If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s this: the worst part of owning a cat is cleaning the litter box.
What if you could have someone else do that for you, though? What if the litter box cleaned itself?
That’s the appeal behind automatic, self-cleaning litterboxes. These machines look like regular boxes, and when your cat’s done going to the bathroom, they automatically scrape the resulting waste into a receptacle. All you have to do is empty the receptacle and refill the litter from time to time.
Sounds great but do they work? In the reviews below, we’ll take a look at the top self-cleaning litter boxes on the market to see which ones will make your life easier.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2021
|Best Overall||PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Automatic Cat Litter Box||
|Best Value||LitterMaid Single Cat Self-Cleaning Litter Box||
|Premium Choice||CatGenie Self Cleaning Cat Litter Box||
|Pet Zone Smart Scoop Automatic Litter Box||
|PetSafe Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box||
6 Best Automatic Cat Litter Boxes
1. PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Automatic Cat Litter Box – Best Overall
Sleek and unassuming, the PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra comes in three colors, allowing you to coordinate it with your existing décor.
It uses disposable trays, which makes everything quick and easy to both set up and replace. You won’t have to worry about scraping weeks of built-up gunk off the bottom of the tray, as you can just throw it out instead.
It will increase your costs over time, though, as you’ll have to buy replacements. Having to throw out plastic trays isn’t the most environmentally-friendly option, either.
The rake waits 20 minutes after your cat’s done to activate, so there’s little risk to your pet’s safety. It also gives the litter time to clump, reducing any sticky messes. That reduces the amount of wasted litter as well.
It’s been tested to run for more than 100,000 cycles without jamming, so you should get plenty of use out of it.
If you want a litter box that’s attractive and reliable, the PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra is the best one that we’ve found anywhere.
2. LitterMaid Single Cat Self-Cleaning Litter Box – Best Value
If you only have one cat at home, the LitterMaid P-70015 might be your best bet. It’s one of the most economical options out there — and it’s actually our choice for the best automatic self-cleaning cat litter box for the money.
It’s a low-maintenance option, as the pan is easy to remove and replace. It can also function unattended for at least a week, so you don’t have to spend a ton of time fiddling with it.
The waste receptacle is lined with carbon, which can help keep odors contained. You won’t have to smell what your cat’s cooking multiple times per day.
The walls are extremely high, making it a good choice for kitties that like to dig before getting down to business. You shouldn’t have much litter spilling over the sides.
Just be aware of what you’re getting yourself into when you buy it, though. It’s made of plastic, so it’s not the most durable option, and it’s neither big nor powerful enough to clean up after multiple pets.
If you just want an inexpensive and effective automatic litter box, the LitterMaid P-70015 is an excellent way to clean up after your cat.
3. CatGenie Self Cleaning Cat Litter Box – Premium Choice
Simply put, the CatGenie Self-Cleaning is the cleanest, lowest-maintenance litter box on the market. There are only two catches: It’s expensive, and it’s something of a pain to set up the first time.
It actually sifts and flushes dirty litter, so there’s no waste sticking around that you’ll need to smell or deal with in any way. Not only does that save you from dealing with a disgusting mess, but it also ensures that your cat will always have a clean box to use.
It doesn’t use regular litter; instead, it uses something called Washable Granules. These don’t get sticky or clumpy like normal litters. The box actually rinses the litter off after every use and dries it with hot air, so the box stays immaculate.
That’s not just better in terms of odor, but it’s also more hygienic for your cat. It reduces the likelihood that your kitty will catch anything from the box.
Everything that goes down the drain is safe for your septic system too, so there’s nothing to worry about on that end.
As mentioned, this thing is pricey. It also requires a little bit of plumbing know-how to install. If anything goes wrong, you’ll need to be handy enough to fix it.
Assuming that you can afford it and know how to work on it, though, the CatGenie Self Cleaning is the ultimate in litter box luxury.
4. Pet Zone Smart Scoop Automatic Litter Box
It won’t win any awards for beauty, but the Pet Zone Smart Scoop is a no-frills model that does a good job of cleaning up after your cat.
The entire unit is open-air, which allows you to keep an eye on things to make sure the rake doesn’t get jammed and you have plenty of litter. Of course, that also means that you’ll have many stray granules around the thing, and the odor control is non-existent until the mess is swept up.
