Dealing with kitty litter can be the bane of a cat owner’s existence. However, owners have more options now than ever.
While a significant investment, automatic litter boxes offer several benefits to cat owners and cats. An automatic litter box can improve the life and even the long-term health of your kitty and make your life easier.
But how do they work, what are the best options for an automatic litter box in 2023, and should you buy one?
What Is an Automatic Litter Box?
Also known as a self-cleaning litter box, these litter boxes clean themselves, removing all the clumps of litter and any poop from your kitty without you needing to scoop the tray manually.
They’re designed for busy pet owners who don’t necessarily have the time to keep the litter box as clean as their cat wants it to be, simplifying the job so that you only need to empty out the waste receptacle every few days or, in some cases, every week or two.
How Does an Automatic Litter Box Work?
Automatic litter boxes work through different mechanisms designed to take any lumps out of the litter box. So this includes clumps of litter where your cat has peed and cat poop.
Different models work in different ways. For example, many automatic litter box models have an enclosed drum design. The drum rotates as part of a cleaning cycle and has a compartment where sifted litter falls, keeping it safe.
The bigger lumps don’t fit through the sieve. They will instead fall around the drum and ultimately out a hole into the waste receptacle at the bottom. The drum will continue rotating so the clean litter re-settles at the bottom.
The other main design for an automatic litter box is one with a rake. These don’t rotate but instead drag a rake through the little to collect your cat’s waste, pulling or pushing it into a waste receptacle at one end. These litter trays aren’t as good because they can break up litter clumps and leave a mess behind.
Regardless, both types of automatic litter boxes rely on clumping clay litter, or other clumping litter, because they need the pee to form a solid lump that either doesn’t fall through a sieve or that is collected by a rake. Crystal litter or other litter that absorbs pee won’t work.
Best Automatic Litter Box Choices
Here’s a look at five of the best self-cleaning litter boxes:
- Litter-Robot 4: This super-quiet box uses a rotating sifter cleaning method and is app compatible. It also features OdorTrap technology with a carbon filter to control odors.
- Litter-Robot 3 Connect: Similar to the Litter-Robot 4, this box also rotates to clean and is quiet. It also has an enclosed waste drawer and is app compatible.
- Popur X5: This box uses a lifting rake cleaning method and is quiet, but it is not app compatible. It also features an enclosed waste drawer.
- Pet Zone Smart Scoop: This litter box uses a rake cleaning method, is quiet, and has an enclosed drawer with a carbon filter to control odors. However, it is not app compatible.
- Lavviebot S: This litter box uses a rake cleaning method, is quiet, and is app compatible. It features a gel deodorizer and an enclosed waste drawer.
Litter-Robot 4 is the latest in the Litter-Robot line. It offers significant improvements over earlier models thanks to its QuietSift cleaning cycle and the excellent OdorTrap feature, which minimizes smells. In addition, it has an improved step entrance into the globe design to reduce litter tracking and is app-compatible, helping you monitor your cat’s habits and litter levels.
Litter-Robot 3 Connect
The Litter-Robot 3 Connect is an earlier Litter-Robot that still offers excellent convenience, reasonable odor control, and the option to monitor your cat’s toilet habits via the Whisker app. It’s missing the advanced odor tech and quiet sift mode from the Litter-Robot 4, but since it is the older model, it comes in at a lower price point.
The Popur X5 suits bigger cat breeds and has a large, open design. It uses an advanced rake with an accordion-style lifter to drop the waste into the box once the lid is automatically opened. This means it doesn’t force its way through the clumping litter to break it up. However, concerns have been raised about safety as it re-rakes the kitty litter – make sure the protective fence is in place to stop your cat from getting trapped and that it has the latest firmware updates installed.
Pet Zone Smart Scoop
The Pet Zone Smart Scoop is an open-air automatic litter tray that uses a rake to push clumped litter and solid waste into a sealed waste bin. It is one of the cheapest options for a self-cleaning litter box, but it needs many features that rivals offer.
The Lavviebot S is a litter box with a covered compartment that uses a gentle rake to push used litter into a sealed waste compartment, where a gel deodorizer (replaceable) helps to neutralize smells. It has its own smart app and can also refill the litter automatically. However, cleaning it out every 3-4 weeks is recommended.
Another option is a self-washing cat box from CatGenie, which claims to be litter-free. Instead, it uses washable granules that are non-absorbent. The litter box is connected to the plumbing in your bathroom, and urine is flushed away. At the same time, solids are liquified and then flushed. While this may sound convenient, reviews are mixed.
Pros of Using an Automatic Litter Box
There are several reasons to consider buying an automatic litter box.
