Few modern housekeeping tools are as highly valued as the vacuum cleaner, especially for pet owners dealing with fur on the carpet, floors, and furniture. However, when a pet runs in fear, barks, hides, or quivers when the trusty vacuum is pulled out, it can be upsetting, to say the least. Having a pet who’s scared of the vacuum is a perplexing problem, but fortunately, there are strategies that can help owners keep their pets calm.
Why Pets are Scared of the Vacuum
There are plenty of reasons a pet may be scared of the vacuum, including:
- Lack of exposure – Many pets are simply startled by this big, loud thing that emerges every so often to torment and chase them throughout the house (this is especially true for cats).
- Previous negative association – If your pet was once startled by the vacuum, it may develop into a fear or full-blown phobia over time.
- Temperament – Some pets simply have a more timid or fearful temperament in general. A pet who’s scared of loud noises, such as thunder or fireworks, may also find the vacuum cleaner frightening.
- Herding instinct – In some cases, the barking and lunging at the vacuum that appears to be fear-based may actually be your dog’s attempts at “herding.”
A Cause for Concern
When your cat is cowering under the bed or your dog is panting and shaking uncontrollably, he or she is in serious distress. Severe anxiety and stress raises cortisol levels in the body, which can lead to health problems over time. Helping your pet to work through any phobia is critical for his or her improved health and happiness.
Strategies for Success
Desensitizing your pet to the sight and sound of the dreaded vacuum cleaner is the key to peaceful coexistence between animal and machine. Try the following strategies to slowly and safely reduce your pet’s fears:
- Start by leaving the vacuum cleaner out (but turned off), and reward your dog or cat with treats and praise for simply being in the same room. Leave the vacuum out for several days, moving it to different rooms (but never too close to where your pet sleeps, eats, or the litter box).
- The next step is to turn the vacuum cleaner on in a different room. It’s helpful to have another person run the cleaner while you stay with your pet and offer treats.
- Once your pet is comfortable with the sound of the cleaner at a distance, try turning it on in the same room, but facing away from your pet. Throw treats to him or her as a reward for not leaving the room.
- Now run the vacuum cleaner normally, keeping treats handy for good behavior.
If you’re still having difficulties with your pet’s noise phobia, please don’t hesitate to contact the team at West Park Animal Hospital. We’re happy to work with you to come up with a plan to help your pet.
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