a vacuum cleaner that can handle human hair without it getting twisted in the bristles. I have almost-waist length hair and every week after vacuuming I have to sit down with it and cut/yank all the hair out of the roller/bristles. If I don’t do that, the vacuum inevitably dies within 1.5 years.

  18. whitecat says:

    I’m not surprised that Kenmore rated so highly. I have an ancient Kenmore upright that a friend dragged out of the dumpster and repaired, and it picks up cat fur like nothing else I’ve ever seen. And I’ve had a lot of cats and vacuums.

  19. Angus99 says:

    As an owner of four Maine Coons, I can understand why CR uses their hair for the torture test. We eat vacuum cleaners like popcorn in my house, baby!

    And yes, the Dyson consistently has lasted longer than the other brands we’ve tried over the years.

  20. MountainCop says:

    I bought an Electrolux Epic about 15 years ago. It still kicks absolute butt over the Dyson my wife bought three years ago.

  21. SugarMag says:

    I shed more than my cat so I’m glad I am not the only one who has to pull their own hair from the roller brush with frequency.

    I have found a seam ripper works well for this.

    I dont know how my vacuum works on pet hair since I wait too long between cleanings since kitty hates the noise :(. I can’t fairly compare when the job is so big.

  22. Cantras says:

    I imagine a cat wouldn’t put up with this, but a time-saving tip for those with corgis and other super-shedding dogs:
    Vacuum the dog. We had one that wouldn’t do it, but she was the one that shed less so we forgave her. We used the couch attachment on the other one. He looked like he hated his life and was planning to kill us all in our sleep, but he made the same face when we used the brush, and this was faster.

    • Merricat says:

      Make sure the cat comfortable prior to it and avoid doing things that’d stress it out during the event, and cats love being vacuumed.

      The primary problem is the noise.

    • Rhizobium says:

      I can’t get any of my cats within 6 feet of the vacuum cleaner … even when it’s not on!

    • Mulva says:

      My two Corgis HATE the vacuum with a never-ending passion. For some reason they tolerate the spotbot carpet cleaner, but the moving vacuum is an enemy to be feared and attacked. My cat hates it too, but he has the common sense to leave the room.

      We furminate them in the yard every week or so, the fur on the ground is enough to make another Corgi.

      For some insane reason we have an Oreck. Blech.

  23. Kate says:

    Unfortunately, my cat does not simply deposit puffs of fluff in various places, he layers it on and works the hair into the nap of the fabric.

    Bogus test.

  24. italianbaby says:

    i love my electrolux oxygen canister. love… love… love it.
    the suction is powerful even with a full bag..

  25. Clyde Barrow says:

    I did this a couple of times with my cat. Instead of taking my cat outside to brush him, I thought I’d try vacuuming him and it worked. I took the small hand-held vacuum brush and attached it to the hose and I brushed his coat like a comb and I think he actually liked it. I got a ton more hair than with a brush and it was contained in the vacuum.

  26. Darkneuro says:

    I have no problem at all cleaning the roller of my vacuum if hair gets caught around it. I’m happy I don’t have to fuss with bags (bagless), and I go over each patch of carpet 2-4x (vertical, horizontal, each diagonal) anyway. It ‘fluffs’ the carpet and gets rid of some of the traffic pattern. I don’t think I could pay $600 for a vacuum, never mind $200-300.
    I don’t aim for perfection, I’m willing to go over the same space a few times, I take my time at it (if you rush, nothing will pick up. Ever. Proved it now with 7 different vacuums through the years), and longer hair will always wrap around the brush, no matter what brush. That’s just the nature of hair and a brush.
    My life isn’t perfect, my carpet isn’t dirty (but it’s not sterile, either), and my vacuum? Well, that’s the $49 Dirt Devil ‘Dynamyte’.

  27. Conformist138 says:

    It won’t do much for your carpet, but cat hair on your couch doesn’t require any kind of special fur-removal device. Just use a pair of dish-washing gloves (you know, the standard yellow kind). Put on a glove and start wiping the furniture. Voila! Fur comes right off. Plus, you can use your fingers in the hard-to-reach creases that typical rollers always seem to miss.

  28. MongoAngryMongoSmash says:

    For years I had used a rubber bristled brush and a Dirt Devil Breeze to suck the cat hair off of our couches and it was always a pain in the butt.

    Then, one day for S&G’s, my wife picked up our ORECK XL and ran it over the couches and it was amazing. It cut down the time it took to clean the furniture to about five minutes. Also. being a lightweight vacuum it didn’t bother us at all to be swinging it up and down and all around the furniture. Highly recommend ORECKs.