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Can You Use a Vacuum Cleaner on Cat Litter? Pros, Cons & Safety Tips

Cleaning messy cat litter can be tedious, so using a vacuum cleaner naturally feels like the faster and more effective way to get things done. Although you technically can vacuum cat litter, there are several drawbacks to this cleaning method worth considering.

If you are looking to ditch the dustpan and vacuum your cat’s litter instead, this article will tell you whether it’s safe or should be avoided.


Vacuuming Cat Litter: Is It Worth It?

It is generally not a good idea to use your regular household vacuum to clean soiled or large chunks of cat litter. However, you can still vacuum small pieces of cat litter or its leftover dust particles after scooping up the larger chunks. It is better to use a separate vacuum that will only be used to clean litter rather than your regular household vacuum. There are specific vacuum cleaners available that can handle suctioning cat litter with fewer risks.

There are several reasons why you do not want to use a regular household vacuum on cat litter. Cat litter could damage the delicate mechanisms of your vacuum cleaner and leave scratches or punctures in the filter bag. Fine cat litter can clog the vacuum cleaner’s filter and need to be cleaned more frequently.

Furthermore, soiled cat litter can leave behind unpleasant urine smells that can be difficult to eradicate. The urine left behind on the cat litter can leach into the porous filter bag, creating a stench every time you switch on the vacuum.

cat lying on the wooden floor beside litter box
Image Credit: Tanya Plotnikova, Shutterstock


Pros and Cons of Vacuuming Cat Litter

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of vacuuming cat litter.

  • Effectively removes small litter particles from carpets or hardwood floors
  • Faster than manual scooping
  • Less messy
  • May damage delicate mechanisms in the vacuum
  • Risk of clogging the filter or damaging the motor
  • Soiled cat litter smells can linger in the vacuum
  • Urine or feces may soak into the porous material of the filter bag or bristles

What to Know Before Vacuuming Cat Litter

If you choose to vacuum cat litter but don’t want to risk damaging your main household vacuum, opt for a pet-friendly vacuum instead. Most pet-friendly vacuums are heavy-duty and can handle the smells left being from tracked cat litter, fur, and debris.

Pet-friendly vacuum should ideally be used solely to clean your cat’s litter messes and not around the rest of your home. Alternatively, there are handheld vacuums for pets that are safe for use on cat litter and more budget-friendly.

If you are planning to vacuum wet or soiled cat litter, it is better to use a wet/dry shop vacuum cleaner instead. You want to avoid using a regular household vacuum for anything wet, as it is not designed to suction it. Plus, wet cat litter can create a musty smell inside the vacuum and may contribute to mold growth.


How to Vacuum Cat Litter Safely

Here’s how you can safely vacuum cat litter from different surfaces, such as carpet, tiles, and hardwood flooring.

1. Scoop the larger Chunks

Start by scooping up the larger chunks of cat litter and disposing of it. Using a soft, fine-bristled brush and scoop is recommended for carpets and hard flooring. If there are only a few small pieces of cat litter lying around, you can skip to the next step.

2. Use a Pet-Friendly Vacuum

Use a pet-friendly vacuum to suction up smaller pieces of cat litter and remove any lingering litter particles. You may need to go over the area a few times before it is completely clean. Some types of cat litter are very dusty and can get trapped in carpet fibers.

man using cordless vacuum
Image Credit: Olya Detry, Shutterstock

3. Clean the Vacuum Filter

 Empty the vacuum filter or bag into a biodegradable trash bag and an enclosed garbage can.


Alternative Methods for Cleaning Cat Litter

Other than a vacuum cleaner, you can clean up cat litter using the following tried-and-trusted methods.

  • Scooping/sweeping: This is one of the most widely used methods to clean cat litter and doesn’t come with the hassle of setting up a vacuum cleaning and using electricity. You use a dustpan and brush to scoop up any cat litter kicked out of the litterbox or tracked around the house. This is an affordable option, and you do not have to worry about damaging your vacuum cleaner. The cat litter can either be disposed of if it is soiled or poured back into the litter box if it is clean.
  • Litter mats: Placing a litter mat underneath your cat’s litterbox will be helpful if your cat kicks or tracks their litter around. Once the mat has caught cat litter, you can pick it up and pour it back into the litterbox or dispose of it in the trash. Litter mats are easy to keep clean and beneficial if the litter box is placed on a carpeted area that is difficult to clean.
  • Enclosed litterbox: If your cat has a habit of kicking litter out of their litterbox, then choosing one with a fully enclosed design is a good option. Not only does it reduce litter wastage, but also leaves less messy litter around that you need to vacuum up.



You can vacuum cat litter with a pet-friendly or dry/wet shop vacuum cleaner. Cat litter is usually too large or smelly to be suctioned into a regular household vacuum. There is also the risk that fine dust particles from certain cat litter can clog the filter bag or damage the delicate mechanisms in the vacuum.

Regardless, it is a good idea to scoop up excess cat litter before you vacuum it.

Featured Image Credit: Maliflower73, Shutterstock

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