The Self Cleaning Litter Box - Cat Info Detective

The Self Cleaning Litter Box

Skye Blake looking left through magnifying glass

Greetings all you curious cats! Skye Blake here, back to answer some head-scratchers about self cleaning litter boxes.

But can a box really be self-cleaning? What does that mean anyway?

Let’s find out…

paw prints coming in from a distance

What Is “Self Cleaning”?

There are many different types of “self cleaning” litter boxes on the market. What does “self cleaning” actually mean?

At first it seems obvious… you don’t have to touch or do anything with the litter.

But that isn’t completely true. Self cleaning isn’t maintenance free.

cat going into self cleaning litter box

You can’t completely ignore any box, or your cat will let you know about it (and so will your nose)!

When it comes to litter boxes in general, most cat behaviorists recommend keeping it simple.

What self cleaning boxes do is rotate or rake and sift so pee clumps and poo lumps are separated from the clean litter, which then is ready for your cat to use again.

Ginger tabby cat in cardboard box

What they don’t do is wash, rinse themselves and re-supply with fresh litter. You still have to do that as necessary.

Self cleaning boxes require clumping litter, usually clay or silica. You may not be able to substitute with biodegradable litters.

Check the manufacturer recommendations to see what works.

kitten staring up; self cleaning litter box

For some reason, people often use whatever litter they want, it clogs and causes problems, and they think there’s something wrong with the box.

Self-cleaning litter boxes are usually expensive, so be sure you carefully check manufacturer websites, as well as any reviews you can find, before making the investment.

dark tabby at shelter on cat tree

The more complex the box, the more risk of it malfunctioning, and the less likely your cat will use it.

Most importantly, know your cat… if she won’t use it, you have a very expensive doorstop!

Types of Self Cleaning Litter Boxes

bengal cat halfway in covered litter box; self cleaning

Self cleaning boxes come in a few different styles.

You should understand the benefits and problems with each type to see if they’re right for you.

We’re exploring the automatic tumbling/robot and manual roll/sift boxes on this page.

kitten lounging by computer

Follow the links to these pages for sifting and self-flushing setups…

  • Manual Roll & Sift

Catching Medical Problems Early

meezer kitty lounging

It’s a wonderful idea, freedom from the dirty job of cleaning litter boxes.

But if you don’t scoop and change the litter, you’ll miss the opportunity to monitor your cat’s health, which can possibly save his life.

Don’t forget, we felines are experts at hiding pain and illness!

robot alien/person and cat; automatic self cleaning litter box

Some types of boxes have sensors or litter that changes color when changes in urine occur.

This is helpful, especially for older cats and those with diabetes, kidney, liver, or urinary problems.

It’s also a good idea to watch for changes in your cat’s poop since runny or hard feces can expose intestinal problems like worms or constipation.

Evaluate These Factors for Self Cleaning Boxes

2 orange, ginger tabby kittens sleeping on a chair
  • Ease of use for both you and your cat
  • How chill or nervous your cat is in general. (Will he accept this alien being?)
  • How quiet is the unit? (Some cats won’t go near it if it makes noise even if they’re not near the box when it happens.)
  • In multi-cat households, can you afford more than one box?
  • Can you afford the ongoing expense of any special trays, litter, and replacement parts?
cat sleeping on sheet music; self cleaning litter box
  • Is the area your cat will be using inside the box big enough to do his business? Can he turn around in it with lots of room?
  • Is the size of the box too bulky for the area where it will sit?
  • The amount of maintenance and cleaning involved (remember, they’re not maintenance free). Are they easy to take apart to clean?
  • Reliability of the mechanism over time… what’s its track record?

Robot (Automatic)

robot self cleaning litter box

Robot boxes have become well known and sound great… just be sure you know if they’ll work in your situation, since they’re very expensive.

They’re very fancy and made for the convenience of people, not necessarily for the best interest of cats.

The main consideration is if your cat will use it.

Ask Yourself…

drawing of robot holding flower; self cleaning litter box
  • Is the inside big enough for him to turn around easily?

If your cat doesn’t like his whiskers touching the box or hates a covered box, he won’t go in.

Small or average size cats will probably do best with these.

persian cat-white
  • Is it easy for him to get in and out?

If he has arthritis or other difficulties, be sure there’s a ramp or the entrance is low enough for comfortable use.

  • Is there a deodorizer inside that your cat doesn’t like?

Be sure you have the option to remove it.

robot with arm out; self cleaning litter box
  • Does it beep while your cat’s around or inside it?

Your cat could get frightened and avoid the box completely.

  • Does this make sense for a multi-cat household?

