We name our choice for best automatic litter box in 2017 and explain how a self cleaning litter box works and when you might benefit from buying one.
If you are bored with scooping poop, this is the place for you.
What is a self cleaning litter box?
Self cleaning litter boxes automate some or most of the processes involved in cleaning out a cat’s litter tray.
The simplest self cleaning litter boxes have some kind of filtering system to sift out solid waste from unsoiled litter.
You will still need to dispose of the waste and top up with fresh litter from time to time. But instead of a daily chore this may be every few days or even weeks
The most advanced type of automatic cat litter box contains a non absorbent, permanent and washable litter. The machine actually cleans the litter and flushes the waste into your household waste disposal system.
This advanced system requires some degree of plumbing and an electricity supply. Some of the simpler systems require electricity too. This is something to consider when you think about where you intend to locate your litter box.
Let’s start with the simplest of the self cleaning litter boxes, the rolling litter box
Sifting cat litter box – manual
The Omega Paw Roll n Clean litter box is a rolling litter box. It simply rolls the interior tray to the right and then back again.
The solid waste is trapped in a pull out tray that you can remove and clean when you are ready.
The Omega Paw litter box is completely manual and requires no batteries and no electrical connection.
Sifting cat litter box – electric
Next up are litter boxes that need an electrical supply. There are flat sifting litter boxes that contain a mechanical rake and there is a cylindrical litter box, the Litter Robot, that works on the same principle as the Omega Paw, but is powered by electricity.
There is a manual version of the flat sifting litter box too, but it offers little in the way of benefits over scooping poop.
LitterMaid vs ScoopFree
There are two leading suppliers of electrical flat sifting litter boxes
- PetSafe – the makers of the ScoopFree litter box
- LitterMaid – the makers of the LitterMaid litter box
We’ll come right out and say we prefer the ScoopFree, but we’ll also explain why and in what situations the LitterMaid might be a better buy for you
The ScoopFree litter box
The idea of the ScoopFree litter box created by Petsafe is to remove the chore of scooping poops out of your cat litter.
In theory, you shouldn’t have to touch your litter tray for a matter of weeks!
That sounds pretty appealing doesn’t it? So how does it work, and does it work well?
How does the ScoopFree litter box work?
The system provides you with disposable litter trays, and you slot one of these into the machine. Petsafe explains that you’ll never need to scrub out a litter tray again if you don’t want to.
At the back of the ScoopFree litter box is a rake that stretches from one side of the box to the other. It looks a bit like a large metal comb.
When the rake is triggered into action, it travels from the back of the box to the front, combing through the litter as it goes. The solid waste is pushed to the front of the litter box but the litter itself slips between the gaps in the ‘comb’ and remains in the tray.
The solid waste falls into a trap at the front of the litter box, that is designed to contain it. And it stays there.
The litter itself is made from very absorbent crystals, these work rather like those found inside modern disposable nappies and can hold large amounts of liquid.
They are also good at absorbing odors. And most of those who buy the system seem to think it does a good job of reducing smells. The ‘Ultra’ top of the range model has a hood to give your cat some privacy if you wish
When to empty the litter tray in the ScoopFree litter box
Petsafe suggest that you only need to replace the litter tray every few weeks, but that will depend on where you locate the box, what kind of diet your cat eats, and on how many cats are using it.
You simply remove the slid-in tray from the bottom of the machine, and replace with a new one. The machine monitors how often the cat uses the tray – so you can keep track of how many visits the automatic litter box can cope with before it needs emptying.
None of the automatic litter boxes is 100% perfect and some people will experience problems with some systems. This is usually because the system is not being used to it’s best advantage
For example, some people find that urine is not contained for a full 30 days in the PetSafe ScoopFree box. That’s because the silica crystals are brilliant at absorbing moisture but cannot discriminate between moisture in the air, and moisture that comes out of your cat – they will absorb both.
So if you leave your automatic litter box in a steamy bathroom, the litter will fill up with the moisture from the air, and not hold on to the cat’s pee as long as you would like.
For that reason, it’s best to locate the litter box in a well ventilated room that isn’t prone to a lot of steam or condensation.
You’ll also find that cats fed on cheaper food that contains a lot of fillers will need their trays emptying more often than cats fed on a raw diet or one low in fillers
The ‘Ultra’ pet safe ScoopFree is our favorite ‘raking’ electric litter box’ but it is also one of the more expensive models. If you are looking for a more economical purchase, take a look at the LitterMaid
The Litter Maid self cleaning litter box
The LitterMaid works on the same principle as the ScoopFree with a rake that combs through the crystals and pushes the solid waste into a receptacle.
A sensor detects when the cat is in the box and initiates the rake action ten minutes after the cat has left the box.
If the cat re-enters the box again during that time the trigger cuts out, so that the rake won’t start moving while the cat is in the box.
