If that sounds familiar, maybe it's time to get a robot vacuum designed to pick up cat and dog hair, along with other dirt, from your home's floors. These automated cleaners can be set to run on a schedule, so the only thing you have to do is occasionally empty its base of dust. A good rule of thumb is, the bigger the battery (and the longer the battery life), the better the cleaning job.
To narrow down which robot vacs are the best at cajoling cat hair from carpet or cleaning summer shedding from your hardwood floors, you really need to test them out first. So we did, focusing on their ability to pick up pet hair. The Samsung JetBot A.I.+ (available at Amazon) is our favorite pet-focused vac because it cleans up after your pet and tracks their movements with its camera, while the iRobot Roomba j7+ (available at Amazon) is perfect for cat owners specifically.
Samsung JetBot AI+ VR50T95735W
The Samsung JetBot A.I.+ is a massive robot vacuum, standing nearly 6 inches tall and tipping the scales at 9.5 pounds. It’s a robust cleaner with powerful suction and a handy self-emptying feature—great for dealing with stuff like dander and pet hair.
Speaking of, It’s our pick for the best robot vacuum for pet parents for a few other reasons. It uses LiDAR to navigate around your home, which means it won’t crash into things and it won’t run over and then track around messy stuff, like dog poop, which is a common robot vacuum complaint.
The JetBot A.I.+ also includes a service called SmartThings Pet. This smart program sends the robot vacuum out on patrol to record videos of the cats and dogs at home, so you can see what they’re up to while you’re out and about. It can play music designed to soothe dogs.
That’s right, iRobot combined forward-facing cameras and machine learning to ensure that the j7+ won’t cause more messes than it cleans up.
Speaking of cleaning, the j7+ picked up 9.35 grams of dirt per run during our tests. With these numbers, this robot vacuum is on par with a full-sized vacuum when used daily over the course of a week.
Plus, you can use the iRobot Genius app to specify what rooms or parts of rooms you want to be cleaned and when. You can also direct it over a Wi-Fi connection with Google Assistant or Alexa. Got a cat that likes to groom at 2 a.m.? No problem.
When it’s done cleaning, self-emptying robot vacuum deposits its haul into a self-sealing bag, building on a feature the i7+ pioneered.
The Neato Botvac D7 Connected is a milestone in robot vacuums. It's the first robot vacuum you can tell when, how, and where to clean—all from your smartphone.
With its innovative no-go lines feature, you can draw lines on the virtual maps that the D7 creates to prevent it from going near sensitive areas like pet bowls and beds.
While the no-go feature is cool, Neato also made a robot vacuum that cleans well, where you want it. The D7’s large wheels, side brushes, and D-shaped design allow it to climb high-pile carpet and get flush against walls.
On average, the Neato picked up 9.6 grams of dirt per run. For perspective, if you set the D7 to run automatically every day, that equals 67 grams of dirt a week—on par with light cleaning from a full-sized vacuum. Additionally, its HEPA filter helps the D7 go a long way toward keeping your home allergen-free.
The iRobot Roomba i7+ can empty itself, with a vacuum in the charging base emptying the bin’s contents into a sealable bag during your cleaning sessions. That means you don't have to see, touch, or smell the pet waste your robot vacuum picks up.
The i7+ also comes with a host of features perfect for any smart home enthusiast. This Roomba has access to everything the iRobot Genius app has to offer, including the ability to avoid or clean specific rooms or areas.
This is the main reason why the i7+ is great for cat owners. For example, you can direct the i7+ to just clean around the litter box or under the couch. More importantly, a cat can ride a Roomba, but a Neato would stop moving if an animal climbed atop it.
Fancy tech aside, the i7+ packs quite a bit of suction power. On average, it picks up 10 grams of debris, so in a week, it can keep up with a mild manual cleaning. The i7+ is expensive, but every penny is accounted for in its unique features and excellent performance.
If your dog is the furriest thing on your floors, the Eufy RoboVac 11S is worth checking out. It's a highly affordable model that also rocks good performance.
The Eufy is perfect for anyone who wants to figure out if a robot vacuum and their pets are compatible. The slim design allows the 11S to jam its brushes into places where pet hair often gets swept away. It also boasts quiet operation, so it isn’t likely to irritate your pets.
The RoboVac 11S has a few drawbacks. It has no virtual walls or magnetic strips to ward it off from unwanted areas. Also, during testing, the Eufy was entirely unable to clean high-pile carpet. That means it will do best in homes with bare floors, not thick carpets.
The Eureka Groove NER300 impressed us with its powerful suction and ability to climb high thresholds. During testing, the Groove suctioned up enough dirt and debris to stand toe-to-toe with robot vacuums that cost twice as much.
