I guess it is all about individuality. Cats, just like humans and most other animals, have individually unique preferences. One might like to be picked up and cuddled, another will resist every time. Or, one might like chicken, another might like fish. And on it goes.
I am not sure we could figure out why a particular cat seems to fear the big “monster” vacuum cleaner, since I believe it might be something from deep within them; perhaps some traumatic experience in their earliest kittenhood days they associate with noises from the vacuum cleaner? Hard to know, really.
Both of our cats are quite fearful of our vacuum cleaner. Whenever we bring it from the closet, they quickly run for cover. And, if we decide to do the whole house in one session, we will eventually drive them from wherever they ran to hide, unless they knew enough to head for the basement.
It seems to be a combination of the high-pitched whining and whistling noises, as well as the vibrations created by the beater-bar attachment that the cats do not like. I’m sure their sensitive feet can feel the floor tickling them as the beater bar does its job! That would drive anyone away!
Vacuum cleaner noise typically averages somewhere in the 75-80 decibel range, though some exceed 90 decibels! That is loud even to human hearing, and cats’ hearing is far more sensitive than humans’, especially in the higher ranges. We all know that vacuum cleaners make a whining sound, as their motors run at high speeds, and the air being sucked into the hose attachment tends to whistle sometimes. So it may be that some cats’ hearing is actually injured by some vacuum cleaner noises. No wonder they scatter!
What can be done to protect cats’ hearing from vacuum cleaner noises? I doubt there is any easy way to muffle or otherwise reduce the sound levels from the machines; otherwise, I would think the manufacturers would have done that. I also don’t think it would be practical or feasible to provide ear-plugs or earmuffs for the cats.
It might be possible to put our cats in the basement when we need to clean the house. That way, they would be far enough away from the high frequency noises to where those noises should not affect them too much. The vibration noise of the beater bar on the floor might tick them off some, but at least it won’t tickle their feet!
For those who do not have basements, if your cats are not typically ‘outdoor’ cats, I’m not sure how to resolve that one. You might have to close them into one bedroom until you get the rest of the house finished, then move them to another closed room to finish that room.
Or…just let them find their own “safe zone”. Cats pretty much know how to take care of themselves, even when it comes to those loud, monstrous sucking machines!