Automatic Litter Box Buying Guide
We’ve compared prices and evaluated the ongoing cost of maintaining these litter boxes. We’ve looked at size, features, litter requirements, and owner satisfaction. We’ve put together a list of considerations and recommendations for cat owners who are in the market for one of these nifty contraptions.
If you’re ready to ditch the labor-intensive no-frill litter box, but you’re not sure which automatic litter box is right for you, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll start off by saying that technology has come a very long way in recent years, but there’s still some room for improvement with most of the automatic litter box designs we’ve seen. But for the most part, an automatic litter box will require far less labor than scooping a traditional litter box. Not interested in all the details? – Skip ahead to see our Top Picks.
Automatic, Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes aren’t cheap. In fact, they are a luxury that few cat owners will be able to afford, or justify. But before you give up on them all together, take a minute to evaluate how much your time is worth. And more specifically, how much are you willing to pay to never have to do the undesirable chore of scooping your cat’s poop?
Before we compare the prices of the top-rated automatic litter boxes, we need to account for ALL costs associated with ownership throughout the life of the product. Why is this important? Consumers are often fixated on the upfront cost of a product and tend to overlook the ongoing maintenance costs. Some manufacturers take advantage of this by offering very low prices on the base product, knowing that you’ll be suckered into paying them way more over the years to maintain it.
Here’s a chart that shows the upfront cost, plus ongoing annual costs for our top 4 automatic litter boxes. These values are based on a single cat household. Expect to pay significantly more than this if you have more than one furry feline resident.
Automatic Litter Box Cost Comparison
- Standard Clumping Litter: Dr. Elsey’s 40lb bag lasts approx. 2 months ($14/bag)
- CatGenie Washable Granules: 3.5 pound box lasts approx. 3 months ($20/box)
- ScoopFree Crystal Litter Trays: 1 tray lasts approx. 3 weeks ($15/tray)
- LitterMaid Disposable Waste Receptacles: 1 receptacle lasts approx. 1 week ($1.11/receptacle)
- CatGenie SaniSolution: 1 cartridge lasts approx. 2 months ($22/cartridge)
- CatGenie Maintenance Solution: 1 cartridge lasts approx. 8 months ($25/cartridge)
Our table shows us that the product with the highest upfront cost (Litter-Robot at $450) is a better overall value than the CatGenie and ScoopFree Ultra by year 2 based on price alone. The lowest cost option from start to finish is the LitterMaid LM980 Mega.
Now that we’ve got the scary part out of the way, we can look at features and functionality. If you’ve already made the decision to go automatic, then here are a few considerations to help you choose from the handful of automatic self-cleaning litter boxes on the market.
What Type of Litter?
What type of litter do you want? The Litter-Robot and LitterMaid LM980 are the only products that we reviewed that are compatible with standard clumping kitty litter. CatGenie requires proprietary washable granules and ScoopFree requires proprietary Crystal Litter trays. Not only do proprietary products drive up the price of maintenance, but they might also be less suitable for your cat. Some cats are very particular about the type of litter they’ll use. If possible, test out the new litter material in your standard litter box before purchasing one of the self-cleaning litter boxes.
Fully-Automatic or Semi-Automatic?
What degree of automatic are you interested in? With the exception of the CatGenie, all the self-cleaning litter boxes on the market require manual disposal of litter. After a week, or in some cases several weeks, you’ll have to empty the waste drawer or replace the litter tray. The CatGenie is plumbed directly into a drain line, which eliminates the need for manual litter disposal. Check out the table below to see how the waste capacity varies between products.
But aside from waste disposal, a couple of these automatic litter boxes require a bit more routine attention. Both the ScoopFree and LitterMaid litter boxes operate using a rake that makes a single pass to collect and deposit the waste into a separate compartment. This rake type design is more susceptible to malfunctioning. For example, if your cat frequently defecates in the corners or along the sides of this type of litter box, the rake may not collect all of the waste. Or, if your cat tends to use the same area of the litter box you may need to stir the litter to make sure it doesn’t accumulate in one area of the litter box. The rakes also tend to get jammed pretty regularly. The LitterMaid product line even includes a litter scooper with their litter box. This is a pretty good indication that some scooping will be required.
The most hands-off, fully-automatic litter box on the market is the CatGenie. Next up would be the Litter-Robot, then the ScoopFree, and lastly the LitterMaid LM980.
The general rule of thumb for standard litter boxes is that you should have one for every cat plus one extra. With an automatic litter box, you can probably get away with one for every 2-3 cats.
Automatic litter boxes tend to be quite a bit larger than your standard litter box. If space is a concern, make sure you check out the table below to ensure you have enough room.
Automatic Litter Box Dimensions
Where can I put it?
You should also give some thought as to where you want to place your new automatic litter box. For most of them, any place within a few feet of an electrical outlet should suffice. However, the CatGenie will either need to be located next to a toilet or in a laundry room where it can be plumbed into a drain line. The ScoopFree Ultra should be placed in a dry, low-humidity environment to ensure the crystal litter works properly.
Automatic litter boxes make about as much noise as you’d expect. They’re like most electronic household appliances. If you’re very sensitive to these types of noises, we recommend that you choose a home for your automatic litter box appropriately. i.e. Don’t put it in your bedroom if you’re a light sleeper.
There’s a wide range of features available amongst the automatic litter boxes that we’ve reviewed. Depending on your specific needs, you may find some more beneficial than others. Here’s a table that shows what features are included in each product.
Automatic Litter Box Features
To see how these automatic litter boxes stack up against each other, head on over to our Top Picks. We understand that selecting the perfect automatic litter box is a somewhat subjective matter. So here are some recommendations that will hopefully steer you in the right direction.
Tight Budget ⇨ LitterMaid LM980 Mega
If money is tight or you just can’t justify paying that much for a litter box, stick with the LitterMaid LM980. Not only is this automatic litter box the cheapest, but it also uses standard clumping kitty litter, which will save you money in the long run. The LitterMiad LM980 might require a bit more legwork than some of the competitors, but there’s no question that it’ll save you considerable time compared to a standard litter box. Check out the full LitterMaid LM980 Review here.
Fully-Automatic & Completely Hands-Off ⇨ CatGenie
If bagging litter and carrying it out to the trash is something you really don’t want to do, there’s only one product on the market that’ll take care of that for you. The CatGenie is the only fully-automatic litter box. It requires some plumbing and it’ll cost you a bit more than the competition to maintain, but for a lot of people it is totally worth it. Check out the full CatGenie Review here.
Dust-Free ⇨ ScoopFree Ultra
If you’re ready to say goodbye to dusty clay litter and you’re ready to switch to crystal litter, then the ScoopFree Ultra would be your best pick. This automatic litter box is specifically designed to make clean-up as hassle-free as possible. Just be prepared to pay a little more for those convenient disposable litter trays. Check out the full ScoopFree Ultra Review here.
Best Overall ⇨ Litter-Robot Open Air
If you can get past the high upfront cost, we promise you won’t be disappointed with the Litter-Robot. The Litter-Robot has the highest customer satisfaction rating of all the automatic litter boxes on the market. It has the most customizable features, and arguably the best design. It’ll cost you less to maintain than most of the competition and we think it will last a lot longer too. Check out the full Litter-Robot Review here.