Cleaning up your cat’s litter box can get really messy. You are also exposed to some of the potentially harmful toxic fumes that contain a variety of microorganisms that can make you sick. Thankfully, you no longer have to sweat cleaning up your cat’s toilet as long as you have an efficient fully automatic cat litter box. However, like all products, not all self cleaning cat box will give you the performance you’re looking for. It is crucial to look out for those telltale signs of mediocre quality construction, design, and functionality so you will only get the best for your kitty. Our list of the 9 best self cleaning litter boxes should help you get started.
Self-Cleaning Litter Box Buying Guide
An automatic cat litter box can be a wonderful gadget to have for your feline friend. It simplifies the management of your pet’s wastes, freeing you from constantly and frequently cleaning up its mess. This also allows you to use the time you saved from cleaning to do other important chores at home.
But the real issue is, like all other modern-day devices, you need to choose one that is just right for you. If in case you don’t know where to start, we’ve prepared a buying guide for your consumption. Hopefully, you will be able to utilize the information we’ve gathered to help you make the correct decision on which feline waste management device is best for your pet.
How Does a Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box Work?
Before we start choosing a self scooping litter box, it is essential that we have an understanding of what we are buying first.
An automatic kitty litter box is a pet accessory that makes the cleanup of your cat’s stool and urine a lot easier. Just look at it as an ordinary litter box with built-in mechanism for separating and scooping the excreta of your feline friend. The mechanism can be fully automatic or manual.
Let us try to dissect what happens and how an automatic cat litter box works.
- Your pet defecates or urinates
Any substance that your Garfield doesn’t need eventually end up either in its urine or in its feces. In the wild, cats can literally eliminate anywhere. But there is one very unique behavior that is inherent in felines: they tend to cover their droppings and drippings in sand to help mask the smell, and perhaps because these are very fastidious creatures we are talking about.
That is why some pet owners simply leave their felines to do its business outside of their homes as these furry creatures can easily take care of their needs. For many, however, getting a dedicated crate that will handle their pet’s wastes is a better solution as this is a more socially responsible way of owning a pet. You don’t have to worry about neighbors getting piqued because your pet happens to consider their backyard its favorite toilet.
So, your feline pet defecates and urinates in this contraption called a litter box.
- The wastes are allowed to clump
Depending on the type of litter that you put inside the crate, the wastes clump together into balls, making it a lot easier to scoop or remove. This is where the choice of litter comes in. Manufacturers of self-cleaning litter boxes often have recommendations on the type of litter that can be used. Ideally, however, unscented clumping litter made of bentonite is preferred, although it is not unusual to see crushed walnut shells, ground wheat, pine granules and cobbles, and recycled paper granules. It is often best to check the recommendations of the manufacturer.
Why is this important? Well, if the urine will not form into clumps, it will drain right into the bottom of the crate, soiling the rest of the litter. In which case, you will have to remove and replace the entire litter. This is not really a practical thing to do. Clumping allows you to easily scoop the waste matter and dump it in your garbage disposal unit.
This is important for self cleaning cat box units, too. Because the litter has clumped together, it becomes a lot easier to separate from the clean ones.
Fully automated devices come with a sensor and a timer. Once it senses that your feline pet has urinated or defecated in the crate, it automatically starts the timer, usually within the range of 7 to 10 minutes, although you can easily program the timer delay in many models. If it senses that your cat is still in the crate, it won’t start the timer. The timer reflects the length of time that the litter would have already formed a ball, making it easy to remove.
Manual self-cleaning litter boxes, on the other hand, don’t come with a timer feature. Instead, you’d have to check for yourself if there is already clumping inside the crate. If there is, then you can proceed to the next step.
- The wastes are separated from the clean litter
As already described above, clumping of the litter forms larger mass which effectively allows it to be mechanically removed with ease.
Fully automated systems have a rake-like contraption that is instantly activated once the timer has reached its predetermined time. The rake pulls the large clump of waste towards its waste collection compartment while leaving clean litter in the crate. Some manufacturers add a variety of treatments into the collected waste to get rid of the odor.
Manually operated devices will have to be tilted or rotated to sift the litter through small-spaced slots. Only clean litter passes through these slots and collects into a compartment. The remaining clumps or masses are then moved to another compartment for disposal.
- The segregated wastes are appropriately disposed
Whether it is automated or manual, you will still be the one to remove the collected wastes from the device’s compartment. You will then dispose of these in the correct manner.