The rake does a good job of catching all the waste, so you shouldn’t have many clumps left behind — as long as everything clumps properly. If your cat leaves something sticky behind, it will likely cling to the rake and create a huge mess for you to deal with.
You will need to take the whole thing apart and clean it every few months, but that process is fairly straightforward.
It’s extremely quiet while it’s running, so you can keep the litter box in your office and not have it interrupt an important phone call (or force you to explain to a business contact what that noise in the background is).
All in all, the Pet Zone Smart Scoop is a good product that’s nevertheless a few rungs below the options listed above.
5. PetSafe Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box
Rather than using the simple rake design that’s popular with other self-cleaning boxes, the PetSafe ZAL00-16408 has a covered conveyor belt that whisks the waste away.
It’s on a timer, so every 30 minutes, the entire bin starts slowly rotating. That means your cat could potentially be inside while it’s working. Your pet shouldn’t be in any danger, but it has the potential to spook skittish cats, potentially discouraging them from using the box the next time that they need to go.
It’s incredibly quiet, so you probably won’t notice when it’s working. It’s also large, which means you’ll have to sacrifice a great deal of house space for a litter box. Despite that, however, there’s not much room for your cat to do their business.
The unit is extremely touchy as well. You have to remove the waste bin to empty it, and if you don’t put it back in just the right place, the thing won’t work. It takes frustrating trial-and-error.
While we commend PetSafe for thinking outside the (litter) box with their ZAL00-16408, their machine has enough flaws to send them back to the drawing board.
6. Nature’s Miracle Single-Cat Self-Cleaning Litter Box
The Nature’s Miracle P-98280 has one of our favorite features of these boxes: a nightlight that makes it easier for your cat to see what they’re doing in the dark.
That said, the thing needs a lid. Your cat will kick out all sorts of litter while doing their business, and then when the machine activates, the rake will kick out litter too. Any mess it cleans inside the box is offset by the mess it makes outside of it.
It’s extremely loud while it’s working, which could be seen as sort of a blessing. After all, once you stop hearing it, you’ll know it’s stopped working.
Waste can roll right under the rake, so you may have to take an old-fashioned scoop to it every few days or so. It also wastes an enormous amount of clean litter.
If you’ve never owned one before, shopping for a self-cleaning litterbox can seem daunting. What should you look for? Is there anything you should avoid? Why do you even need one in the first place?
In the guide below, we’ll walk you through the answers to all these questions and more.
Why Do You Need a Self-Cleaning Litterbox?
No one needs a self-cleaning litterbox. The old-fashioned method still works just fine. But the self-cleaning ones are incredibly convenient, though. Having an automatic litterbox allows you to go several days without checking on your cat’s litterbox, which makes them an excellent choice for incredibly busy pet owners or those with multi-cat households.
They’re also good for forgetful owners — and their cats. If you just can’t seem to remember to clean the litterbox on time, these machines can take care of it for you. That means that your cat will have fresh, clean litter every time they need to use the bathroom, greatly reducing the risk that they’ll get sick as a result.
Also, many people with mobility issues find it difficult to bend over a litterbox and scoop out heavy clumps of waste. An automatic box eliminates the need to do that; all you have to do is clean the thing out every few days and add litter as needed.
Of course, there are quite a few cat lovers out there who simply don’t want to have to deal with the nasty chore of cleaning out the litterbox. While a self-cleaning model doesn’t mean that you’ll never have to deal with the smell of cat pee again, it does greatly cut down the amount of time that you’ll have to put up with the stinky side of your pet
Are There Any Downsides to Owning a Self-Cleaning Litterbox?
One of the biggest issues with these is that they’re expensive. They cost significantly more than a basic litterbox, and if you don’t mind cleaning one out the old-fashioned way, these newfangled contraptions might not be worth the extra cost.
They won’t save you from all the other expenses associated with litterboxes either. You’ll still need to buy litter, deodorizer, bags — all the usual accouterments. You may even need to keep a regular scoop on hand, just in case the machine breaks down.
That brings up another issue: These things won’t run flawlessly forever. If they get jammed up for some reason, they could break or allow waste to build up for days. You’ll still need to monitor the machine periodically to make sure it’s functioning properly.
Some can be loud while in use as well, but that’s not true of every machine. If you get one that makes a great deal of racket, though, you’ll have to find a place for it that won’t cause too much of a distraction.
