The toilet habits of our pets are something that we don’t want to be reminded of all that often. It is much easier for pet owners, especially cat owners, to know that their companion is able to take care of business themselves without the need for clean-up. This is the case with some cat litter products, but not all. The basic cat tray has fallen out of favor due to the on-going task of cleaning, the sight and the smell. The cat litter box is preferable as it hides the mess, but they still tend to require a little more effort and manual cleaning work than owners would like. The only option here is to upgrade to a self cleaning model. There are some that are pretty straight forward options with easy cleaning methods and others that provide full automation for a hands-free experience.
The Appeal of the Self Cleaning Cat Litter Box
There are some models of cat litter box that provide an easier approach to cleaning and maintenance. Instead of providing nothing more than a static container with litter inside, there are mechanisms and special compartments that minimize the need for manual waste disposal. This sounds like it should be the ideal step-up from the typical litter box, especially for those that hate scooping the waste and cleaning out clumping litter. There are different approaches to this hands-on, mechanized approach to a self-cleaning cat litter box, but the most interesting is the hand-turned roller.
1. Omega Paw Large Self Cleaning Litter Box
This model is perhaps one the most conventional looking litter boxes on offer of the models mentioned here – even if it does claim to be “unique looking”. In fact, while many the others below use strange sensors, flushing mechanisms and unusual types of litter, this box sticks with the more familiar clumping litter. Still, it has a clever scooping motion to reduce the need for manual cleaning. This is achieved by rolling the box so the waste sieves through the grate and clean litter remains.
It is a simple approach and when it works, it works well. Yet, there will be times when it doesn’t get rid of everything. This isn’t as much of a hands free, fully automated model as others because it doesn’t have all the sensors, electronics and other bells and whistles. There are also some concerns over the durability of the plastic, especially the latches. This seems to be one of those love it or hate it designs in terms of functionality and look, and there is the sense that improvements are there to be made on future models for a more effortless approach and stronger build.
2. Omega Paw Elite Roll n Clean Self Cleaning Litter Box
This self-cleaning model uses the same motions and ideas as the Roll n Clean Self Cleaning Litter Box, but just a prettier version with chrome accents. This alternative version is a little more cozy for cats that want a secure space to do their business, but retains the same mechanisms and many of the same features for that slightly more convenient approach to dealing with the waste. Again, the results can be a little hit and miss, but the simplicity and ease of use has its charm. There are no concerns about finding the best location for this box because of the lack of power, which also means there is no risk of an electronic malfunction or high energy costs.
There are some clear issues with these so-called self-cleaning litter boxes
While they have the potential to make the job a lot easier for cat owners, and reduce some of the cleaning needs, they don’t always go far enough to be worthwhile. This is clear with the effort needed to roll the Omega Paw model. The term self cleaning suggests a form of automation and hands free experience that some of the best non-automated self-cleaning options cannot actually provide. In fact, many see the term non-automated self-cleaning litter box as something of an oxymoron. If it can do everything itself, then what is the point? This is when cat owners are drawn over to the fully automated models instead.
Why do Some Cat Owners Prefer the More Expensive Fully Automated Models?
The truly automated cat litter boxes are the ones that work on their own cycle – sensing waste, triggering movements with the rakes and sieves and collecting waste day after day. There are some clear benefits to this approach over some of the more hands-on models seen above. For a start, the best models really can keep on top of the situation for a long time without any need for maintenance and interference. There are some that have enough litter, often crystal forms, and enough power to ensure that there is no risk of the machine becoming clogged or smelly, and cats can go as often as they need. Many of them also offer a hygienic, simple disposal option for those times when human owners do need to check the litter, empty the containers or reprogram the settings. The computerized settings are also often pretty easy to work out.
Unfortunately, there are also some disadvantages to opting for these fully automated models. There is the potential that owners will become too complacent and leave the machine alone too long. This can be a problem when a fault develops or dirt builds up on the rake and needs a manual clean. There is also a good chance that a machine that is too clever will scare some of the more skittish cats that don’t understand all the noises and movements. If they won’t use their fancy new cat litter box, it is worthless. Finally, there is the fact that these automated machines need to be plugged in for consistent power or, in the case of the flushing model below, plumbed in. This can be an issue for energy usage and limit the number of locations for the box within a home.
