10 Things You Should Know Before Buying an Automatic Litter Box

Fact checked by  Mallory Crusta
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Mallory Crusta / Cats.com

Automatic litter boxes may promise to do the work for you, but can they deliver? While there are multitudes of automatic litter boxes out there, not all live up to their promises. After testing and reviewing over a dozen automatic litter boxes, we’ve identified several key factors you should look for when evaluating any self-cleaning box.

Keep reading to learn about our top 10 things to be aware of when buying an automatic litter box.

10 Things You Should Know

There are several things to consider when buying an automatic litter box. Here are 10 of the most important things to look for.

1. Company Reputation Makes a Difference

When looking for an automatic litter box, you will want to look at the company’s reputation. Many companies have a good engineering team and manufacture their products. This means they control the product from beginning to end.

Some companies just purchase a product from China and put their logo on it. This means it is sold to multiple companies by many other brands. You can always contact a company and ask where it is manufactured to confirm this.

With the Litter-Robot 4’s new sensor system, the unit is able to detect cats when they peek into—or step into—the box without activating the weight sensor.. Mallory Crusta / Cats.com

Also Read: Litter-Robot 4 Review (We Tested It For a Month)

2. Reading Real Cat Parents Reviews Is Key

Always read the reviews to find out how the automatic litter box works for others. Because many companies control the reviews published on their own site, seek out reviews posted on third-party platforms like Amazon, Google, Chewy, and Trustpilot. Use a tool like Fakespot to identify deceptive reviews.

3. Avoid Shopping Scams

There are many ads going around on social media sites that are flat-out scams. While the ad may look like you are buying a reputable product you may receive something completely different. Be skeptical of products that are on sale for 50% off or more, and make sure you only purchase from the company or a reputable retailer.

Also Read: The 11 Best Cat Litter Boxes in 2024

4. Not All Warranties Are the Same

Always check the warranty when purchasing an automatic litter box. These devices are far from perfect and do tend to have problems. When parts break or the product malfunctions, having a good warranty with replacement parts included is vital. You may also want to check for money-back guarantees in case you are not sure an automatic litter box is right for you.

5. Some Automatic Litter Boxes Are More Cat Friendly Than Others

This well-designed litter box is easy to take apart for cleaning. Liz Coleman / Cats.com

Consider your cat’s comfort first and foremost. If your cat does not like the automatic litter box, you have wasted money on something that will not get used. Make sure the litter bed is big enough for your cat’s size and that he has room to move around inside. It is also important to consider your cats are the type who will use a litter box that has moving parts that can be quite noisy.

6. Check the Gaps

Avoid litter boxes with large open seams, crevices, and other sections that can collect waste and litter. Amy Brown-Towry / Cats.com

This may not be easy to determine when just shopping online. Many of these automatic litter boxes have gaps in the construction which allow the litter to fall into the cracks. This not only puts the box at risk of malfunctioning but also makes it very difficult to clean.

7. Check the Size of the Waste Bin

Automatic litter boxes may have very different waste drawer volumes. Be sure to pick one with a large waste drawer. Mallory Crusta / Cats.com

Sometimes automatic litter boxes do not supply the measurements of a litter waste bin, which means it may not be very big. Sometimes the waste bin is small, and that may mean you clean it out more often. You may consider contacting the company to get information on the size.

8. Ensure That the Waste Drawer Attaches Well

The waste drawer should slide in securely to ensure that odors are sealed in. Mallory Crusta / Cats.com

Some of these automatic litter boxes have waste bins or drawers that just sit on the bottom and do not attach. This means odors and litter can escape. Be sure the waste drawer is attached with a track or snaps into place to ensure it does not fall out or move around. You may also check for some kind of carbon filter built in to neutralize odors in the waste drawer area.

9. Make Sure It Cleans Thoroughly

Whether it uses a rotating sifting system or a rake, the litter box should be able to clean thoroughly without leaving a lot of mess behind. Mallory Crusta / Cats.com

Ensure the rake system makes contact with the litter tray and scrapes through the entire litter bed. This means it is grabbing the litter clumps and pushing them into the waste bin. This is another item that may be difficult to determine before trying the litter box out.

10. Consider What Your Cat Really Wants

In reality, your cat probably wants a nice open box to do their business in. In some cases, your cat may like an automatic litter box. But for anxious cats, an automated box will not be the best choice. In the end, it should be appropriate for your needs as well as your cat’s.

