Choosing an Automatic Cat Litter Box: Buying Guide

Choosing an Automatic Cat Litter Box: Buying Guide

With an automatic cat litter box, you’ll spend less time cleaning up – and more time enjoying your pet’s company.

All automatic litterboxes come with the main goal of reducing odor in your home. The simplest designs scoop waste out of the main litter tray and store it in a closed bin that is emptied at regular intervals, while the most advanced models hook into your home’s plumbing system and flush waste away like your own toilet does. Each offers convenience, along with a variety of features that appeal to different pet owners.

If you are thinking about getting a self-cleaning litter box for your cat, you have probably seen some of the models available. Some are quite inexpensive, while others cost a few hundred dollars. Some require you to use a special type of litter, and some give you the option of sticking with your favorite brand.

We have written this buyer’s guide to provide you with valuable insight concerning the advantages and disadvantages of some of the most popular self-cleaning litter boxes, so that you can head into the shopping process well-informed and ultimately make a decision that you’re happy with.


Types of Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes

Before choosing an automatic cat box, you’ll find it helpful to know a bit about each basic type. We’ll begin with the simplest, least complicated one and move on to the one with the most features.


Basic Uncovered Automatic Litter Boxes

SmartScoop Automatic Self-Cleaning Litter Box-1

The first type of self-cleaning litter box is the basic, uncovered one, which has a rectangular shape. The SmartScoop and Pet Zone Smart Scoop litter boxes fall into this category. They both offer simple operation, and each of them has a sensor inside that activates the cleaning cycle more than 10 minutes after your pet leaves the box.

The best models, like the ones we’ve reviewed do a good job of holding in waste odor, thanks to activated charcoal filters. They let you empty the waste receptacle quickly and easily, and they work with biodegradable bags so that less plastic ends up in landfills.

One of the main advantages to these automatic litter boxes is that they work very well with your choice of clumping cat litter, including eco-friendly types.

The main disadvantage to uncovered litter boxes is that some cats really do prefer a private place to take care of their bathroom needs. We got around this by placing them inside of a litter box enclosure that looks like an end table. Problem solved!


Fully Contained Automatic Litter Boxes

Litter Robot LRII-2

At the other end of the spectrum are litterboxes that are completely contained. We only reviewed one of these – the Litter Robot II. It gives your cat plenty of privacy, and it makes for less litter spilled over the side when cats are vigorously digging, or when they jump out sideways.

The Litter Robot II also drops waste into a hidden chamber, and it offers the advantage of working with your favorite brand of clumping cat litter. It costs a bit more than some other types, however you don’t ever need to purchase a separate cover, and you don’t have to buy any special supplies to ensure that it works properly.


Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes with Optional Covers

Scoop Free Self Cleaning Litter Box-2

Many self-cleaning litter boxes come with optional covers. We reviewed just one of these: The ScoopFree Automatic Cat Litter Box. This model can be used covered or uncovered, and it does a good job of controlling odor thanks to a rake that transfers solid waste into a receptacle that you empty periodically.

Liquid waste is absorbed by crystal cat litter, which comes in disposable trays that serve as the bottom portion of the unit. The main disadvantage to this is expense, however there’s an option called the Forever Tray that lets you use your choice of crystal cat litter instead of going with the pre-filled trays provided by the company.

We liked the fact that the ScoopFree litter box produced very little dust in comparison to the ones that work with clumping cat litter. It’s worth noting here that some of the models that call for clumping cat litter can also be used with crystals, so if that’s the type of litter you and your cat prefer, then you do have some options.


Flushing Cat Litter Boxes

Pet Zone Smart Scoop Automatic Litter Box-1

We reviewed the CatGenie Self-Washing Self-Flushing cat box and were impressed with it. The upfront cost is a bit higher than most other automatic litter boxes, and you do have to periodically add more of the plastic pellets that serve as litter. However, this unit completely flushes your cat’s waste away, just like a toilet. It leaves your home smelling clean, and cats appreciate having pristine litter every time they need to go.

The biggest drawback to the flushing litter box is that you have to either hook it up next to a toilet, or in a laundry room. You must have a cold water line and a waste water drain or toilet in order for it to work properly, so keep this in mind if you’re considering adding this unit to your home.

While you don’t have to empty any waste receptacles with this type of litter box, you do need to do periodic maintenance to ensure that it operates correctly. You must use CatGenie’s sanitizing solution, which provides a certain number of cleanouts per unit, kind of like a printer cartridge. While this adds expense, it’s definitely a very convenient litter box that requires very little effort on your part after installation.

Consider Your Reasons for Wanting a Self-Cleaning Litter Box and Read Reviews

Before choosing a self-cleaning litter box, it’s a good idea to spend some time thinking about what will work best for you and your cat. Your goals might have changed now that you know a little bit more about what to expect! By making a quick checklist, you’ll find it faster and easier to compare your needs with the features on available models.

Once you have narrowed your choices down to just a few options, it’s a good idea to read some reviews to see what others have experienced while using these automatic litter boxes with their pets. This is sure to pay off, particularly if you read with a critical eye for details. Some tips for reading self-cleaning litter box reviews follow:

  • Look for reviews that talk about various features on the litter box you are considering, and don’t give much weight to the ones that simply say that the unit is fantastic or terrible without providing some explanation for the opinion. You want to learn as much as you can before making an investment in an automatic cat litter box.
  • Look for self-cleaning litter box reviews that break the machines’ features down and provide specific information about how they work, and what is required in terms of supplies. What kind of litter do they use? Do you have to purchase special supplies from the manufacturer? Do they give your cat privacy, or will you need to make some kind of accommodations for this? You’ll be surprised at the kinds of details you will find when you start reading reviews.
  • Recognize that as with all “automatic” things, self-cleaning litter boxes are manufactured in factories where things can and do go wrong. Even the best or highest-priced automatic litter boxes might fail straight from the box. Defects are usually covered by warranties, and you shouldn’t let a few scary reviews prevent you from trying the model that appeals to you most.

Where to Buy a Self-Cleaning Litter Box

While some large pet stores sell one or two different types of self-cleaning litter boxes, brick and mortar stores don’t usually have a large selection to choose from. You are most likely to find the model you want at a price that appeals to you by shopping online at sites that carry a wide variety of merchandise, i.e. Amazon.

Remember to factor in the unit’s cost, supplies that you’ll need, different features, convenience, and of course quality as you make your decision. Just the fact that you’ll no longer be saddled with the daily task of scooping up after your cat is worth something, and is sure to make a positive difference in your life as well as in the way your home smells.

All in all, the best automatic litter box is the one that meets your budget, works with the kind of litter that you prefer, and keeps your home smelling fresh and clean without much work on your part.

Anne Kennedy

Hi! I’m Anne Kennedy, a nonfiction author, dedicated foodie, and contributor to Top 5 Reviews. I started contributing to this site in 2015 with the goal of helping others select quality home goods that help make busy lives easier. It’s interesting – and a lot of fun – to test things like bread machines, juicers, and of course coffee makers, learn what different models have to offer, and see how they compare with one another before passing my findings about the best ones on to you. Happy hunting!

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