1. ScoopFree Ultra Self Cleaning Automatic Litter Box.
This ScoopFree litter box is a highly popular option when it is the Ultra model with the additional privacy hood, this is because this creates an interesting blend between the litter tray and the litter box. It isn’t the large, fully enclosed model of some of the litter boxes that you can find, but the privacy hood does help to provide some security, and contain the mess and odor a little better. This odor control also comes from the fact that this model uses a special crystal litter for better absorption of the urine and fast dehydration. There is less mess and a generally more hygienic approach, this continues with the waste collection for the solid waste, although some of this can get caught on the rake, which does mean some occasional manual cleaning to keep everything nice and fresh.
This “ultra” model also has plenty of automated features to place this at the top of the pile for those looking for a clever, hands-free experience. The first feature here is the sensor that periodically detects the waste and initiates the rake to direct all the waste into the container. The second is the health counter that tracks the cat’s use of the box. This can alert users to signs of more frequent use or other changes that may indicate issues. However, if an owner is not looking to check this machine that often and prefers to leave it alone, they may miss this information.
2. CatGenie Self Washing Self Flushing Cat Box
Flushing cat boxes can sound a little extreme for some cat owners, but then there are others that see those videos online of a domesticated cat trained to use a human toilet and feel that these flushing machines are the next best thing. There is an immediate positive factor here to these devices. A flushing system means that the waste is washed away and the box stays clean far more easily than a typical cat litter box. This is even more hygienic and appealing for cat owners that don’t want the home at risk of odor and mess. There is also the benefit with this CatGenie model that more than one cat can use it – provided they are not too big or too young.
The immediate negative issue with this model is the work that goes into setting it up. As you would expect, it requires a hook up to the water supply and electrics in order to work. It also needs the right litter – washable granules not standard litter – and all the right solutions and fixtures. The kit does comes with the necessary hose for the water supply and drain, a box of litter and a recyclable SaniSolution cartridge, but the latter two do need to be replaced. The other downside of this fully automated system is that is isn’t particularly attractive and cannot be hidden from guests all that easily. It is a functional toilet, and certainly looks like one.
3. CatGenie Dome Cover
Having said this, there is a solution to the issue of the ugly look of this flushing cat litter box, and that is the CatGenie GenieDome. This is essentially a cover that fits over the toilet of the CAT Genie Self Washing Automatic Cat Box to provide the privacy that some cats desire. There are four separate sections that clip together and fit snugly over the dome to hide the bowl. The makers claim that this is designed to “satisfy your cat’s needs”, but it is pretty clear that the main aim here is to smarten up the product in the home and appease the owners, rather than the cat. There are some flaws to this approach as many cats that like to use the flushing model will perch on the rim, something that is no longer possible when converting this model into a den-style latrine. Yet, it does seem to suit those animals that struggle with the open-feel of the toilet design and are used to cat litter boxes. There are also owners that appreciate the way that the dome contains the mess.
4. Litter-Robot III Open Air Automatic Self Cleaning Litter Box.
The specification for this device suggests plenty of beneficial elements that should make it ideal for cat owners that want this fully automated hands-free experience from their cat litter box. It claims to require infrequent maintenance with its fully automatic system. Then there is the intriguing shape of this “robot”, as it seems to be a more attractive, space saving model – even though it claims to be ideal for multiple cats. This, plus the promises of durable construction and reduced litter needs, are all great selling points for this device.
There are plenty of positive comments from happy buyers that love the design and the waste containment system. However, the promise of that infrequent maintenance isn’t entirely true, as the waste bag does need to be changed every few days and the device has to be taken apart to be cleaned. This means it is no better than the ScoopFree Ultra in this regard. The other factor to consider here is that this model is a little too foreign for some cats, who understandable refuse to use it. The high entry point wont be to the liking of all cats either.
So which is best? Automated or non-automated cat litter box?
The positive points seen with these four models show the potential of the fully automated cat litter box as a means of dealing with the waste of our feline friends. For the most part, they are more appealing with their computerized parts and that true sense of a hands-free experience. Yet, they can still go wrong and still need some maintenance for the best in functionality. In the end, there is a clear choice here. On the one side, there is the simplistic self-cleaning model that is cheaper and can go anywhere in the home, but isn’t as clever or convenient. On the other, there is the clever model that is limited in its place within the home and more expensive. It all comes down to your priorities when it comes to the best specifications and functions, and just how badly you don’t want to get your hands dirty.
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