Since you should have one box for each cat + one more, these expensive boxes might not be an option for you, unless you want to have one + other types (if your cats will accept this).

cat sitting on record collection-music

Some (like Litter Robot™) claim their box eliminates the need for multiple boxes because the litter is “always fresh”, accommodating up to 4 cats.

Theoretically, this may be true, but only if all your cats will use the same box, you don’t have any that prefer separate boxes for pee and poop, and you have no bully cats that attack others as they exit the box.

Bengal cat sitting on bed looking out window

All these scenarios can quickly make your cats find other places to do their business.

These considerations are important because you’re not likely to convince any cat to use a box just because you love the fancy features!

Controls & Sensors

cute futuristic robot; self cleaning litter box

Automatic boxes usually have manual, remote, and/or wifi (app on phone) controls, often giving you the choice between them.

They also have sensors that can read movement… important because when your cat goes in the box, it’ll stay still and not rotate (theoretically).

If it moves while your cat’s in it, bye-bye cat! It’ll freak out your cat who will never go near it again… an expensive mistake.

Roll & Clean (Manual)

rotating cement mixer; manual self cleaning litter box

These manual rotating boxes (also known as “litter spinners”) are similar to automatic ones but aren’t electric powered.

They don’t have phone app controls and aren’t wifi enabled.

They’re a nice idea, but some people find them difficult to clean, with soiled litter sticking to the sides.

Lesser quality ones can have trouble with internal parts not working right or falling apart too quickly.

Robot/Automatic Litter Box List

smiling android robot

I make a small commission on some of the links below… and I get to share profits with qualified cat rescues!

Check descriptions and reviews carefully for any products you wish to buy… quality, sizes, colors, etc., can’t be guaranteed by anyone but the manufacturer.

Be sure you read the latest reviews for any box you’re considering buying.

They reveal the problems people are encountering as well as those with positive experiences.

Some options are…


Manual Rotating/Litter Spinner Litter Box List

cat with fidget-spinner in mouth

Be sure you read the latest reviews for any box you’re considering buying.

They reveal the problems people are encountering as well as those with positive experiences.

Here are some options…


Types of Litter Boxes & Accessories

Cat Litter ScoopsThe Basic Litter Box
Litter Robot™…Is It Worth the $$$$?The Sifting Litter Box
Cat Genie ®…Does It Really Flush?The DIY Litter Box
The Privacy Screen for Litter BoxesThe Cat Litter Mat
The Corner Litter BoxThe Disposable Litter Box
The Collapsible Litter BoxFurniture Litter Box Enclosures
Breeze Litter BoxThe Covered Litter Box
The Cat Litter Disposal System
Location, Location, Location…The BoxCleaning Cat Urine
Deciphering Pee PatternsSymptoms of Illness in Your Cat
The Territorial CatWhy Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?
What Are the Best Types of Cat Litter?Cat Behavior…Is My Cat Nuts??
Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Box?What’s the Best Cat Litter Box?

Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

Disclosure

I make a small commission on some of the sources listed below if you choose to purchase them from here.

Some products listed link to companies that sell them, whether or not I make any money.

“16 Stand-Out Cat Litter Box Furniture Options to Fit Your Style”, The Dog People

77 Things to Know Before Getting a Cat“, by Susan M. Ewing, Fox Chapel Publishers International, Ltd., 2018

A-K

The Best Kind of Litter Box for Longhaired Cats“, by Jet Perreault, Petful, Dec 5, 2014

Cat Speak“, by Bash Dibra with Elizabeth Randolph, New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., New York, NY, 2003

The Cat Whisperer“, by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York, NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com

Cat Wise“, Pam Johnson-Bennett, Penguin Books, an imprint of Random House LLC, New York, NY, 2016

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting & Owning a Cat“, by Sheila Webster Boneham, PhD, Penguin Group (USA) Inc., New York, NY, 2005

Decoding Your Cat” by American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, editors: Meghan E. Herron, DVM, DACVB; Debra F. Horwitz, DVM, DACVB; Carlo Siracusa, DVM, PhD, DACVB, DECAWBM, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, New York, NY, 2020

L-Z

“Litter Box Happiness for Cats of All Ages”, Dr. Sophia Yin, CattleDog Publishing, January 25, 2017

“Litter Box Solutions for Aging Cats”, Litter Robot

“Litter Training”, Kitten Lady

“The Special Needs of the Senior Cat”, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell Feline Health Center

Total Cat Mojo” by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2017

Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss“, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011

“What’s the Best Litter Box for Senior Cats”, FitSeer.com

“What Your Cat Wants”, by Francesca Riccomini, Thunder Bay Press, Octopus Publishing Group, San Diego, CA, 2012, www.thunderbaybooks.com

Product Sources

Amazon

Chewy

Petco

PetSmart

Target

Walmart

Updated June 13, 2022

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