Automatic litter boxes save you time (they clean themselves). Some automatic litter boxes use a timer, but most use sensors, so they clean up after every time your cat has been to the toilet.
Because you can leave it to do its thing, you only need to empty the waste receptacle once it’s full and then top up the litter once in a while too. It makes managing your cat’s litter tray much lighter, removing all those manual scoops from your to-do list daily.
Comfort for Your Cat
Because your cat’s litter box is automatically cleaned every time the kitty uses it, it makes for a more pleasant bathroom environment every time they do need to use it. They never risk entering their litter tray to find other clumps of urine or solid waste, and they’ll always enjoy a fresh environment.
App Controls That Can Warn of Health Issues
Some models, including the Litter-Robot 3 Connect litter box and the Litter-Robot 4, have a compatible smartphone app that monitors how much your cat uses the litter tray. This is handy because it helps you understand when you need to buy new litter, but more importantly, it lets you keep track of your cat’s bathroom habits.
For example, it can send notifications when your kitty is either not using the litter tray as often as usual, or they’re over-using it. These can indicate health problems, and you can tackle them as soon as they become apparent.
Another potential benefit of using automatic litter trays is the long-term savings you might enjoy. When manually scooping litter, you often over-scoop – removing clean litter and the mess left behind. With automatic litter boxes, especially those with a drum design, all of the good litter is kept, and only the solid waste and urine clumps fall into the waste drawer.
The amount of litter you’ll save with every cleaning cycle is minimal, but over time could add up to a few bags, and there is less dust in the air too.
Many of the best self-cleaning cat litter trays can help with odor control by sealing away your cat’s deposits in the waste compartments. Sometimes they’re combined with a carbon filter, too, capturing more of the particles which cause odors. An automatic litter box can help to keep all those nasty smells hidden.
Also, since most self-cleaning litter trays are enclosed, it can eliminate problems for high-spraying cats who might otherwise pee above the walls of their litter tray. Just be aware that automated litter boxes won’t clean their sides, so if your cat does spray high, you’ll need to wipe them down occasionally to sanitize them.
Cons of Using an Automatic Litter Box
These boxes aren’t perfect. Let’s look at the drawbacks.
Automatic litter boxes that move independently can spook your feline. Usually, they won’t cause problems with your cat exiting or entering the litter box – most have safety sensors to stop them from moving if they detect a cat is inside or about to enter. But if they move just as your cat approaches, the noise could deter your cat from using them.
That’s why it’s worth researching to find the best litter box for cats, to see which is quietest alongside other factors you’ll be considering.
Glitches and Tech Problems
They may be dull, but traditional litter boxes will never have technical glitches!
Of course, most automatic litter trays work fine, but there may be occasional hitches with the tech. While your cat could still technically use an automated litter box that isn’t working – they don’t have doors that close, after all – they can be harder to clean if they have a smaller opening manually.
Speaking of which…
Enclosed Space and Size
Many automated litter boxes may seem large, but the interior space might be slightly restrictive for larger cats. For the biggest cats, it could cause issues such as poop getting stuck in fur if they don’t have the space they need.
Also, some cats may need time to adjust because they can be relatively enclosed. Cats often feel vulnerable going to the bathroom. While the privacy these litter trays afford is valuable, it can also make cats feel less safe if they can’t look out for threats. A happy cat experience is one where they feel private but have a good view of their surroundings.
Be patient, and you can train your kitty to feel comfortable with your automatic litter box. However, it’s essential never to force a cat to use one they don’t like. Otherwise, they could cause health problems by avoiding using the box altogether.
Some automated litter boxes are prohibitively expensive. Over the long term however, considering the benefits like savings on litter, they are usually still worth buying for many cat owners.
If you can’t afford one, look out for finance deals if you’re happy buying one on credit. It’s also important to keep tabs on special offers. For example, you can often save big with a Litter Robot coupon.
Should You Buy an Automatic Litter Box for Your Cat?
Buying a self-cleaning cat litter box is a good choice for busy cat owners who don’t have time to scoop out litter daily. The top picks above help you always keep a clean litter box for your kitty.
Automatic self-cleaning litter boxes need to be emptied every few days. You can use bags as liners, or some models work with disposable trays instead that you can just lift out and throw in the trash.
Is Litter Robot worth it? It depends on your kitty, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most popular brands of automatic litter boxes.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Jenny Dean is the founder of Floppycats.com, a website dedicated to uniting (Ragdoll) cat lovers worldwide. Since 2008, Jenny’s no bull-crap and honest approach to cat care helps cat owners live more harmoniously with their kitties.