Our Top Pick for 2016: Litter-Robot III Open-Air Automatic Self-Cleaning Litter Box
Read our full review.
Cats are some of the most curious, loyal, and independent pets. These lithe, furry friends can enrich our lives, foster a sense of companionship, and even be a boon to our health. Unlike dogs, most cats aren’t walked outside when they need to do their business, so they’ll need to use a litter box to relieve themselves. As cat parents, it’s our job to clean these litter boxes from time to time and as we get older, or as our personal schedules grow ever more complicated, this can become something of a hard to manage chore. Fortunately, there’s a type of litter box solution that will make cleaning up after your favorite feline much easier: a self cleaning litter box. These boxes use motorized devices or even physical momentum to clear your litter of cat waste. Since the advent of the Cat Genie, there have been many competitors in the field of cat waste management, so to make things easier, we’ve rounded up the four best that are available on the marketplace.
Table of contents
- #1 Gold Pick (1st Place Winner)
- #2 Silver Pick (2nd Place Runner-Up)
- #3 Bronze Pick (3rd Place)
- #4 Budget Pick (Best Cheap)
Flushes Waste Away
Fully Automatic Litter Box
Self-cleans For Weeks
Washes Itself Clean
Great For Multiple Cats
Instantly Removes Odors
Uses Litter-like Washable Granules
Saves Up To 50% On Litter
Locks Away Solid Waste
Requires Hookup To Cold Water
Tracks Cat’s Usage
Ideal For 1-3 Cats
90-day Money-back Guarantee
Adjustable Timer For Automatic Rake
#1 Gold pick (Winner): Litter-Robot III Open-Air Automatic Self-Cleaning Litter Box
View it on Amazon for $649.98*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Anyone who’s read sci-fi will know that we’ll eventually have robots doing all of our menial chores. Enter: the Litter-Robot III. This oval litter box, while not a true robot, is designed to almost fully automate your cat’s bathroom cleanup. Established by engineer Brad Baxter in 1999, the Litter Robot was developed to reduce the daily grind of litter box cleaning. Since the company’s inception, there have been three products bearing the Litter-Robot moniker; each of them performing admirably for cat owners over the company’s 17 year history.
The first thing you’ll notice about this somewhat ovoid litter box, is that it has a very eye-like form factor that may or may not remind you of a certain Mordor-based watcher. As a Gold Pick, this is also one of the more well-regarded automatic litter cleansers on the market today. Seemingly, critics and consumers appreciate the elegant way that it manages litter waste. There is one slight caveat though; the device is rather large, so be sure that it will fit neatly where you intend to put it. Its measurements are 26.8 in width, 24.4 inches in depth, and a very tall 29.1 inches in height. Weight-wise, the whole device is somewhat hefty, at 23.2 pounds.
Physically, it certainly has some great features, including a ridged step so that you beloved feline can get in and out of the box easily, and an internal LED-based nightlight that is perfect for helping older cats locate their litter box.
So how does this little gem function? Similarly to other products in the Litter-Robot line of devices, once your cat has done his or her business, the entire circular mid section rotates in a counter-clockwise direction. Both solid and liquid waste are then collected through centrifugal force and deposited via gravity into a catch bin at the base of the device. A light will shine when it’s time to change the litter in the catch bin, and removal is accomplished by simply lifting up on the removal bag and disposing of the waste.
When your cat is done doing his or her duty, the cat box will wait three to seven minutes before starting the cleaning process. The amount of time that the box waits to clean the litter will vary based on your settings. Also, as part of a sensor system that helps manage cleaning times, when your cat steps into the globe section itself, the device will take note of his or her presence and begin the cleaning process once he or she has left the device. To adjust the box’s behavior, you can simply set it up for the best intervals using the panel that’s located on the right side of the device. There is also a lock out function so that a particularly smart cat or young child won’t think to start the cycle repeatedly.
The main litter area is designed to ergonomically fit even larger cats and the larger opening is designed to give your cat a feeling of open air. Fortunately, the dip from opening to the floor of the box is deep enough that even the most rambunctious kickers will have trouble getting their litter all over the floor. Also, there is a lip extender that will also help keep your bathroom or other room from becoming desert-like. Finally, to ensure a cleanly process, the opening of the litter box faces somewhat upward, this helps it deflect flying litter and also provides comfort for your feline.
