The Best Self Cleaning Litter Boxes for Your Kitty
The truth is that the one thing that cat owners hate about their cats is the litter box. That's why there has been a rush on automatic kitty litter cleaning machines as of late. The problem is that these units come in a variety of price ranges and have seriously different effectiveness. Being the owner of three cats, I jumped at the opportunity to own one of these magic machines that promised to take the yuck out of cat litter duty. I looked at five different models before opting for one of the lower end models. Not that the high end ones are all bad, just that I couldn't see myself dropping $300 for a self cleaning litter box.
Omega Paw Self-Cleaning Litter Box
The Omega Paw Self-Cleaning Litter Box is the cheapest on this list at $44.99, but it’s not exactly “self-cleaning” as you need to actually do the work for it. The cleaning mechanism is really quite simple. After your cat has used the litter box (with clumping litter) you manually roll the litter box onto its right side where a straining mechanism allows the unclumped litter to drain back into the basin while the larger clumps and any feces is caught in an upper collection drawer. Simply pull the drawer out and dump the waste into the trash.
One of the claims of the Omega Paw is that it controls the dust that can be stirred up by cats or owners while dealing with the litter. Although this is semi-true, the dust can still escape the opening and if the drawer is pulled out immediately after the box has been rolled, the dust may still be a problem.
This unit is large enough for two cats and measures 19-1/2” by 22” by 20.” If your cat does not like litter boxes that are enclosed, this unit will not work for you. The entire premise of the mechanism is to use the rounded top as a funnel to direct the waste into the collection drawer.
For the price, however, it is a great way to keep from having to stoop over and use a scoop every time your pet uses the restroom. On the aesthetic side, it looks like a big plastic cat litter box and is best kept out of sight.
PetSafe Simply Clean Continuous-Clean Litter Box
The PetSafe Simply Clean Continuous-Clean Litter Box uses a rotating cleaning arm to scoop away clumps of urine and cat scat and deposit them in a plastic bag on the inside of a closed container at the side of the unit. The closed container keeps the smell contained and because the arm moves at a very slow rate (one rotation per hour) the cat can use it while it’s on without being disturbed.
The unit allows the owner to set the number of cleanings per day; anywhere from one to twenty four depending on your needs. This unit is suggested for 12 pound cats but really, any cat that doesn’t mind being half in and half out of the box can use this one. The circular design makes it look a bit more sophisticated than the rectangular units, and it could be kept out in a public room if necessary.
The $129.99 price makes it the most affordable completely automatic litter box system out there. The only thing you need to do is remove and replace the collection bag when it gets full. There are fully recycled bags available for purchase (or you can use plastic bags from your grocery shopping if you are ultra green).
ScoopFree® Self-Cleaning Litter Box
The ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter Box was designed by MIT students for their own cats. The rectangular box is actually a two part unit consisting of one top and a litter containing tray with a collection plate beneath it. The litter box comes with blue crystal odor absorbing litter to eliminate odors, and the motion sensor rake activates 20 minutes after your cat has left. If the cat reenters before the 20 minutes are up, the rake timer resets.
This set-up eliminates the tracking of litter throughout the house, the cat box urine smell, and the hassle of cleaning the box for up to 30 days (depending on the number of cats using it). It is a great idea except for the disposable tray. The initial cost of $99.99 is fine, but the replacement trays cost $15 each. If you have multiple cats, this can get expensive. Based on the advertisements, if you have three cats, you could be shelling out up to $60 a month on replacement cartridges.
It’s a good system with a single fatal flaw, which is the pricey refills. A litter box that could cost over $700 a year in maintenance just doesn’t fit into most budgets.
LitterMaid Elite Mega Automatic Self-Cleaning Litter Box
This unit operates with a motion sensor rake that activates ten minutes after your cat has left the litter box. When the rake has been idle for a considerable period of time overnight, the ionic cleaner will kick in order to ensure a clean smelling box. The fact that it uses Ionic technology is a concern as ionizing the air causes it to be more likely to stick to any surface, including the interior of the lungs of a cat or human that inhales it. Yes, the smell is gone, but the long term health effects may not be worth it.
While this is a good idea in theory, and with the help of good advertising, it is one of the best selling automatic litter boxes on the market, there are several other problems with the LitterMaid Elite Mega Automatic Self-Cleaning Litter Box.
The motor on this unit is amazingly loud; one Amazon reviewer likened it to a paper shredder. The unit grates and whines loudly enough to interrupt television viewing, and it takes almost five minutes to complete the cleaning process. The rack is also easily stopped and hangs up on large clumps of litter. You might spend more time finagling with the rake then it would take to manually clean out the litter box.
Another major downfall of this unit is the considerably undersized collection bin at the base of the unit. One cat will easily fill this every three to four days meaning you’ll go through seven or eight replacements a month. At $19.99 for 18 of them, you’ll be buying a new set every three months at an $80 cost per year. While not as bad as the ScoopFree in terms of cost, the terrible performance of this unit makes it a no buy.
Save your $169.99 and your lungs by avoiding this unit at all costs.
CatGenie 120 Self-Washing Self-Flushing Cat Box
The $259.99 CatGenie 120 Self Washing Self Flushing Cat Box comes with a huge upfront cost, but it will pay for itself in about a year. This self cleaning litter box looks like a mini toilet and is best set up in the bathroom near your own.
This amazing gadget hooks into your cold water supply and waste pipe just like a normal toilet. The “litter” is a special granule that stays in the pan at all times.
This is how the unit works: The cat uses the bathroom. Liquid waste is washed down the drain of the unit while the granules stay put. The scoop hand removes solid waste to a closed compartment where it is liquefied and flushed down the drain as well. The unit cleans itself with a sanitizing spray, and a hot air drier dries out the litter granules. There is no waste other than that deposited by your cats. The sanitizer needs to be replaced every 120 washes, so if your cat uses the box three or four times a day, you may have to purchase a new cartridge every month at $25 each, but it is more likely you’ll get one every two to three months for one cat.
Now for the down side to this amazing machine. The cleaning/sanitizing mode takes about 15 minutes. If you have multiple cats or a cat with diarrhea, you may end up with a mess in front of the box. The granules are ultra static prone and will get stuck to your cat's paws. A litter mat should be used with it. Some cats will like to play in the warmed granules, thus resetting the cleaning mode. If this happens, your sanitizing cartridge will run out very quickly.
This unit is not a bad choice if your cat isn’t into digging in the warmth or the litter and doesn’t have urinary or diarrhea problems.
Litter Robot LRII Automatic Self-Cleaning Litter Box
At $369.00, the Litter Robot LRII Automatic Self-Cleaning Litter Box might be the most expensive pet toilet I’ve ever seen (disregarding the gold ones I saw on LifeStyles of the Rich and Famous). Let me say this, it’s worth every penny.
This is a mess free, odor free, almost maintenance free unit that works on a simple design. The unit is essentially a spherical, automated version of the Omega Paw.
Here are the differences: The Litter Robot is aesthetically pleasing and would be at home in any modern or contemporary living area. It works on a weight sensor system that activates seven minutes after the cat leaves the box instead of on a motion sensor, so there is no chance of the sensor getting blocked and not working. The unit’s collection pan uses standard kitchen bags and not some pricey alternative. This means that more waste can be stored, and it needs to be emptied less frequently. Dust is almost non-existent as the unit turns slowly enough not to stir up the sedentary particles. Of course, you will need to replace the litter every month or so, but this keeps the maintenance costs well below those of the other high priced automatic litter boxes.
This self cleaning litter box gets two enthusiastic paws up from my cat, and I bet it will get the same from yours.