Should You Be Using a Self-Cleaning Litter Box?

Taking care of pets isn't all sunshine and snuggles – sometimes we actually have to clean up after them. In the case of cats, that usually takes the form of regularly scooping out the litter box and disposing of our kitty's waste. We won't mince words, it's nobody's favorite part of being a cat parent, but it's obviously a necessary part of everyday life.

Kittens sitting in litter box
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However, what if we told you there might be a simpler option? One option kitty parents might need to consider is the self-cleaning litter box, the 21st-century answer to people who dislike scooping out the litter box. We break down what exactly these space-age litter boxes do and whether they're the right choice for you and your cat.

What exactly is a self-cleaning litter box?

A self-cleaning litter box is essentially just what it sounds like – a litter box that magically cleans itself. These litter boxes use sensors that sense when the cat has used the litter box, then they automatically rake out the waste and dump it into a tray below, leaving the un-clumped litter to be used later. Rather than scooping out waste every so often, cat owners simply have to empty the bin at the base of the box. This video from a popular brand of self-cleaning litter box, Litter Robot, demonstrates how it works quite well.

The video shows this particular brand's method of using a spinning drum to sift out cat waste while preserving the unused litter. Other brands use a robotic scoop to sift out the waste. Regardless of the exact mechanism, the point of self-cleaning litter boxes is that some kind of technology does the scooping for you. While that may seem like the dream you've been waiting for your whole life, there are still a few things to consider before purchasing one of your own.

The pros of a self-cleaning litter box

Cleaning cat litter box. Hand is cleaning of cat litter box with green spatula. Toilet cat cleaning sand cat. Man hand and cat litter box. A cat looking at her own poop in the blue litter box.
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Obviously, just from reading the description, you know there are a number of pros to getting yourself a self-cleaning litter box.

  1. Probably the biggest pro: you don't have to scoop the litter! Self-cleaning litter boxes cut out the smelliest part of taking care of a cat. Plus, your kitty's litter will be cleaner, particularly if you're like a lot of cat owners and occasionally you forget to empty the litter box on time.
  2. You can leave your cat at home for longer without worrying about the litter. Sometimes you want to go away for a few days, and your cat is happy to rule the house. With a self-cleaning litter box, you won't even need a friend or neighbor to help out with the litter maintenance.
  3. The overall cleanup is way easier. You do have to maintain self-cleaning litter boxes, but the maintenance isn't as rigorous. You simply have to empty the waste bin and occasionally add more litter.
  4. Your cat will probably be happier. Cats are extremely clean animals, and we probably never keep their litter clean enough for them. So with a robot keeping things as clean as possible, your kitty will probably be a little happier.

The cons of a self-cleaning litter box

kitten in blue plastic litter cat
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As with anything that sounds too good to be true, there are some cons to self-cleaning litter boxes.

  1. Self-cleaning litter boxes are expensive. While a regular litter box probably only costs $20-30, a self-cleaning litter box costs closer to $100-200. So definitely consider the investment before making a decision.
  2. Sometimes running the full cleaning cycle takes awhile. According to Wirecutter, some of these machines can take 30-60 minutes to complete a cleaning cycle. If your cat happens to need to use the litter box during that time, they may choose to go elsewhere.
  3. They can be noisy. The robotics of a self-cleaning litter boxes may make a lot of noise that can disturb you in other parts of the house. So think about where you would be putting the litter box before you make a purchase.

Who is a self-cleaning litter box best for?

Woman and her cat
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So is a self-cleaning litter box the right litter box for you? If you fit into a few categories, then you might be perfect for this kitty-cleaning technological marvel.

  • If you travel a lot or work long hours, then your cat will appreciate having the self-cleaning feature. Plus, you'll have the added peace of mind.
  • Think hard, and if you need to admit to yourself that you don't clean the litter box enough, then having a little robotic assistance isn't the worst idea.
  • If money isn't an object, then you may not need to worry about the higher cost. And maybe you think that your kitty deserves the best.
  • If you really dislike cleaning up kitty waste. If that's one of the big things that bothers you about being a pet owner, then by all means, make your life a little cleaner.

The best self-cleaning litter box

So now that you've decided what self-cleaning litter box, which one should you get? Here are some of the top brands to help you make your decision.

LitterMaid Automatic Multi-Cat Litter Box

LitterMaid litter box.
credit: LitterMaid

This litter box uses an automatic rake to sift out waste and deposit in a container, and the container has a carbon filter to keep the smells away. Plus, it's large enough that multiple cats can use it. ($105 on Amazon)

Pet Safe ScoopFree Original Self-Cleaning Litter Box

ScoopFree self-cleaning litter box
credit: Pet Safe

This litter box has an automatic filter that scoops out litter into a sealed waste trap to prevent odors. ($144.99 on their website)

Litter Robot 3

Litter Robot self-cleaning litter box.
credit: Litter Robot

This space-age looking capsule is the one from the video above. After your cat uses the litter box, the drum rotates, filtering out and disposing of waste, while preserving the rest of the litter. However, this high-tech device comes with a hefty price tag. ($449.00 on their website)