What Kind of Litter Box Should I Get?
As you may have already noticed from the foregoing discussion, there are two fundamental types of self cleaning cat box devices: automatic and manual. What kind of litter box you should get is technically a matter of preference although the following tips may help you choose the right litter box for your feline friend.
- Brush up on your knowledge of the different types of litter crates.
Aside from self cleaning cat box units, there are other types of excreta crates especially designed for our feline friends. These can include the more traditional open top, the more discreet covered type, the inconspicuous hidden variety, and a sifting litter box.
As the name suggests, an open top clutter crate comes in as an ordinary box that has four walls and a bottom floor but no roofing or cover. It’s very inexpensive and you can actually make one for your pet with a simple carton box. It is also very easy to clean as you have unrestricted access to the materials contained in the crate. Some commercially available open top products come with a rim which serves as an anchor for a liner. The liner serves as a protective cover for the inner surfaces of the crate, preventing leaks into the exterior. Sadly, there’s no way to prevent the odor from permeating through the entire room, so frequent cleanup is necessary.
A covered type of litter box is just like an open top but with a roof or cover, obviously. There’s an opening up front, serving as both entrance and exit for your pet. It provides your cat with certain ‘privacy’ that it needs to do its thing. This type is preferred because its covered nature helps keep the smell within the inner walls of the box. There’s one problem, though. Cleaning can be quite cumbersome as you don’t have instant access to the litter; unless, of course, you have a device that has a top that can be easily opened.
We’d like to look at hidden litter boxes to be a novelty as these don’t usually conform to the conventional idea of the object. These can be in the form of a planter or even other furniture pieces in your home that you would hardly consider a litter box. The advantage of these types is that they can easily be placed almost anywhere in and around your home. These are not eye sore and can be a great way to add certain aesthetics to your interior. This can be easily cleaned or not, depending on the design, whether it is open or closed.
The sifting litter box is actually a double-crate with one serving as a sifter for the device. All you need to do is to lift the sifter compartment and all clumped litter and feces is effectively removed. What remains in the crate is clean litter. You can look at it as a self-cleaning litter box but more of the manual type.
A true automatic cat litter box is something that does the cleaning and removal of wastes for you. The only time you will ever need to handle it is when you’re going to dispose of the collected waste. Unfortunately, this type of litter box is quite expensive.
- Consider the correct crate size requirements of your cat.
Picking the correct waste crate for your cat depends on the size of your pet. Manufacturers provide different sizes of each of their products so you can choose the correct one for your furry pal.
If you have kittens or even small breeds of felines, a small crate works best. However, you should also make sure that the height of its sides makes it easy to climb. If your kitty is having difficulty climbing into the crate, it might not use it at all.
Medium-sized crates are perfect for standard-sized kitties while large ones can truly benefit from a larger-sized crate. If you have a breed that can be gigantic or oversized, then going extra-large should help.
As a general rule, the inner dimensions of the crate should be as wide as the length of your kitty. Additionally its inner length dimensions should be not less than 1.5 times the length of your kitty. Taking these ‘rules’, if you have a kitty that measures about 12 inches long, then your litter box should be at least 18 inches long and 12 inches wide. It may be large, you might think, but it does serve the purpose of giving your kitty plenty of room to scratch on, bury, and cover their excrements.
- Evaluate the product’s ease of operation.
It should be understood that majority of these gadgets, especially the fully automated ones, come with state-of-the-art systems that allow for super convenient operation. If you don’t like the idea of having to constantly check the crate for clumped urine and feces, then you’d better get something that’s fully automatic. Like we already presented, the only thing you’ll need to do is to empty the contents into appropriate disposal bags.
There are manual sifting devices that are easy to operate, too. However, instead of a fully automated raking system, you’ll be the one to manually ‘sift’ the excreta without ever touching it.
Technically, it all boils down to how much budget you have earmarked for such a gadget as automated ones will definitely cost you more compared to manual varieties.
- Assess the device’s ease of cleaning and maintenance.
Another important consideration is the gadget’s ease of maintenance as well as cleaning. Here’s a tip: the more complex the design of the gadget is the greater is its maintenance requirements. While you can always keep this in mind, know, too, that today’s technology is continuously evolving. There are plenty of products that come with maintenance-free solutions, enabling you to enjoy all the benefits of the gadget without having to make a fuss about its upkeep. That being said, you may as well look for devices that have built-in features for simplifying, if not totally eliminating, the cleanup and maintenance process.
