Owing a cat means embracing cat hair on the carpet, kernels of food left out for a mid-afternoon snack, and occasionally scattered bits of kitty litter kicked loose from the litter box. No wonder so many cat owners have embraced the Roomba as a way to simplifying their household vacuuming chore.
And cats, being cats, have also embraced the Roomba, this time as a personal carrier service shuttling them around the home with them perched atop it like the Kings and Queens of the world that they assume themselves to be.
Anyone who has ever watched the many videos and GIFs of cats riding around on Roombas has probably wondered just what cats see in the vacuums. The answer, it turns out, is fairly simple. Roombas are everything a cat could ever want in a chauffeuring service.
Moving Around Without Having to Walk
For a cat, riding a Roomba has all the advantages of being picked up and carried somewhere else without the stress of actually being lifted off the ground and carried somewhere else by a human being. In short, it’s fun.
The cat’s point of view doesn’t take in that the Roomba is doing any work cleaning up her stray fur and spilled kitty litter. They just see it as a cat-sized, flat car that will take them throughout the house as soon as they sit on it.
Cats are naturally territorial and have an instinctive desire to explore their domain. In their eyes, as the Roomba goes around your house or apartment, it is doing the exact same thing, and they are allowing themselves to tag along. Just think of the videos of a cat chasing a dog on a Roomba. It’s a fun and engaging way of being the boss.
Being the Boss
On that note, sitting on top of a Roomba is a position of dominance. Some cats get nervous or wary of the robotic vacuum traveling through their domain and they have the urge to put themselves in control of the situation. By sitting on top of the Roomba, they are taking the literal and metaphorical high ground, which will help them feel more at ease with it.
Likewise, if your cat is having trouble with the Roomba, you want to help them feel confident that they are safe and in charge. You can help this by speaking to your Roomba in a stern, commanding voice (showing that you have control over it) then using gentler, softer tones to reassure your cat that it is safe. This can re-establish your cat’s sense of hierarchy.
A Warm Place to Relax
When you are stuck in your chair because your cat has decided to curl up on your lap, or suddenly lose access to your keyboard because Fluffy has declared it her personal sleeping space, you have a pretty good clue of how much cats love warm places to rest. Even a shaft of sunlight provides hours of naps.
As the Roomba goes around your house, it burns up battery power. That power heats up the surface area of the robot, providing a nice, warm place to relax if you are a cat, especially if the human room service providers are not available.
When cats figure out that the Roomba is a warm, cozy place to sit while exploring their domain, it becomes pretty obvious why they like riding Roombas so much. What’s not to love about a warm Roomba ride around the house on a boring afternoon?
Vibrations and Noises Can Be Hit or Miss
For some cats, the noises are not a problem and they almost seem to enjoy the gently massaging vibrations as they ride around on the Roomba. It is not unlike a cat’s purr so it is possible that these cats find the slow speed and vibrations to be soothing and pleasant.
However, in general, cats are very sensitive to both loud noises and vibrations. This is why many cats have a hard time with car rides. However, the Roomba both makes sounds as it goes around the house, and it has a steady vibration. So, obviously, while some cats enjoy riding around on a Roomba, others do not.
What If Your Cat Scared of Roomba?
All too often when a cat parent brings a Roomba into a home, they are expecting the cute YouTube video worthy moments of an adorable cat riding around on the Roomba, just to discover that their cat won’t go into the same room as it, runs away, hisses, and has a fit even if it’s not actually vacuuming.
When this happens, it’s important to look at the Roomba from your cat’s point of view and help them understand that the Roomba is not a threat.
Time Is a Friend
Cats are creatures of habit and rarely react well to change at the best of times. When their normal routine has been interrupted by a robotic creature moving around their domain, it’s perhaps not surprising that many do not appreciate the experience right away.
The important thing is to give your cat time to adjust and not force them to accept the Roomba too quickly. Give your cat as much normalcy as possible and limit how often they are exposed to it, especially when you are not around. For example, it may not be a good idea for the cat’s first interaction with the Roomba to be it coming around her food and water dishes, since that can come off as threatening behavior.
Over time, you can gradually increase your cat’s exposure to the Roomba and once she has had enough time to figure out that it does not do her any harm, she may come to accept it as part of the house. If the cat ever does decide to like the Roomba instead of merely tolerating it, think of that as a bonus.
Keep Things Consistent
Some people will try to rearrange the cat’s eating or sleeping places to a place nearer the Roomba with the best of intentions, thinking that more exposure near pleasant cat associations will help.
In reality, this tactic often backfires because the cat is unable to enjoy the things she really likes without the presence of the Roomba in the background. Continue playing with your cat in her usual places, and don’t move the food dish just to keep it closer to the Roomba. This will also give your cat some much-needed reprieve from the robot.
Act Normally Around the Roomba Yourself
Your cat will be looking to you as an example of how to react to the Roomba the first few times that she sees it. It’s often a good idea to stay in the same room as the cat and the Roomba at first so she can see how you behave when it approaches you. The best trick here is to bat it away with your hand or foot, gently, so your cat can see that is it not dangerous and can be turned aside.
Most of the time, the Roomba will try to avoid a cat that is laying on the ground since the light sensor will pick up that something is in its way. It is very unlikely that a cat will be caught up in a Roomba, but while that is obvious to a human, it isn’t so obvious to a cat.
The noises and vibrations that the Roomba makes can come off as threatening from an animal’s perspective so the more you can demonstrate to your cat that she is the one in control, the less frightening it will be.
Are Roombas Safe From Cats?
The greater risk is not from the Roomba to the cat, but the other way around. Roombas are designed with anti-tangling features, sensors, and auto-shutoff features to make them safe to use around felines, but a frightened or angry cat does not have Roomba-protective features. This is why de-escalating the situation is so important.
Cats will sometimes attack the Roomba while it is going around the home to try and stop it from threatening their territory. When it’s stationary, they might chew on the brushes and break them off. It is better, therefore, to limit the access your cat will have to the Roomba when it is not in use and you are not there to supervise.
For many cats, the Roomba is a fun and engaging way of getting around the house. By sitting on top of it, cats feel as if they are truly the kings and queens of their territory, surveying all that they own from the comfortable perch of a warm and lightly vibrating machine that travels the home for them. They are drawn to its warmth and the way that it can carry them on a circuit of the home.
Despite the hilarious and engaging YouTube videos, however, not all cats will react with pleasure to the appearance of a Roomba in their homes. Many require time to adjust to the new arrival and a steady desensitizing process that you will need to carefully supervise to make sure neither the cat nor the Roomba suffers any harm.
Once you do that, the Roomba is an excellent tool for keeping the cat’s home clean and spotless.
"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett