Every once in awhile, the great dog person versus cat person debate sparks up. You might hear two people on opposite sides of the issue point out the particular difficulties of owning one over the other. Cat people will often point to the fact that dogs require you to pick up their waste every time they go. As a dog owner, I concede, it’s not the most fun part of dog ownership.
Still, cat owners know that the worst part of having cats as pets is dealing with the litter box. Even with only one cat, the litter box needs attention a minimum of once a week. In the interim, visitors to your home can detect the presence of a litter box long before your kitty kid has made an appearance to say hello. The strong smells and generally unpleasant business of cleaning a litter box will keep some people from considering a cat.
Not to worry. Automatic or self cleaning litter boxes are out there to make your life with Fluffy as easy as can be. They come in a variety of styles and cleaning approaches so you can choose the version that works best for your lifestyle.
As you contemplate your new litter box, it may be time for you to reconsider the litter itself. You can read about our best cat litter brands here. To fully ponder all of your litter box options, be sure to read our lists of the best litter box furniture enclosures here and best covered and top entry litter boxes here.
If you love cats but hate litter boxes, consider our list of the top ten best self cleaning litter boxes to eliminate the hassle of cat cleanup:
Automatic Self Cleaning Litter Boxes
This style of self cleaning litter box uses a power source to automatically remove clumps and waste from the box. These units generally work autonomously for up to a week without any intervention from you. They’re the most advanced style of litter box and usually only require you to empty a waste compartment or add more litter every so often. They’re certainly much pricier than a simple covered litter box, but they’ll save you from the dreadful experience of having to interact with dirty litter.
1. CatGenie Self Washing Self Flushing Cat Box
The CatGenie is the first self cleaning litter box I can remember hearing about. It’s among the more expensive options, but almost certainly has the most advanced approach to getting rid of cat waste. The CatGenie uses so-called Washable Granules in place of litter. These granules are permanent, so rather than changing them out when they’re dirty, the system uses a cold water hook up to wash them and liquify the waste for disposal in a drain or toilet. The machine then heats and dries the granules so they’re ready for the next use. It’s a very advanced system that requires only the addition of SaniSolution every so many washes.
This does require both a cold water line and a drain or toilet in addition to an outlet to work. If you really hate cleaning the litter box, this is the only solution that means you never have to empty any kind of waste storage compartment. You can even get a dome cover for it to give your cat more privacy or side walls to prevent granule loss due to digging.
Price: $239 (8 percent off MSRP)
- Nothing to clean or empty
- Fully automatic
- Integrates with bathroom or laundry room to flush waste
- Washable Granules are permanent, saving money on litter
- Requires a cold water line
- Each CatGenie is only good for 1-2 cats
- Cleaning cycle takes 30 minutes
Another well-known option is this LitterMaid unit. Considerably less complicated than the CatGenie, this automatic litter box works by passing a rake through regular litter to push waste into a compartment. LitterMaid even makes their own cat litter made just for the unit. The box itself is very large and includes a ramp with a cleaning pad to trap litter as your cat leaves. The manufacturer claims that it holds 50 percent more litter than other automatic boxes.
To empty the waste compartment, simply remove the disposable receptacle and throw it away. Carbon fiber filters help keep the smell down in the meantime. This is a solid performer that requires much less fuss than the CatGenie. I’ve seen this in action and it exceeded my expectations for durability and effectiveness.
- Easy-to-remove disposable waste receptacles
- Automatic rake removes waste
- Slightly cheaper than other units
- Battery back-up for power outages
- May require cleaning to remove blockages
- Some concerns about motor strength
- Typical lifespan of 2-4 years
- Loud motor
3. PetSafe Simply Clean Self Cleaning Litter Box
Even less expensive than the LitterMaid, this PetSafe unit is far simpler. Using a rotating litter bowl, this unit continuously removes waste from the litter. The bowl moves very slowly, completing one rotation per hour. Waste doesn’t sit in the litter growing foul smelling bacteria, which extends the life of your litter considerably.
The waste bucket can be lined with any plastic bag to make removal easy. This also has the advantage of not requiring specialized extras like some of the other units. Unlike the LitterMaid, the motor on this unit is extremely quiet. It’s also a more compact design, so this would be a good alternative for homes where space is tight. If the constant motion bothers your cat, a reviewer on Amazon suggests plugging it into a timer to control when the unit is on.
- Quiet, continuous operation
- Good price
- No specialized refills or bags
- Uses less litter
- Only designed for cats up to 12 pounds
- Bowl design limits box space
- Movement may bother some cats
- Use of cheap litter may cause waste to clump under sifter
4. ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter Box
Combining the rake design of the LitterMaid with proprietary crystal litter trays, this PetSafe model gets slightly higher reviews. The disposable trays come filled with PetSafe’s crystal litter, ensuring that the unit will work as intended. When the tray needs to be replaced (every few weeks or as needed, depending on your cat), lift the unit, remove the tray, and cover it with the included lid. The entire tray goes into the trash.