Odor reduction is one of the key goals of Litter-Robot. The bottom catch bin utilizes a large charcoal filter that reduces odor greatly. If you experience power outages from time to time, you’ll also be happy to learn that this litter box does incorporate battery backup into its design. While not something you can rely on continuously, it’ll keep your Litter-Robot from not operating during a particularly nasty thunderstorm.
On Amazon this is a very popular product. Of the 155 reviews posted to that site, an amazing 82 percent are of a five star rating level. The chief gripe is the $400 plus price tag, but here is one five star reviewer’s take on the extra cost:
“I have to admit – I could not believe it was even possible for a litter box to cost this much. When I first saw the price, I thought it had to be a typo. However, I went ahead and decided to try it anyway, based on the reviews, and I’m really glad I did. I’ve owned several electric litter boxes in the past – none can even remotely compare.”
#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): CatGenie Self Washing Self Flushing Cat Box
View it on Amazon for $239.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
CatGenie is one of the most popular automatic cleaning cat boxes on the market today. Developed by a rocket scientist based on the idea of a relative, CatGenie has been in production for more than a decade. Since its inception, CatGenie has been produced by PETNOVATIONS, LTD, a company that has been dedicated to producing innovation in pet care design. As our Silver Pick, this device is very distinct from our Gold Pick, yet automates the entire cat litter cleaning process; even the removal of the waste.
From a design standpoint, the CatGenie looks amazingly like a toilet for cats. It has a large bowl, a back, and even features a linkage to your bowl’s water supply. This is because this is the only automatic litter box on our list that effectively flushes; more on this system later. The measurements of the CatGenie are 24.5 inches in height, x 19.2 inches in depth, and 21 inches in width. The entire box is somewhat weighty, at a full 26 pounds.
Permanently ensconced in the base of the bowl is the litter that makes the CatGenie unique. This litter never needs to be replaced and is comprised of granules that the machine washes and dries from time to time. The granules are big enough to engage your cat’s digging instinct, yet are able to be completely washed and sanitized. Liquid waste sifts down through the base of the bowl and is collected there. Once there it is treated with the CatGenie SaniSolution, a chemical treatment that is the only thing you’ll have to replace from time to time with this box.
For solid waste, the entire bowl spins and solids are picked up by the Genie Hand scooper and deposited into a hopper. In the hopper water and more of the SaniSolution breaks down the solid waste until it is liquefied. Both solid and liquid waste is then flushed out of the system by a tube that hooks onto the side of your toilet bowl. Once in your bowl, you can simply flush the waste away. After the waste is removed, water and more of the CatGenie solution are pumped into the main granule area, where the granules are cleaned. After a drying process that’s aided by a warm air vent, the granules will be ready to be used by your cat again.
What makes this system so great is the fact that there is almost no interaction with your cat’s waste; save perhaps, for flushing it. In situations where you need to visually observe your cat’s waste for health purposes, you can always turn off the device, and view it directly in the hopper.
As this is such a well known product, there is a wealth of reviews for the CatGenie on Amazon. Of the 526 reviews there, 68 percent are of a positive, four or five star rating level. Most purchasers agree that the device is very well built and functions well for years. Here is one such review:
“I purchased this Cat Genie 120 in October of 2010, and after the fairly simple installation of hooking the splitter to the Laundry Cold Water supply and the drain hook to the Laundry Drain, it has been working near flawlessly for two years. I have had to on ONE occasion take the entire thing apart due to a clog.”
#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Self Cleaning Litter Box
View it on Amazon for $129.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Developed by PetSafe, our Bronze Pick utilizes a tray to help manage your cat’s litter. PetSafe has created a bevy of great products designed to ensure that your animal friend has a healthy life and is happy. Their product lines run a wide gamut from pet collars to ball launchers for dogs. All of their products, even their toys are designed with your pet’s health and well-being in mind. It’s this focus on ensuring that your animal leads a happy and full life that has garnered PetSafe prestigious awards like the Cat Magazine Fave Finds Award in 2014.
