Self-Cleaning litter boxes sound great. After all, who really likes cleaning up the litter box after their cat has used it. But while it sounds great for us humans, does it work for every cat. Therefore, as a long time self-cleaning litter box user, I have compiled a list of pros and cons of a self-cleaning litter box which I have encountered.
Self-cleaning litter boxes come in many different shapes and sizes and they also clean litter boxes in different ways. You can find litter boxes that are open to the air or covered over. Plus, you can find litter boxes that rotate in order to clean or have a rake system and even litter boxes that can wash the cat litter. However, whichever type you choose all self-cleaning litter boxes have in common that you will not need to scoop litter ever again.
How Do Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes Work
Basically, all self-cleaning litter boxes do need a way of being aware that a cat is using it, or has used it. Therefore, many of these boxes have sensors that work on cat weight or motion to make sure that they do not run whilst your cat is actually using the box. And they need to register that a cat has used the box in order to perform a cleaning cycle.
Once, the litter has been raked, rotated or washed it is usually placed in a separate receptacle for you to empty. Some boxes may need emptying more often than others depending on use or you might just need to empty just once a week. This receptacle also keeps nasty odors enclosed inside.
As these litter boxes need sensors to work they do need access to some form of electrical outlet. So make sure that you have somewhere to put it before buying as you probably don’t want long wires all over your house.
Reasons for Getting a Self-Cleaning Litter Box
You may have a number of reasons for looking at a self-cleaning litter box. In my own case I have a very fastidious cat who will not use the litter box if it has been used earlier (and she does not do both a wee and a poop at the same time). Even with two litter boxes in the house I found that if she had urinated in one box earlier in the day and then another cat had used the other box, she would not then use the box to do a poop. Now I know people say, ‘well you could clean the box straight after use’. But how many of us are out all day working? Exactly, so you cannot clean out the box straight away. The same is true if your cats use the litter boxes overnight when you are asleep.
My other reason was that I was cleaning multiple litterboxes two or three times a day. Usually first thing in the morning, when I got home from work and also just before bed and it would take quite a bit of time especially when people live busy lives. I also found that I used up a lot more cat litter.
Also, if you have an open litter box and it has not been cleaned all day whilst you are at work you do come home to some rather noxious smells.
Therefore in my case, I thought a self-cleaning automatic litter box was the best option for both myself and my cats. But let’s have a look at some of the pros and cons of self-cleaning litter boxes.
- No need to constantly scoop litter. You just need to set the litter box up and it will clean automatically. You then just empty the litter when the receptacle is full.
- Keeps smells at bay. You no longer have urine or poop standing in the litter box for hours when you are out and unable to clean.
- Great for fastidious cats. If you have a fastidious cat then the litter box is always clean and ready for them to use.
- Good for multiple cat households. If you have multiple cats then the rule of thumb for how many litter boxes that you need is one for each cat plus one extra. So for three cats, you need four litter boxes scattered about your home. If you have a smaller home then finding somewhere to place four litter boxes can be difficult.
- Self-cleaning litter boxes are much more expensive than a plain litter-box. Costs do vary though between $100 to over $400 for very complex models. So you do need to see which box is within your budget.
- Some boxes do need a special litter or even replacement litter cartridges. This can add to the monthly cost of running a self-cleaning litter box and you need to make sure that you can easily find these replacements. Some boxes though can use normal clumping litter and you can use any type of garbage bag to collect the litter. Check out our reviews for more details.
- Noise. As a self-cleaning litter box has moving parts it can make a noise. This might be when it starts to rotate or even when it rakes the litter. This can frighten your kitty from using the box. Also if the self-cleaning mechanism goes off late at night you might hear it whilst asleep.
- Sensors. The sensors can fail though it is very rare that they do this (I have never had this happen in five years of automatic litter box ownership). This could mean that your cat is inside when the litter box starts to clean which again can frighten them.
- Litter Box Size. Cats prefer a roomier litter box over something that is tiny and cramped. Some automatic litter boxes though just have a small area for your cat to do its business and the rest of the box is taken up with the electronics and cleaning parts. So look around for the litter box that is large enough for your cat.
- Cat size. Due to these litter boxes having sensors that go off when your cat uses the box. Then there is sometimes a size or weight requirement for cats to use the box. For example, some boxes ask that your cat is at least 2 pounds in weight or more. Therefore, a self-cleaning litter box might not be useable with a new kitten.
- Cat dislikes the box. Cats are very sensitive to new things. Therefore, your cat might not actually like using a different litter box. This con is very much down to your own particular cat’s likes and dislikes.
Hopefully, the pros and cons above will help you make a decision about whether a self-cleaning litter box will be of use to your household. However, do remember not to force your cat to use this box and some cats may never take to using this different litter box. It is a good idea to keep an old litter box out for use whilst you are trying to transition your cat into getting used to the new litter box.
In my cat’s case, they have never been worried about the noise the litter box makes when it is cleaning. So much so that the kitten actually always wants to see what is happening when the cleaning cycle starts so she immediately rushes to the box and puts her head inside to see what is happening. This then kicks the sensor off so that the cleaning cycle stops (it restarts when she leaves). So I do get a cleaning cycle that stops and starts multiple times.
You may also find that you are not so aware of when your cat uses its litter box. Therefore, if your cat is straining to go to the toilet you might not pick up on this straight away. However, I do regularly check the litter collection area for signs of irregular poop or blood.
We have two cats, two regular litter boxes (for backups), and one self-cleaning litter box. The younger cat loves the self-cleaning model. But, the older cat is scared of its own shadow and will absolutely not go near it…she doesn’t like any types of motor noises, including vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, etc.
The self-cleaner works very well and we are hoping that eventually the “scaredy-cat” will gravitate toward at least giving our self-cleaning litter box a try…but, we are not holding our breath.
I think that, if the cats are helped to get used to the motor noises, they can adjust to the self-cleaning boxes over time, especially if they are younger.
Great article and the pros and cons are right on the money!
thanks for commenting. Yes my older cat took a bit more time to start using the box and so I kept another litter box very close. I used to put some of the old litter in the automatic box to try and encourage her
This is great, but I’d be a bit concerned that my cat would go to use the litter box as it’s cleaning itself, and might get spooked and not return to use it. My cat is very skittish (she’s a rescue and I think she was abused before – it took her months to trust me and I live alone, so whenever someone else comes over she gets very upset, hissing and scratching.) Would there be any way to schedule the litter box to clean itself at a given time so I can keep the cat away from it?
thank you for commenting and kudos to you for taking in a rescue cat that needed help. Some self cleaning boxes can be scheduled and you can also on some switch it off and then switch it back on for a cycle when your cat is out of the way. I did this initially with my kitten as she was too small for the sensor. I would wait for her to use the box then manually start the cycle.