What Should You Look For in an Automatic Litterbox?
The first thing you should realize is that some are designed for single-cat households. That means they don’t have the power or capacity to deal with all the waste produced by several pets; you should make sure that whichever one you buy is capable of meeting your needs.
They don’t all use the same type of litter, either. Some are only compatible with certain kinds of litter, while others have special litter that only works with that particular machine. This can affect how much the machine costs you in the long run, and if you accidentally use the wrong litter type, you could break the machine.
The way that they dispose of the waste differs as well. Some sweep it into a bin at the end of the machine, while others can be set up to flush the waste down your toilet. One’s not necessarily better than the other; the flushing models tend to be cleaner, but they’re also more expensive and harder to install.
If you can, see how easy the thing is to take apart. You’ll need to disassemble it periodically to clean it, so try to get one that’s not too big of a hassle to take apart and put back together.
The price varies wildly as well. Some of the higher-end models can cost several hundred dollars, whereas simpler machines can be much more reasonably priced. The more expensive models are usually better, though; whether they’re worth it is up to you.
Are These Machines Safe?
They should be, yes. Most have sensors that alert them to the fact that your cat has entered the machine; once the cat has left, the machine will wait 20 minutes or so before cleaning itself. The sensors also alert the machine to whether the cat returns before the cleaning cycle starts. If the cat comes back, the timer resets.
Others don’t have sensors; they simply clean themselves periodically, usually every 30 minutes or so.
Regardless of which type you buy, the rakes are generally too weak to hurt your cat. Chances are that all they’d do is annoy them, but if the cat gets in the way, it could break the machine.
Where Should You Put Your Automatic Litterbox?
Generally speaking, you can put it in the same spot that you’d put a regular litterbox.
There are a few exceptions, though. The biggest one involves the flushable models; these obviously need to be set up on top of a toilet. You’ll need plumbing skills to install them, so be prepared for that eventuality.
Also, keep in mind that these machines need to be hooked up to a power source. So, you’ll have to put it close to an outlet somewhere; most have generously-long power cords, but you’ll still need to get the box fairly close.
The good thing about these is that since they clean themselves regularly, you can keep them in communal areas without worrying about the smell becoming overpowering. However, many can be quite loud, so you might not want one in your office or near the TV.
They tend to be fairly large too, so make sure you have plenty of space. Some of them still allow the cat to kick litter outside the box as well, so put the box in a place that you can keep clean.
How Do I Train My Cat to Use a Self-Cleaning Litterbox?
You shouldn’t need to do anything special; just follow the same steps that you’d use to train them to use a traditional box.
If you’re trying to transition your cat from a regular box, do as much as you can to keep their routine the same. Put the box in the same spot or near to it, and make sure you use the same litter if possible.
You may want to add some of your cat’s waste to the new box when you think that your cat is getting ready to go. The smell will alert your pet as to what’s expected of them.
Give your cat the option between the new box and the old one for about a week, but do what you can to make the new box the more attractive option. Sprinkle catnip in there to entice them inside.
Also, don’t turn on the automatic mode until you know your cat has gotten used to it. The last thing that you want to do is spook them before they’re comfortable using it.
Our favorite self-cleaning litterbox is the PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra. It’s reliable and extremely low-maintenance, taking the burden out of this chore.
The LitterMaid P-70015 is a good budget option, as it does a great job of keeping both messes and odors contained. Even better, it won’t break the bank.
If you’re looking to outsource the job of cleaning up after your cat, you can’t go wrong with any of these top-ranked automatic litterboxes. Hopefully, these reviews have made it easier to find one that will work for both you and your pet — because we all know what cats do to show that they’re displeased with something.
Featured Image Credit: Tom Thai, Wikimedia Commons
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2021
- 6 Best Automatic Cat Litter Boxes
- 1. PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Automatic Cat Litter Box – Best Overall
- 2. LitterMaid Single Cat Self-Cleaning Litter Box – Best Value
- 3. CatGenie Self Cleaning Cat Litter Box – Premium Choice
- 4. Pet Zone Smart Scoop Automatic Litter Box
- 5. PetSafe Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box
- 6. Nature’s Miracle Single-Cat Self-Cleaning Litter Box
- Buyer’s Guide