Are Self Cleaning Litter Boxes Worth It – A Helpful Breakdown

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Ensuring that your cat has a clean and accessible litter box is one of the most important factors of cat ownership. Though, after the fifth time I had to clean my normal, plastic rectangular one this week, I began to wonder: are self-cleaning litter boxes worth it?

Self-cleaning litter boxes are worth it for cat owners who are looking to save time. While they cost more than a traditional box, you’ll save cleaning time and your home will smell less. Both of these are huge quality of life factors that make it totally worth it.

That being said, it doesn’t mean a self-cleaning litter box is the right choice for every cat. In this article, I’ll cover the pros and cons of automatic litter boxes and explore how they work in more depth.

The goal here is to help you decide if investing in an auto-cleaning litter box is worth it for your lifestyle and your cat. If you’re already sold on the benefits, we compiled the best self-cleaning litter box choices to help guide you to the best fit!

How much does it cost for a self-cleaning litter box?

A self cleaning litter box ranges in cost from around $150 for a basic model to upwards of $800 for the most complex models. The variation has to do with the size, type of disposal system, litter compatibility, and additional features on the box such as timers.

Cost may be one of the biggest factors in determining if self-cleaning litter boxes are worth it. It’s a much bigger initial investment than the standard plastic box I grabbed at the pet store for sure. However, if you travel, lack time, or just hate cleaning the box, it may be worth every dollar.

First, let’s talk a little bit more about how these handy robot litter boxes work! Then I’ll tell you more about the different types and what they do for you and your cat.

How does an automatic litter box work? 

An automatic litter box works by using a sensor on the inside that monitors when the cat has used it. When soiled, the box initiates a cleaning cycle in which it moves or rotates. Tines grab onto and remove the clumps for disposal, leaving cleaned litter behind.

Some boxes use a weight trigger to determine when the cat has left. If you have a kitten or very small cat, you may find that the box has difficulty registering use. Thus, a self cleaning litter box might not be worth it in this scenario.

litter robot automatic cleaning cat litter box

Can you use regular cat litter in a self cleaning litter box?

You can use regular cat litter in a self-cleaning litter box, depending on what it is you normally use. Due to the way they function, self-cleaning litter boxes usually require clumping litter, or possibly a manufacturer’s recommended brand and type.

If you prefer a speciality or non-clumping style litter, it may be difficult, if at all possible, to find an automatic box that works well with your chosen litter. 

Alternatively, in self-flushing models (more on that later), you will use specialized washable granule cat litter that rarely, if ever, gets replaced!

After considering your litter, is a self-cleaning litter box worth it? Would you need to change to a litter that you or your cat dislike to make it work? If so, it may not be worth the switch. If it will cause little to no disruption, then I’d say it’s still totally worth it!

Do automatic litter boxes smell?

Automatic litter boxes do smell, but significantly less so than a traditional box. The used litter is stored in a sealed compartment, or completely disposed of depending on your model of box. Thus, the smell is severely reduced or nearly eliminated entirely.

Some options even include carbon or charcoal filters, which should reduce the smell to a nearly imperceptible level. Of course, that doesn’t count if you stick your head into the box and start sniffing, but I wouldn’t recommend that.

If smell is one of the biggest concerns with your cat’s current litter, then a self-cleaning litter box is worth it. It will be a huge upgrade from the traditional style box, so living together will be that much sweeter – smelling, that is.

What are the different types of automatic litter boxes?

Another important factor in determining if a self cleaning litter box is worth it is understanding the different types available. There are four main types of automatic litter boxes on the market, set apart by how they clean.

As I’ve mentioned before, different boxes handle cleaning, disposal, and even smells differently. I’ll go over how each type works, and discuss their pros and cons to help you decide which self cleaning litter box is worth it for you and your pet.

Scooping Rake Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes

self cleaning scooping rake cat litter box nature miracle

The scooping rake self-cleaning litter box is most similar to a standard litter box. It features an automatic rake that scoops up the dirty litter and places it inside the waste compartment at the front of the box.

This type of automatic litter box is best suited for smaller cats. Large cats will likely not have enough space inside.

