Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes: Pros, Cons, and Top Picks
You’ve had it with cleaning your cat’s poop and pee clumps, you say? It may be time to switch to self cleaning litter boxes. Once upon a time, the idea of an automatic litter box that actually cleans itself seemed like a myth. Could it be true? Do these exist?
They do, and have advanced beyond sifting through litter to set aside waste. These days, self-cleaning litter boxes not only rake poop and pee clumps away, they also can send notifications to your phone to let you know how often your cat does his or her business.
While self-cleaning litter boxes can never replace the meticulous, deep cleaning that cat parents can do, they help manage the daily workload so you don’t have to constantly scoop. We dig in to how self-cleaning litter boxes work, assess the pros and cons, plus share some of the best options on the market.
How Do Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes Work?
Self-cleaning cat litter boxes do just that: they clean themselves… to a point. No, they won’t walk themselves to a garbage can and throw out waste. But, they will separate waste from clean litter, making it easier for pet owners to discard poop, pee, and the pieces of litter attached. The main upside is that you won’t have to use a scoop to sift through the litter.
As far as technology goes, you can expect the following features on a self-cleaning litter box:
- A robotic rake will automatically move through the litter to sift through poop and pee.
- That poop and pee will then be deposited into a receptacle typically under the box.
- Some self-cleaning litter boxes also give you the ability to set how often it cleans and when, while some are even smart enough to sense when they’ve been used and it’s time to clean.
One very important thing to note as you consider a self-cleaning cat litter box is related to safety: Some automatic litter boxes may not detect kittens weighing less than 5 pounds.
Many use sensors to know when to clean and if your cat is too little, it may not know he’s there and he could get trapped while doing his business.
Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Boxes: The Pros
Here are the benefits you can expect when you have a self-cleaning litter box:
- Consistently clean. Cats love a clean litter box. They’ll go more often if it’s constantly and consistently clean. A robot litter box cleaner will likely be more “on top of things” than us humans, so the frequency of clearing out cat waste will help encourage cats to use their boxes throughout the day.
- Encourages sharing in multi-cat households. If you have a home with multiple cats, a self-cleaning litter box will encourage them to share their box better. Cats typically won’t want to use their litter box if their cat brothers and sisters leave waste behind.
- Effective odor control. The more often boxes are cleaned, the more effective they’ll control odor. Some litter boxes could even self-clean immediately after use.
- Stick to a schedule while you’re away. If you have to travel for a short period of time, you may not need to hire a cat sitter if you have a self-cleaning litter box, paired with an automatic pet feeder.
Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Boxes: The Cons
Nothing is perfect. There are some downsides to self-cleaning litter boxes, such as:
- They’re really pricey to start. Some self-scooping litter boxes are six times the cost of a conventional litter box. If money is a factor, you may want to consider a traditional, non-self-cleaning litter box.
- Unexpected add-ons. There may be some hidden additional costs and requirements. Some may also require you to buy special components (like disposable trays, carbon filters and cleaning cartridges), and even a specific type of litter.
- Requires setup. Depending on the product, some automatic litter boxes may be more complicated to set up than others.
- Some cats might be scared. Think of it this way, when self-cleaning litter boxes make noise and move around without a human, cats may get spooked and then be skeptical to use it again.
- Still involves some maintenance. At the end of the day, deep cleaning will be necessary with any and all boxes—even the self-cleaning ones. At some point, you will want to detox and reset any of these automatic litter box options to ensure maximum cleanliness and good smells all around.
Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes: Our Top Picks
The following self-cleaning litter boxes are some of our favorites, with options for different preferences and needs.
All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the author. However, Vetstreet may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall Self-Cleaning Litter Box: Litter-Robot 4 by Whisker
- Best Self-Cleaning Litter Box for Odor Control: PetSafe ScoopFree Smart Self-Cleaning Litter Box
- Self-Cleaning Litter Box with the Sleekest Design: ChillX AutoEgg
- Best Self-Cleaning Litter Box for the Environment: CatGenie A.I.
- Best Self-Cleaning Litter Box on a Budget: Nature’s Miracle Multi-Cat Self-Cleaning Litter Box
5 Best Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes
Best Overall Self-Cleaning Litter Box
Our pick: Litter-Robot 4 by Whisker
Shop now and save $50 off any Litter-Robot purchase
The popular automatic, self-cleaning Litter-Robot, developed by engineer and cat parent Brad Baxter more than 20 years ago, has evolved significantly over the past two decades. What we already loved about the WiFi-enabled Litter-Robot 3 Connect has been improved upon even further with the company’s newest iteration, the Litter-Robot 4. You’ll still find all the core features, like Litter-Robot’s patented sifting system, odor management, multi-cat design, and cat safety features, but they are enhanced with the latest technology.
For example, the newest model uses laser and weight sensor technology to provide real-time litter and waste drawer levels and analyzes four safety zones to make sure your cat is always safe. Other new features include a WhisperQuiet cleaning cycle, an enlarged waste drawer, a wider opening for cats to climb into, and an optional system to neutralize litter box odors.