From an aesthetic perspective, this litter box is very uniquely designed. It has a sloping front that houses the collection mechanism and this specific model comes with a privacy dome that will also collect any errant litter that is ejected from the box by an enthusiastic cat. It’s measurements are 27.4 x 19 x 16.2 inches; 19.6 pounds
Firstly, this automatic litter box is slightly different from the others we’ve featured thus far; as a matter of fact, it utilizes a tray system that you’ll be able to use for a month before you’ll need to change it. So, how is this automated? It’s actually a very simply, intuitive system. Utilizing Fresh Step litter crystals, this pan-style litter box has a wall to wall rake that moves through the litter collecting solid waste. The waste is then collected at the other end of the box in a covered waste trap that you’ll have to clean from time to time. Liquid waste is actually absorbed by the crystals, and their odor-free structure ensures that you won’t have to smell the litter box if you change it out every month.
This litter box is also fully automatic. Once your cat has done his or her business, the sensor will detect that they’ve left. After 20 minutes, the process of cleaning will begin. If your cat decides to return to the litter box during the 20 minute countdown time, it will simply reset; ensuring that the crystals have time to do their job. You can also reduce the time to clean to as little as five minutes. A really great, health focused function of this box is the health counter; this allows you to track how many times your cat is using the bathroom daily.
Of the 649 reviews on Amazon, a strong 67 percent are positive. The overall consensus is that the device makes riding a litter box of waste more convenient than with a standard non-automatic device. A gripe encountered in the reviews states that if your cat is aggressive with their litter digging, a hill can form that will hinder the performance of the litter box.
#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Omega Paw Self-Cleaning Litter Box
View it on Amazon for $32.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Admittedly, an automatic cat cleaner can be a very expensive device. Our gold pick goes for over $400 dollars, our silver pick a relatively expensive $230, and our bronze goes for about $160 dollars. None of these are very cheap, so what do you do if you are ballin’ on a budget? Fortunately Omega Paw has developed a self-cleaning litter box that’s excellent in form and function, yet costs about $35.
The first thing you may ask if you were to look at this self-cleaning box is, “Where are all of the mechanisms?” Well, you might be surprised to know that there are none. While you might think that self cleaning means that there are scoop arms, rakes, or spinning chambers, this isn’t always the case. The Omega Paw liter box actually has very little parts; it’s just a squarish litter box with rounded edges on one side. It measures in at 23.5 inches high, 21.2 inches in width, and just 10.5 inches in depth.
To initiate the self-cleaning “function”, you simply roll the litter box along its curved side. Litter goes through a few inside structure and clumped solid and liquid waste is collected in a compartment that extends through a hole to the outside of the box. Simply pull on the handle and voila! All of your cat’s waste will be collected for easy disposal.
This device has a lot of reviews on Amazon; a startling 5,470. Of these reviews, 65 percent are of a positive nature. The primary complaint about this product is that the latches that connect the top and bottom portions are somewhat weak and many feel that there should be a swing door on the chief opening for their cat’s privacy. Here is an example of a positive review:
“Fantastic product, saves me a lot of time. The litter you use determines 80% of the effectiveness of this box. Use good litter and you’ll have great results. I use both Fresh step clumping/Precious Cat litter (clumps great) and I’ve never had a problem with it. To my surprise there is plenty of space for bigger cats to move around in. I may actually buy another one in the near future because of how convenient it is! I used to have an automatic litter box that I paid 100+ for that just flung poo all over the place and didn’t have enough space.”
Litter Management Methodology
These types of litter boxes utilize a plethora of different systems to manage the litter that your cat uses. Some have a proprietary litter that you’ll need to purchase in order for the device to function appropriately and others have an insert or tray that you’ll have to purchase to ensure that you have the right litter for the job.
Still others can use generic store bought litter that can be cleaned automatically or by a rolling momentum system like the one featured as our ballin’ on a budget pick. Also, some automatic litter boxes have a style of litter management that will be more carbon footprint-friendly than the standard system of cat box litter management. When you are searching for a new automatic litter box, consider the litter management methodology of the device you are buying. Do you want to be trapped in a specific type of cat litter? Are you trying to save money on litter over time and wouldn’t mind using a specific type? All of these criteria are options that you should consider.
How Often Will You Need to Clean It?
Some automatic litter boxes will automatically flush the litter away, while others may store the used litter in a compartment that you’ll have to change from time to time. How often you’ll have to change your cat’s litter or if you’ll have to change it at all will vary from device to device, so be sure that you’re purchasing the automatic litter box that will best suit you and your cat’s needs. If you expect to travel a lot and you won’t be able to often change your cat’s litter cartridges, then maybe an auto-flushing device is best for you. These types of devices may also be beneficial if you find yourself having difficulty bending to change the litter box.
If neither of these profiles fit you, then maybe a cartridge based style will be beneficial for you; typically, you’ll have to change these every few days or so.
The size of these types of devices can vary greatly. A perfect example would be the variance between the sizes of two of the devices on our list. Our Gold Pick is more than two feet from bottom to top, and dependent on your bathroom, this can be too big for you to fit neatly under a sink. On the other hand, our Bronze Pick, without the hood, is less than a foot in height and can fit almost anywhere that you can place it. When selecting a device of this type, be sure to do the research on its size and also know how much physical space you have for a device of this type, as having to pick a suboptimal location for your automatic litter box because it’s too large for your intended location is a situation that we’re sure you’d like to avoid.
Your Cat’s Habits and Skittishness
Cats are curious creatures by their very nature, and some of these devices will certainly spark their imaginations. With all of the moving parts that you can find on one of these boxes, your cat might simply be too interested in its workings to consider it as a place for them to use the bathroom. In this case you can start to have problems with your cat going in places that they are not supposed to go. Also, if your cat is skittish, he or she may be too afraid of the sometimes noisy operation of an automatic litter box, which can cause similar results.
Also, some of these devices, while domed, may not have enough of a lip for your cat. Some cats are rather over-enthusiastic when it comes to kicking litter to and fro, and the result of this is a typical sandy area around the litter box. If there isn’t enough of a lip or dome around your automatic litter box, don’t be surprised if the area around it starts to look somewhat like the Sahara. As a rule, it’s a great idea to take into account your cat’s habits and personality when purchasing one of these types of devices.
Additional Purchases and Features
Some of these devices have extra features which will make your life easier. Some of these types of features can include a motion sensor that will help the box decide when it’s best to start the cleaning process. Another type of feature that many people like is programmability, which will let you pre-set a time for the box to turn off totally. This will prevent you from being woken up by the litter box starting its self-cleaning operations at 3am.
Also, once you’ve settle on a new automatic litter box, consider a few additional purchases that will make your litter changing even easier. These can be:
A Litter Mat – Even litter boxes that auto-clean can use a litter mat, as many cats like to kick litter outside of the box. When searching for one of these types of mats, be sure that they are easy to clean and don’t have an excess of space for litter granules to get trapped.
A Litter Genie – This is the perfect accompaniment for a device that produces a waste collection cartridge. Simply remove the cartridge from the litter and dump it into this diaper genie-style device. After dumping, pull the latch and any solid waste will drop into a bag that you will have to change every week or so. This device will help to keep the odor from the used litter almost non-existent and is excellent for when you have multiple cats.
A Dome Cover – Many cats don’t like to do their business right on front street. For this type a dome cover is very useful as it will give your precious feline a brief moment of privacy where they can relieve themselves in relative seclusion. An added benefit of this type of litter box accessory is the fact that the extra walls will protect your floors from being coated in litter granules for those hard-kicking cats.
Battery Life and Backup
Since many automatic cleaners require a power source, how they function in the dearth of power is very important. These types of devices quickly become useless when you have a power outage or when you take your cat’s show on the road, so consider how your automatic cleaner behaves when there is no power. Some have a battery backup that will get your cat through at least a few hours of power loss, and some, like our budget pick, utilize people power to automatically collect your cat’s waste; thusly needing no electrical power at all.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
After reading this guide, you’re cat box-cleaning life will be revolutionized. As no one enjoys doing this daily chore, it’s really great that some enterprising individuals have created several solutions to make the practice more convenient. All of the picks that we’ve covered on our list are great products that will provide you and your cat a great experience, but since every cat is different, they might not all work that well for your specific feline. To ensure feline happiness, be sure to take a look at our pre-purchase considerations as well, and you’ll be able to make a more educated decision.
Discussion and comments
We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?
Do you know of an even better product?
- Floppycats, Litter Robot Open Air Review – Automatic Self Cleaning Litter Box Review, Youtube, January 4, 2016
- Julie Strietelmeier, CatGenie Self-Flushing Self-Washing Cat Box Review, The-Gadgeteer.com, May 5, 2009
- Best Cat Litter Boxes Guide, CatGenie Self Washing Self Flushing Cat Box Cleaning, Youtube, September 10, 2013
- Adrian and Jessica, Review: ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter Box, Gear Diary, December 11, 2009
- Avery Hodge, Mia And The Scoop Free Ultra Automatic Litter Box, Youtube, April 18, 2012