We all want the best for our pets, but litter box duty can get onerous. Finding the right self-cleaning litter box can keep your home smelling fine, reduce your workload and, most importantly, keep your cat content.
In this guide we will compare models and features to help you choose the best self cleaning litter box for you and your furry friends.
7 Top Rated Litter Boxes For Cats
Brand & Model
# of Cats
Large Cat or Multi-Cat
Fast Hard Clumping
Up to 3 Cats
Large Cat or Multi-Cat
1 - 2 Cats
Fast Hard Clumping
1 - 2 Cats
1 - 2 Cats
1 - 2 Cats
What Is An Automatic Litter Box?
An automatic litter box is an electronic unit that sweeps away solid waste and clumped litter either via sensor or on a timer.
While these can be a nice addition to reduce odors and labor in your home, be aware that it's important to monitor your cat's bathroom activities and their comfort with the new electric cat litter box.
Most self-cleaning units are covered. This may cramp your cat's style because of size limitations and it will definitely contain any odor in the box. This may become unpleasant for your cat and lead to protest puddles and/or piles outside the litter box.
If you insist on a covered unit, get the largest unit you can to avoid the hassle of accidentally un-training your cat.
Automatic Litter Box Features
Cleaning Rakes & Litter Sifting
The scooping action of self-cleaning litter boxes is actually more of a rake. The mechanism that triggers the raking process is timed. If the sensor notices a cat in the box, the timer generally starts over.
Unless that sensor mechanism fails completely, your cat should not be at risk of injury from the raking process.
Some automatic litter boxes don’t use rakes at all. The following video is of the Litter Robot which rotates part of the unit to sift waste and allow it to drop in to a catch basin. Its timer and sensors are designed to prevent operation while your cat is inside.
Traditional litter boxes are emptied, but cat waste can make its way to the bottom and remain on the unit. Often once the litter and waste is removed, the box itself still needs to be cleaned to prevent odors and bacterial growth.
Many automatic litter boxes make use of disposable litter trays so that when they are removed the entire unit is basically clean. This of course adds to the monthly cost of the unit, but is much easier to maintain.
Timers & Sensors
Some boxes will count the number of times and frequency that your cat uses it. This could help you detect issues with the health of your cat and provide valuable information for your veterinarian.
Of course there are sensors to detect when your cat is inside the unit to prevent it from operating. It’s important that you follow the manufacturer’s directions on keeping these sensors clean and functioning properly.
Sleep Modes & Lockout
The motors that rake the litter and beeping alerts can be quite noisy during the night. Some boxes such as the Litter Robot have sleep modes to prevent these events from happening.
This unit also has a lockout feature to prevent your cat from accidently pressing buttons and activating features of the litterbox.
Since many litterboxes are enclosed to keep litter inside the unit, some units have a light to help your cat see during night time hours. However, cats have very good eye sight in dim conditions and this might be something that is not required.
It’s also important to note that if the litterbox is in a dark room and the light comes on it could scare your cat. Scaring your cat may cause enough stress to discourage it from using the litterbox again.
Types Of Cat Litter
Can I Use My Own Litter?
Most units require a clumping litter, but few limit your litter choices beyond that. One unit that does insist on a particular crystal litter is the ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter Box. This unit offers odor reducing crystallized litter in Blue, Lavender and Dye Free.
See Also: How To Dispose Of Cat Litter
It's important to note that both cats and humans can develop an allergy to litter. Per Elton Hunn, human cat litter allergies can actually manifest similarly to dander allergies. Red eyes, scratchy throat and sneezing can all indicate a cat litter allergy. Cats may develop skin irritations and sore feet when exposed to an allergen in their litter.
Nearly all clumping cat litters are comprised mostly of clay, and several contain odor-controlling chemicals and may be scented.
Any of these compounds can be a source of allergic discomfort for your cat. Before investing in an automatic litter box, it's a good plan to let your cat try out a few brands of litter and make sure they're not allergic.