There are two different ways a scooping rake litter box will clean litter:

  • The rake sweeps and pushes the litter to the end of the litter box, where the waste bin is located
  • The rake sweeps and lifts the waste clumps into the waste bin at the end 

To get the most out of this type of automatic litter box, use a light litter that clumps so that the rake will have no problem picking it up. Here are the overall pros and cons of scooping rake self-cleaning litter boxes:

Pros Cons

Most like a standard litter box, so a cat is more likely to accept and use it

Rake cannot reach around the entire litter box, likely leaving back corners dirty

Small economic footprint, perfect for the eco-conscious home

Waste bin may fill up quickly and require frequent emptying

The most budget-friendly option

Rake may get too dirty or stuck and stop cleaning

Rotating Globe Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes

rotating globe self cleaning litter box

A rotating globe self-cleaning litter box holds litter inside a round dome. When it needs to be cleaned, it will rotate around and sift the dirty litter clumps into a screen. It then drops them into a sealed waste container at the bottom.

This technology is fairly new to the market, so you’ll find it’s on the pricier end of the range. However, the pros of the rotating globe self-cleaning litter box far outweigh the cons:

Pros Cons

Effective, reliable, low maintenance

Most expensive style

Very quiet operation, less likely to scare cats

Takes up more space than a box style unit

Excellent smell control in a sealed box

Cats may be hesitant about enclosed space

Self-Flushing Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes

self cleaning and self flushing automatic catgenie litter box

The self-flushing self-cleaning litter box is the only self-cleaning litter box that is fully automated. This means that it both cleans up and disposes of dirty litter on its own without any outside influence.

To clean, a screened arm collects the clumps, then the waste is deposited into a chamber where it is crushed, liquified, and drained out. The process repeats if necessary.

Despite how revolutionary this sounds, the self-flushing self-cleaning litter box isn’t worth it for everyone:

Pros Cons

Fully automated; you do not have to dispose of the waste yourself

Noisy, and the cleaning process is the longest of self-cleaning litter boxes

Economically friendly, with no plastic waste bags required

Needs to be hooked up to a water and drain pipe to be able to flush itself 

Low smell, since everything is sent out through sewer lines

Clogging and/or malfunctions may occur and cause plumbing issues or damage

Conveyor Belt Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes 

conveyor belt self cleaning automatic cat litter box

The conveyor belt self-cleaning litter box continuously slowly turns the basin throughout the day. As litter passes the conveyor, it sifts out dirty clumps and elevates them into the waste compartment. The whole process takes 30-60 minutes.

Pros Cons

Simple to set up and use

Litter may accumulate and get stuck around the edges of the conveyor belt, which can interrupt the cleaning

No sensor system, works for smaller cats

Space may be too small for large cats

Reasonably priced, in the middle of the range

Requires constant power

 

As you can see, each type of self-cleaning litter box has its advantages and disadvantages. Knowing your cat and your needs will help you choose the right one, so that you can feel like your self cleaning litter box is worth the money.

How often do you need to empty a self cleaning litter box?

How often you need to empty a self cleaning litter box depends on the size of the receptacle and the number of cats using it. Generally, this will range between once per week and once a month. Self-flushing models, however, do not require assisted emptying at all.

It’s recommended to clean a standard litter box as often as twice a day, with a full clean out twice a week. If you find this to be a constant chore or hassle, the automatic box will reduce or eliminate this need completely. This makes a self cleaning litter box worth it for anyone looking to cut down on chore time.

Automatic boxes make it easier to travel as well, without having to hire a pet sitter or board your cat to ensure they have clean litter.

A cat pet sitter costs on average $23 per day for 30 minutes. Over the course of a week, a daily visit would total you around $161. If you take 4 week-long vacations per year, your self-cleaning litter box has nearly paid for itself – seems worth it to me!

It should be noted though that you’ll still need to arrange food and water as well. However, an automatic pet feeder, a fresh water fountain with a large reservoir, and even toys like this automatic cat laser toy are ready to fulfill the need!

In Summary

So, to recap, self-cleaning litter boxes are worth it for a variety of reasons:

  • Reduced or eliminated cleaning time
  • Limited to no smell
  • Ability to travel and still care for your pet more easily

However, in some cases automatic litter boxes may not be worth it:

  • Some models don’t worth with x-small or x-large sized cats
  • Expensive upfront cost compared to a traditional box
  • Requires power, and possibly different litter 
  • Noise may deter some cats from use

While I think they’re great, know that it is up to you to decide whether a self cleaning litter box is worth it to you and your cat. Remember, no two cats are the same, and what is good for some may not fit others.

In any case, the most important thing is that your cat is happy and healthy!

Check out these other great items your cat will love:

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