Do Cats Like Automatic Litter Boxes?

Some cats do well with automatic litter boxes, while others want nothing to do with them. Automatic litter boxes are not one-size-fits-all. If you have a larger size cat, he may not fit comfortably inside, while some cats are just put off by all of the moving parts.

At the end of the day, if your cat doesn’t use the regularly worth it. The trick is to start slowly and not force anything on your cat. Start by putting the litter box as close to the current litter box area and leave it there for as long as it takes for your cat to adjust. It is also a good idea to use the same litter when changing litter boxes.

Also Read: How To Clean Your Cat’s Litter Box According to a Cat Behaviorist

Do Automatic Litter Boxes Work?

An automatic litter box can do the scooping for you but not all Automatic litter boxes are created equal and some are flat-out terrible. For the cost of one of these litter boxes, it is important to know what you are buying and understand what a specific one can and can’t do.

Some automatic litter boxes take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to go through a cleaning cycle. Others are loud when cycling but many are prone to jams and clogs in the raking systems. Often the litter beds are small, waste bins are tiny, and the sensors don’t always work.

An automatic litter box will still mean you have to do some work, but it will be somewhat different from owning a normal litter box. Automatic litter boxes do require cleaning and being emptied on a regular basis regardless of type. You will also need to add litter when needed in order for the litter box to function properly.

Also Read: How To Mask The Cat Smell In Your Home

Do Automatic Litter Boxes Smell?

While automatic litter boxes cut back on cleaning time, they don’t always cut back on the odor. Automatic litter boxes can help by removing waste more often and a lot of odor trapping has to do with the litter you choose to use in the litter box.

Most automatic litter boxes are programmed to go through the cleaning process right after your cat has used the box. Depending on the type of litter box your buy, the machine will remove the waste your cat leaves in the tray leaving you with a clean litter box and no offensive odor lingering.

Also Read: Best Cat Litter For Odor Control: The Complete Guide To Ending Litter Box Odor For Good

How Much Does an Automatic Litter Box Cost?

The cost of an automatic litter box can vary based on the features it offers. The more popular automatic litter boxes cost between $80 -$170. The high-end models can set you back about $500 easily.

A larger litter box is going to cost more than a smaller one due to having more parts. Cats, of course, prefer larger when doing their business so it is always a better choice.

The technology of an automatic litter box can greatly affect the price. Most automatic litter boxes have motion sensors and timers that know when to start cleaning once the cat has exited the tray, but those with more advanced sensor systems can cost more.

The upfront cost isn’t the only one you need to consider when buying an automatic litter box. Some take special litter that can be costly while some require larger amounts in the tray. Also, some automatic litter boxes require cleaning solutions and odor neutralizers.

Also Read: 5 Best High-Sided Litter Boxes For Messy Cats

How To Clean an Automatic Litter Box

Automatic litter boxes need to be cleaned and maintained regularly. Some models are easy to assemble and disassemble making them easier to clean.

Most automatic litter boxes have a rake that sifts through the soiled litter, collecting clumps and depositing them into a receptacle or waste tray. This receptible or tray is what you will want to clean regularly depending on how many cats you have, how often they use the litter box, and the size of the tray.

Every automatic litter box is different, but most come apart easily. You will want to disassemble the product and do a thorough cleaning probably once a month. This means cleaning out the litter tray, and litter bed and removing litter from any crevices. Some of these products are easier to clean than others so you will want to do your research to find the right one for your needs.

Also Read: How Many Litter Boxes Should You Have Per Cat?

Is an Automatic Litter Box Worth It?

While a litter box that cleans itself can save you a lot of time, it may not save you any money. Self-cleaning cat litter boxes, vary extensively in price but are not cheap. They are also prone to jams, clogs, and malfunctions, so those with warranties and great customer support are the best choice.

Remember, also, that many cats dislike automatic litter boxes, meaning that they might not even use their expensive new gadget.

However, many automatic litter boxes monitor your cat’s bathroom habits remotely through an app. This can help you notice any underlying medical issues your cat may be suffering from and prevent future complications and lower vet bills.

Also Read: 10 Best Cat Litter Box Furniture And Enclosures

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About Amy Brown-Towry

Amy Brown-Towry is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and animal lover. She is the proud owner of two cats and a dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.