Should You Buy an Automatic Cat Litter Box?

Pros and Cons of Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Boxes

Orange Tabby cat uses automatic cat litter box

Self-cleaning automatic litter boxes are everywhere on the web. From Litter-Robot to Cat Genie, the ads and reviews for automatic litter boxes are everywhere. But, before you decide which one is best for you and your cat, you need to figure out if you should even bother to invest in a self-cleaning cat litter box.

Why bother paying hundreds of dollars for one of these mechanized contraptions when for ten bucks you can get a litter tub at the local superstore? We think these boxes make a lot of sense for lots of cat owners (but not necessary for everyone), and here is why.

Happy family next to automatic cat litter box

What are the Pros of an Automatic Cat Litter Box?

Healthy

Having a clean box is healthier for a cat. They won’t accidentally step in a previous deposit and end up ingesting litter stuck to their feet. They also won’t strain in an awkward position as they try to balance themselves over a clean section of the box. This is particularly helpful for people who work long hours and aren’t home to clean the box multiple times a day.

No more daily scooping

Scooping a cat box daily or multiple times a day is annoying. No matter how hard you try and keep it clean, it seems the scoop tool is always germy. For pregnant women, daily scooping is even more of a challenge due to the risk of toxoplasmosis.

Reduce cat box rivalry

Cat box rivalry can be a real problem in multi-cat households. Some cats refuse to cover their poop as a show of dominance, which increases smell. Some owners report that cats who won’t go in a regular box after their housemate has used it, appreciate the clean litter bed of a self-scooping box. With an automated box, you may be able to reduce the number of box locations in your house.

Reduced smell

Automatic litter boxes usually have less smell than traditional boxes. This is because the urine and poop are no longer out in the open but are flushed away or captured in a container. No automatic litter box gets rid of the smell 100% but almost every automatic box we’ve tried does significantly reduce smell.

Cleaning Cat Litter Box

What are the Cons of an Automatic Cat Litter Box?

You’ll still need to the clean the box

Let’s first deal with one of the myths of automatic litter boxes. Just because you have an automatic box does not mean you will never need to clean the box.

Actually, “self-cleaning” may be the wrong term for these mechanized cat boxes. A more appropriate term would be “self-scooping”. You will no longer need to scoop a clump of cat urine or poop out of the box each day.  However, you will still need to take apart the box periodically to clean and disinfect all the parts.

When you do this deep cleaning, it’s going to take you longer and be more awkward due to the boxes having more components and requiring more care. With an old school plastic tub, you can just carry it out to your yard and hose it down. That’s not going to work with these boxes. However, you will be trading the extra time needed for deep cleaning versus the daily scooping time. In total, you’ll probably be ahead of the game.

Some cats may not fit

If your cat is a Maine Coon, the size of the boxes currently on the market will likely not be an option. Most of the automatic boxes have smallish beds of litter and many are enclosed. A large cat may find them awkward to use. And, you should never make your cat feel awkward when using the box. That’s just asking for accidents around your house.

Another consideration is the height of entry of many boxes. For elderly and feeble cats, some may have trouble stepping up into the box. An injured cat wearing a “cone of shame” should also always be provided an open cat box alterative.

Some cats are picky

Finally, some cats just don’t like automatic boxes. The boxes make a noise and some cats may require time to adjust. Cats are funny creatures and can be picky about their commode. It’s not completely unreasonable to be that way. After all, us humans are pretty picky about our commodes too.

Mechanized cat boxes are expensive

While some of the less expensive brands may only cost $150 or so, the more reliable brands and models can run close to $500. For people on a budget, they may need to prioritize vet visits and high quality food over an automatic box.

Summary of Self-Cleaning Litter Box Pros/Cons

PROS

  • Healthy for cats
  • No more daily scooping
  • Always a clean box
  • Reduce cat box rivalry
  • Less smell

CONS

  • Some cats don’t like them
  • Large cats may not fit
  • Elderly cats may have trouble with some models
  • More complex to deep clean
  • Expensive

Should you get a mechanical cat litter box?

So, who should splurge for an automatic cat litter box?

For most people with the financial resources to purchase one, they make sense. Most cats will adapt and grow to appreciate the luxury of always having a clean spot to relieve themselves.

If you’re on a tight budget, you may have other cat care priorities you need to tend first. If your cat is large or very old and feeble, the box won’t make sense.

If, after reading this, you believe an automatic cat litter box may be the best choice for you and your cat, check out our review of the Litter-Robot Connect.  We believe it is the best automatic cat litter box currently on the market today.

Don’t forget to check out our other kittytech product reviews.

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