Crystals vs. Clumps
One of the bonuses of the absorbent crystals is that their larger size reduces dust and makes them harder for the cat to track through the house.
However, if your cat does tend to track, these crystals are uncomfortable to walk on. Finding a large rubber mat to settle the litter box on will save you pain while barefoot.
Littermaid also produces an open rectangular litter box that uses clumping litter of your choice.
The mechanism on a Littermaid scoop loads waste into a plastic cartridge that can be easily discarded. This unit features high sides to allow your cat some protection and privacy and takes a fairly deep bed of litter for added odor control.
See Also: LitterMaid Reviews
Litter Box Types & Sizes
If your cat is comfortable using a covered litter box, you can probably switch them to a self-cleaning box easily enough.
Many self-cleaning boxes feature a highly raised edge for consistent litter control, but this can limit the square inches the cat can comfortably stand in while using the litter box. If you start to notice waste outside the box, the box is too small.
Can Two Cats Share A Litter Box?
Many cat owners use one litterbox for multiple cats. However, animal authorities with the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) recommend having at least one litter box available per cat, and one extra. Thus, if you have two cats, you need three litter boxes per the ASPCA.
If you have multiple cats and plan to invest in more litter boxes, you can purchase a self-cleaning model and an owner cleaning model or two and monitor your cat's preference.
Should your cats prefer the crystal litter in the self-cleaning model, you can plan to purchase another in the future to keep your cats happy and save you the work.
However, if your cats shun the crystal product, you may want to try a self-cleaning model that uses clumping litter next time around.
The placement of litter boxes is also critical. Cats need some privacy and a place free of disruption caused by other pets, people and mechanical noises like washer/dryers. Additionally, litter boxes should never be placed near food dishes.
Litter Boxes as Furniture
If your decor really doesn't allow for a plastic litter box, consider The Refined Litter Box by The Refined Feline, a free-standing cabinet with a side door for the cat and two front cabinet doors for the human.
This unit has space for a large litter box (self-cleaning or standard), drawers for cat toy storage, filter panels for the back to keep down odor, and can be altered so your cat can enter from the either end of the cabinet.
SEE ALSO: How To Keep Cats Off Furniture
How Often Do Litter Boxes Need Cleaned?
Self-cleaning boxes such as the Scoop-Free model only needs to be cleaned once a month. The crystals in the disposable pan absorb urine odor, and the solid waste capture unit has enough capacity to make this cleanup a breeze.
However, be sure you don't neglect your cat's health because the litter box waste is out of sight. It's important to monitor the condition of your cat's waste. If you notice the urine getting dark or foul-smelling, it's important to get your cat to the vet.
When cats develop urinary tract infections, they can associate the pain and misery of the illness with the litter box and may start urinating elsewhere.
Per cat behaviorists with The Catster it's critically important to clean standard litter boxes daily. Clumping litter gets hard for your cat to work with if it's allowed to settle.
No Direct Contact With Waste!
Scoop-Free offers an open litter box with a raking mechanism in addition to their covered unit. To clean the litter box, simply place a lid over the old litter and waste and discard; you don't have to manually scoop anything.
An open unit would be a great start if you have multiple cats in the house and want to introduce them to a self-cleaning litter box.
These crystals only need changed once a month; solid waste is moved and trapped via raking mechanism and urine is absorbed by the crystals.
Because there's no need to handle any waste, this is an ideal unit for pregnant cat owners. This unit also counts the number of times your cat uses it. As frequent urination can indicate infection, this is valuable information.
It should be noted that house training a cat is generally fairly easy. However, if your try to force a cat to use a litter box that's too small or too unfamiliar to them, it's also easy to un-house-train a cat.
What is the best litter box? Keep an eye out for any waste outside the box; this is how cats complain.
When changing from a standard litter box to a self-cleaning unit, move slowly. If the new unit needs a special litter, consider introducing some into the existing litter box to give your cat some time to adjust.
Did you enjoy this guide? Let us know in the comments with your favorite litter and self-cleaning litter box experiences.