What makes the Groove great for pet owners is that it is super easy to remove the brush roll and clean it.
We did find that the Groove was a bit rough on furniture. It won’t wreck it, but with no barrier strips or virtual maps, you’ll have to shut doors or put up baby gates if you need to protect something.
Hey, I'm Jon Chan, the senior lab manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it—whether it’s laundry detergents for dishwashers—I oversee its testing. This expertise extends to vacuums: upright, canister, handheld, and robotic.
I've been testing robot vacuums for years and have seen them change a lot. In my belief, the term robot vacuum is a misnomer. Robot vacuums are designed to help maintain your floors in between manual cleanings.
When it comes to pet hair, that's a big deal because you need to let your machine run cleaning cycles every day to keep the loose fur at bay. I also think that virtual barriers are very important to help keep your robot away from areas that are sensitive to your pet, like their bed or food bowl.
Most of the tests involve our robot obstacle course. The area contains analogs for furniture legs, shelves, and thresholds. Each robot vacuum has three chances to prove itself. The first two runs, we place cork pellets under the shelves and between the furniture legs.
Then we let the robot vacuum loose, examining how long a cleaning cycle takes, what obstacles it was able to clean thoroughly, and overall debris pickup. For the final test run, we replace the cork with pet hair.
We also spend time looking at how each robot vacuum could benefit a pet owner with their personal cleaning schedules.
How to Choose the Best Robot Vacuum for Pet Hair
After testing dozens of products, we think the name “robot vacuum” overpromises. Robot vacuums really need a full week to do anything approaching the job a full-sized vacuum can do. You’ll be happiest with them if you think of them as just maintaining floors between manual cleanings.
We should also point out that most robot vacuums are designed for bare floors and medium carpet. If you have rugs taller than one-half inch, your robot vacuum might not be able to climb atop it or may get stuck if it gets up there. This fact is vital for pet owners because it means pet beds are a point of contention.
Why Do Pets Shed?
You can thank your dog’s or cat's hormones for all of the pet fur on the floor. Shedding occurs when the hormones in an animal's body react to the amount of daylight that it's exposed to. When the days get shorter in the fall, it's a signal to a cat or dog that it's time to shed their summer coat and grow in thicker fluff for the winter.
As the days grow longer in the spring, that heavier winter coat has got to go—your best friend will shed it to grow a new coat better designed for warmer climes.
The amount of fur that your cat or dog grows and sheds in this messy circle of life depends on a number of factors, including their breed, what climate they live in, and how much time they spend frolicking outside vs. relaxing indoors.
How Do I Avoid Pet Hair Vacuum Mishaps?
Over the years, three technologies have developed to help keep robot vacuums from running amok: magnetic strips, virtual barriers, and app-based barriers. All three of these methods have their pros and cons.
Magnetic strips are the simplest. You lay them on the floor and they create a barrier that designated robot vacuums will not cross. While they don’t require batteries, magnetic strips are cumbersome. Most robot vacuums that included them only ship with one, so you have to cut them if you want to cover multiple entryways.
The next step up is virtual barriers. These battery-powered devices emit an infrared line that tells robot vacuums to turn back. Some specialized barriers, like iRobot’s lighthouse, can create a “halo” or a circle barrier to encompass a piece of furniture or a pet bowl.
The final method, aside from shutting doors, involves specialized apps. New mapping technologies allow robot vacuums to have a better understanding of their surroundings. They can then send that information to your phone.
Certain models from iRobot, Neato, and Ecovacs let you draw lines on virtual maps to denote where the robots can and cannot go.
Most robot vacuums navigate with either infrared beams that measure distances to obstacles, or with cameras that use contrast and landmarks to navigate. The latter can’t clean in the dark, so bear that in mind.
The latest innovation is a robot vacuum with object recognition. These automated floor cleaners can actually see obstacles with a forward-facing camera combined with machine learning. This allows them to understand their surroundings better and avoid common pitfalls like socks and pet droppings.
Generally speaking, the more power robot vacuums devote to navigation, avoiding dog poop, and smart features, the less power they have for cleaning ability. However, some newer models have come along that excel at both skill sets.
Are Robot Vacuums Worth the Money?
If you’re a pet owner, a robot vacuum removes those omnipresent balls of stray fur and dander. As a floor maintainer between manual cleanings, they can save a lot of time and energy.
To best get your money’s worth, set your robot vacuum to automatically run every day. Getting one with a smartphone app control is also great for when you need to give your floors a once-over before coming home to any last-minute surprise guests.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.