The Petsafe does this too, but on the latest models you can decide how long you want the delay to be (so you don’t have to have a smelly poop sitting around for ten minutes)
With the Littermaid, you use your own regular cat litter (as long as it’s non clumping) rather than being provided with trays of litter – this is more economical than the Petsafe system.
The LitterMaid is twenty two inches long and nearly nine inches high, you can attach a ramp at the front to help the cat access the box but that will add another ten inches to the length of the box. Most young cats won’t need the ramp once they are used to using the litter box.
At over twenty-seven inches long, the Petsafe is a little shorter than the Littermaid with its ramp on, and it is about an inch wider. This is something to consider if you are fitting the machine into a narrow space.
The Litter Robot
The Litter Robot has been around for quite some time now and is very popular despite it’s high price. This is the most expensive automatic litter box we looked at.
The machine resembles a small cement mixer. It is a deep cylinder with a dark interior that can be softly lit at night if required.
Waste is collected in the carbon filtered drawer at the base of the machine, which you will need to empty every few days or so.
No shrinking violet, the Litter Robot is a substantial product. It’s 2’6″ tall and weighs 23lbs. It will however accommodate a large cat and there’s no risk of the cat scraping litter over the sides like there is in the flat litter boxes.
Best automatic litter box
The ScoopFree self cleaning litter box is our favorite. We think it is a smarter looking, and a more attractive design, than the Littermaid, and we like the fact that you just slot in a fresh tray, put the old one in the trash, and you are good to go.
It’s fairly quiet and it’s less obtrusive than the more expensive Litter robot,
If you are looking for a more economical automatic litter box, or one for a steamy bathroom, or a very narrow space, the LitterMaid may suit you better.
If your cat is a really messy pooper who throws litter around, then you might be better off with the Litter Robot.
Okay, let’s move on now, to every cat owner’s idea of perfection – a fully automatic, self cleaning, litter box that cleans itself AND disposes of the cat poop for you. Without you having to touch a thing!
Is this a pipe dream or reality?
Fully automatic self cleaning kitty litter box
One company that provide a self cleaning cat litter box that disposes of poop for you, is CatGenie. And their innovative product aiming to fill this space in the market is the CatGenie Self Washing Self Flushing Cat Box
The CatGenie is an ambitious project.
It looks very much like a small toilet, and in essence, that is what it is. But instead of containing water, it contains a special washable cat litter.
These granules are not absorbent and can be cleaned by the action of the machine.
The downside to this lack of absorbency is that the litter does not reduce odor. You have to initiate the cleaning cycle to get rid of smells.
How does the CatGenie work?
Your CatGenie will need to be hooked up to a cold water inlet, and the outlet hose can be placed into your washing machine outlet pipe or hooked over the edge of your toilet bowl.
The cleaning cycle has three phases
- Removal of solids
- Washing of the litter box
- Drying of the litter box
You can set the cleaning cycle to operate at a time convenient to you. The first thing that CatGenie does when the cleaning cycle begins is to filter out and liquify any solid waste.
This waste liquid is then flushed out through the outlet system.
If you have the outlet hose placed inside your washing machine outlet pipe, you won’t see this part of the process.
But if the hose goes into your toilet, unless you have a self flushing toilet, the waste liquid will sit there until someone flushes it. Which isn’t to everyone’s liking.
The next step in the cleaning cycle is the inside of the CatGenie itself. The bowl and the litter inside it are washed and scrubbed clean with a sanitary fluid. That too is then flushed away. No problems there, but there are some reports of problems in the final stage of the process
In order to dry the litter in the bowl, the CatGenie heats the granules up.
If by chance, and there are reports of this happening from time to time, a small amount of poop has been left in the bowl, it heats this too. That can produce quite a strong smell.
Is the CatGenie worth buying?
The CatGenie has had a mixed reception. Some say that the granules get easily carried around by the cat, a few others say it is noisy or smelly. But on balance, most owners do seem happy with their purchase. Some are very happy indeed.
It’s worth bearing in mind that this is fairly new technology and the company are probably still ironing out the bugs. But most of the recent reviews seem good.
If you have space in your laundry room for a CatGenie, or own a self flushing toilet, this may be a helpful addition to your home.
When should you buy an automatic litter box
Not everyone will need to invest in an automatic litter box. They are not cheap and if your cat will be allowed outdoors once he is adult, then it may not be worth spending the extra money.
If your cat lives indoors, on the other hand, you will be spending the next fifteen to twenty years scooping poop out of litter trays.
If the idea of automating that process and giving the job to a machine appeals to you, then an automatic litter box might be just what you need.
Which is the best automatic litter box?
We recommend the Petsafe ScoopFree litter box as the best automatic litter box this year. Choose the Ultra with the hood attachment if you have a messy cat.
The machine isn’t cheap but it will make an unlovable job into a once or twice monthly event instead of something you have to do every day.
And give you more time to spend cuddling your cat!
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