- Listen to what others are saying.
You might also want to listen to what others are saying when it comes to choosing the right gadget for your pet. There are many self cleaning litter box reviews that provide a clear picture of what you’re buying. Do take note that the negative comments can be quite subjective so you will really have to dig deeper into these issues.
Where in the House Should I Place the Litter Box?
Knowing where to place your litter box is as important as selecting the right one for your furry little pal. As much as possible, you may want to set it in an area that’s free of obstacles or even clutter. There should also be no distractions such as loud noises or other forms of nuisances. Just like you, if your kitty wants to perform its business, it wants to do it quietly and privately.
It is also important to place it as far away as possible from your feline’s bowl of food and source of drinking water. Cats are fastidious creatures and they like their things to be clean and tidy. If it’s a place where they eat or drink, they don’t want defecating or urinating anywhere near it.
How Do I Train My Cat to Use It’s Litter Box?
What’s the use of an automatic cat litter box if you are not going to train your kitty how to use it? You may have the most advanced, most state-of-the-art, most sophisticated, most luxurious, and most expensive gadget in the world, but if your kitty simply doesn’t know or even want to use it, you’re simply wasting money. You also need to put in extra effort in training your cat to use its litter box. Here are some tips.
- Understand your feline friend’s unique routine.
Most kittens actually learn where to defecate and urinate from their moms as well as littermates. However, if you happen to have a tabby that has not learned the behavior, you will have to do your part in teaching it how to.
The very first thing you need to establish is the elimination routine of your tabby. Most felines like to defecate right after a meal while some would be just after having a nap. Still, there are felines that relieve themselves after playing or after some physical activity. The point is you have to know when your feline is most likely going to relieve itself. This way you can easily redirect it towards the litter box.
In the first few days of feline potty training, you may want to keep a record of the circumstances or ‘cues’ that your pet displays just before it is going to eliminate. You may also want to record the times these occurred so you’ll have an idea of when you need to place your kitty near its crate. Try to establish a pattern so you can be more pro-active in potty training your kitty.
- Be there when it’s ‘time’.
Once you’ve established a routine or a pattern for feline elimination, you can easily make yourself available to supervise your kitty. You don’t actually have to scoop your cat straight to the litter box. You can start by introducing the device to your feline friend until it gets accustomed to its presence.
During those times that you expect your cat to relieve itself, you will have to redirect it towards the litter box. Play with it for a while. Bring in some of its favorite toys. Sooner or later, the increased physical activity will stimulate it to defecate. Once the urge is there, you can direct your kitty into the litter box or gently scoop it up if it hasn’t learned how to get into the crate yet.
- Teach your tabby on what it needs to do.
There are three important things you need to teach your tabby related to the use of its potty. First, it needs to learn how to get inside on its own if it feels like ready to go. Second, your tabby needs to learn to dig in its litter. Third, it needs to understand that it also needs to bury its excreta. This is more complicated than it seems, however.
The important thing to remember is to supervise your cat whenever it is in the litter box. You will have to show how to dig and how to bury the excreta. You will also need to be patient as your tabby may not understand what you are trying to teach it the first or second time. In most cases, a lot of pet owners give up too easily. Hopefully, you’ll find the perseverance to push through with the watch-and-learn methodology.
An important tip: if you’re going to show to your kitty how to dig, make sure you’re not going to use its paws. This has the tendency to scare it off and make it quite anxious. Use your fingers instead.
Again, the trick is patience.
- Never yell.
Whatever you do, don’t yell or become overly frustrated at your cat for not being able to perform what you want it to do the first few times. Can you remember the first time you rode a bike? Were you able to ride it really well the first time? How would you have felt if your dad were to yell at you for not being able to ride the bike the first few tries?
That’s exactly what your feline friend will feel. It may not be able to show it but it will surely be puzzled as to why you are yelling. Again, be very patient. It takes time before your cat will get it – the thing you want it to learn.
Addressing the elimination needs of your kitty requires an understanding of their unique behavior related to excretion. Equally important is an understanding of how an automatic cat litter box works and how to choose the one that works best with your pet. It is also important to learn where to place these ingenious gadgets as well as how to train your kitty to use it. Hopefully, this article on the 9 best self-cleaning litter boxes will help you feel more confident about managing the elimination needs of your pet.