- WiFi-enabled, automatic, self-cleaning litter box features advanced sensor and litter-sifting technology
- Optional step for ease of entry
- Appropriate for cats of all sizes and suitable for up to 4 cats
- Included fence helps minimize litter tracking
- Works well with almost any clumping or scoopable litter
- Real-time tracking of waste drawer and litter levels through the Whisker app
- Choose from black or white models
- 90-day in-home trial
- Free shipping (except Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico)
Things to Consider
- Starts shipping July 2022
- Higher price tag than its predecessor, Litter-Robot 3 Connect
- Add-ons include a litter trap mat, which is designed to fit the Litter-Robot’s base, and an OdorTrap pod and packs, which use plant-based oils to help neutralize litter box odors
- The Litter-Robot 4 ramp will not be available until late 2022; the Litter-Robot 3 ramp is not compatible with Litter-Robot 4
- 1-year warranty included but you can upgrade to 3 years for a fee
Best Self-Cleaning Litter Box for Odor Control
We chose the ScoopFree as one of our favorites because it is the best automatic litter box for odor control. And let’s face it, scooping poop aside, one of the most important things in a litter box—automatic or not—is its ability to smell poop-free! This self-scooping litter box comes equipped with a litter tray and crystal litter that traps yucky smells.
You can also set the timer to clean after your cat leaves the box in different intervals of time. If your cat is still in the box or comes back during that time, it’ll sense it and not rake.
- You can connect to the My PetSafe app to monitor your cat’s litter box activity (and other health factors) directly from your phone.
- Leak-proof trays, pre-filled with premium crystal litter, are great for odor control.
- While the standard version is non-covered, you can buy one with a cover for an additional $40.
Things to Consider
- This automatic litter box requires you to use crystal litter, which doesn’t clump.
- You will have to buy additional automatic refill trays, which subscriptions are available for.
Self-Cleaning Litter Box with the Sleekest Design
Our pick: ChillX AutoEgg
We love the way the ChillX Auto Egg looks. We can’t deny how sleek and chic it appears. Even better, this automatic litter box also lived up to its promise: it rakes through clumping cat clay litter and deposits it in a waste receptacle. The rake is triggered by both your cat’s motion and also at four automatically set times throughout the day to make sure your cat has a clean box when needed.
- It rakes slowly and quietly.
- Features a Cat-Stuck Prevention mechanism, so it’ll stop its cleaning cycle if it detects a cat in the box (but not a small kitten).
Things to Consider
- Slightly shorter than the rest (measuring 7.5 inches in height), so consider another litter box if you have bigger cats.
- You will have to clean the rake quite a bit, as sometimes the litter can get stuck.
- The company advises against using this automatic cat litter box for silica crystals, pellet, tofu, wheat, and corn litter.
Best Self-Cleaning Litter Box for the Environment
Our pick: CatGenie A.I.
The revolutionary CatGenie A.I. rakes to get rid of solid waste, but then literally rinses itself with the special SaniSolution and is blown dry for future use. While you will have to hook it up to water and a drain, the granules it will dispose of are totally biodegradable and flushable. When in use, the CatGenie app will help you monitor how often your cat goes to the bathroom, plus provide updates on its cleaning cycles.
- The biggest pro is you’ll never have to buy litter again!
- Settings will allow you to select if you want the litter box to clean every time your cat uses it or at specific times throughout the day.
Things to Consider
- You will have to hook it up to cold water.
- A privacy dome will have to be purchased separately if you or your cat prefer a cover.
Best Self-Cleaning Litter Box on a Budget
Not only do we love the Nature’s Miracle Multi-Cat Self-Cleaning Litter Box for its size, we also love its value. At a very cost-effective price, this automatic litter box comes equipped with a smart-detection sensor so it knows when to rake. It also has a waste receptacle that will keep odors contained.
- This litter box also has a night light.
- High walls help prevent scatter.
Things to Consider
- Limited in operating modes: on, off, and clean.
- You will have to replace carbon filters periodically for odor control.
Automatic Cat Litter Boxes: What to Look For
If you’re in the market for a self-cleaning cat litter box, you should consider these factors:
- That it automatically scoops the two different types of cat waste for you.
- That it doesn’t spill when it does so.
- That it scoops multiple times per day or can be triggered when your pet does his business.
- That it’s big enough for your cat or cats if you have more than one.
In addition to the key features to look for in an automatic litter box, you should also make sure you have an outlet close to where you’re going to place it, as automatic self-cleaning litter boxes will need to be plugged in.
And most importantly, once you’ve checked all of those boxes, you’ll have to consider your cat. Is your cat big enough for the litter box to sense his or her presence? Will your cat want to use it? Does the litter box work with the type of litter your cat prefers? Will he get scared of any noises that an automatic litter box might make? After all, it’s for your fur baby, and if your cat won’t use it, then, what’s the point?