Robot vacuum vs pet hair: Which comes out on top?

One, a loyal companion that stalks the halls of your home, the other, a cat.
robot vacuum with cat

Ever since the Roomba rolled onto the market, interest in robot vacuums has been slowly on the rise. While most models are invaluable cleaning companions, there are a few questions that everyone wants to be answered before committing to purchasing a worker droid. Questions like, how good are they at mopping, really? And how do they fare against one of the home’s most elusive allergens, the dreaded pet hair? We’ve been reviewing a whole mess of robot vacuum cleaners over the past few weeks, and while performance varies between models, we can say with confidence that most models tackle the task with ease.

We put the Roborock S6 Pure, a mid-range $799 robot vacuum, to the test to find out how it handles pet hair.

Round 1: Routine cleaning

While I don’t have the photographic evidence to prove it, I’d like to state for the jury that the very first robot vacuum I tested, the Roborock S6 Pure, delivered a huge bounty of cat fur from its first expedition around the house. The first time I emptied its dustbin, the amount of cat fur it had collected took me by surprise. I’d wager that I vacuum more regularly than most in my house, thanks to a cat with severe allergies herself, so I was genuinely surprised to find so much cat hair in the first collection.

If you live with a furry friend, you’ll know that the tumbleweeds of visible fur are only half the issue, it’s the fur that sticks and sets deep into the fabric of your carpets and rugs. While I can’t say for sure that the robot vacuum managed to get every last bit of fur from the carpets in its jurisdiction, I can say that it collected a lot that I’d missed during my usual vacuuming.

But I can’t expect you to just take my word for it. So, to the confusion of my cats, I began collecting fur where I could find it, to give the robot vacuum a real challenge.

Round 2: This time it’s fur-sonal

The robot vacuum has its limits. It can’t clean stairs, or behind typical household obstacles like pot plants. Lucky for me (in this particular scenario) that’s where cat hair tends to gather so I had plenty of ammo for the upcoming bout. First, I spread some fur across a rug and worked it in with the sole of my boot. Next, I simulated trickier angles by placing some fur around the legs of a dining chair.

The result? A clean sweep. The robot vacuum worked the area with ease, picking up every trace of cat fur I laid out for it with no troubles whatsoever. It was then I remembered how I could truly test the robot vacuum’s performance for pet hair: outdoor cushions.

Round 3: The ultimate test

If you live with cats, you’ll know that they waste no time claiming lounges and cushions as their own, often marking their territory with a trail of stubborn fur. For cats, if it’s soft and high up, it’s as good a bed as any.

Within about a month of buying an outdoor setting on Gumtree, I gave up trying to keep the cats off the outdoor cushions. The fancy cushions go out for the cats, and are put away when I have human guests; it’s all a bit backwards. Still, it provided me with the ultimate challenge for the robot vacuum.

I’ll be honest, I was betting against the robot vacuum in this final round. I struggle to get these cushions clean with a Dyson stick vacuum at the best of times. But by golly, the Roborock pulled through again, cleaning a good chunk of the cat hair with no troubles.

Of course, the robot vacuum isn’t designed to clean cushions and its edge-detecting sensors made it difficult for it to effectively clean the whole cushion, but if you take a look at the before and after shots below, you’ll see that the robot vacuum did an outstanding job of cleaning the areas it could reach.

Verdict: Nothing to fur but fur itself

Despite seeing with my own two eyes just how much pet hair the Roborock S6 Pure collected on its first clean, I honestly expected it to struggle with the amount of fur I threw at it but to my surprise, it repeatedly overcame every obstacle and thoroughly eliminated almost every trace of cat fur in its path.

There are limits, of course. It can’t clean stairs and there are bound to be some nooks and crannies where the robot vacuum can’t reach, but it won’t have any trouble sucking up pet hair in its regular routine.

As for the cats? Well, they’re still divided. One of them has barely acknowledged the existence of our new roommate whereas the other quietly observes from up high, coldly calculating the robot’s inevitable demise.