This self cleaning litter box includes a sensor that detects when your cat has entered the box. In turn, this begins a 20 minute timer which will trigger the rake to move the waste into the trap. Tray refills also come in both lavender and dye-free, recycled versions. You can also get a matching anti-tracking mat. If your cat doesn’t require the hood, you can save a little money on the hoodless version. This is probably the simplest and most elegant of the automatic cat box solutions and will get you started the quickest.
- Simple setup
- Easy disposal of waste
- Timer has three different settings
- Includes a health counter to identify possible problems with your cat
- Proprietary litter and trays are pricey — calculate your current litter usage to compare
- Moisture lock crystals means it can’t be used in a humid environment like the bathroom
- Rake depth may be an issue
- Some reports that crystals don’t eliminate odor
5. OurPets SmartScoop Automatic Self-Cleaning Litter Box
The automatic rake system is clearly a popular solution when considering an automatic litter box and this unit is no exception. This one is most similar to the LitterMaid, using a sensor, time delay, and powered rake to push solid waste into a bag-lined receptacle. The two are so similar, the product description takes a shot at the LitterMaid in saying, “Over four times quieter than another leading brand with no disruption for cat or consumer.”
Perhaps there’s something to their engineering, since this box is $60 more than the LitterMaid. Compared with the PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra, the refillable elements of this model — including the carbon filters and no-touch bags — are much cheaper, however, so the price will soon be offset. This is a good alternative if the LitterMaid didn’t work out for you.
- Quieter motor
- Relatively inexpensive operation
- Kit includes anti-tracking mat
- Mechanical components can be removed for thorough cleaning
- Waste receptacle moves with rake, which could lead to greater malfunction
- Somewhat smaller than LitterMaid
- Bags may need to be emptied daily
- Rake may catch and fling litter outside the box
6. Litter-Robot III Open-Air
If you don’t like the design of the metal rake units, you could step up to this high-tech, appliance-level solution. Aimed at multi-cat households, this one features a large integrated litter pan. The entire globe rotates, filtering out waste and depositing it into the large receptacle on the bottom of the unit, which you can line with a regular trash bag. They’ve recently updated this to the III Open-Air model, which is larger than previous models. Other improvements include a drawer full indicator, three, five and seven-minute clean cycle settings, an automatic LED night light, self-adjusting cat sensor, and eight-hour sleep mode. You can purchase an accessory battery back-up separately from the manufacturer’s website, as well.
The sensor on this model is a pressure switch on the bottom of the pan, which can be activated by cats weighing five pounds or more. After a cat departs, the globe begins its rotation based on the number of minutes you’ve chosen. Despite the high price tag, there are no proprietary peripherals to buy, and reviewers consistently comment on the reduction in litter use. It’s possible that this unit will pay for itself in a relatively short amount of time. Like the CatGenie, this is an advanced solution, but it could be the only one you ever need and gets the best reviews of all the automatic option on Amazon.
- Large capacity
- Built-in privacy
- Uses regular trash bags
- Easy to assemble
- Large unit
- Overfilled receptacles could smear on the side of the globe
- Only good for cats up to 15 pounds
Manual Self Cleaning Litter Boxes
These self cleaning litter boxes require a little more work than the automatic versions. A manual operation is required to “automatically” sift the dirty litter out, making it easier to clean. It’s certainly an improvement on scooping each pile out by hand and they’re typically cheaper than the fully automatic versions.
7. Pet Zone EZ Scoop No Touch Cat Litter Box
If you like the idea of the rake mechanism, but don’t want to pay for the motor, this is the option for you. This combines the rake filtering system with a bag compartment. Simply push the rank through the litter and the clumps are deposited in a small bag for disposal. It’s admittedly a simple solution, but the price is low enough to consider.
This unit features a metal rake just like the automated boxes. All surfaces are coated to make them slick, which keeps any mess from sticking. The aim of this one is to provide a slight advantage over scooping, while also saving litter. In the event that the handle does break, as some reviewers have complained about, the company is apparently ready and willing to replace the box, complete with tips for how to avoid a breakage in the future.
Price: $43.20 (38 percent off MSRP)
- Easy-to-use ergonomic handle
- Surface is treated so clumps don’t stick
- Odor neutralizing filter and no-touch bags
- Easily disassembled for cleaning
- Proprietary liners and filters
- Not fully automatic
- Relatively small size
- Some quality control issues (though customer service is helpful)
8. Omega Paw Self-Cleaning Litter Box
Somewhat similar in operation to the Litter Robot above, this self cleaning litter box uses a novel rotating motion to collect solid waste into a removable scoop. This design requires no disposable elements whatsoever, which cuts down on the overall cost of ownership.
Since this is only slightly more expensive than a more-traditional covered litter box, I would consider this regardless of whether or not an automatic box is needed in your case. It will assuredly make cleanup easier, and compared with the expensive electric units, this offers a larger space for bigger cats. Because litter tracking is a concern, you might want to consider the litter mat.
Price: $34.99 (30 percent off MSRP)
- Good price
- Easy to use and assemble
- Large space for large or multiple cats
- No proprietary peripherals
- Not fully automatic
- Filter plastic may break
- Some clean litter may end up in disposal scoop
- Concept may be better than the execution
9. Litter Spinner Quick Clean Cat Litter Box
Keeping in theme with the two above, this is another rotation-based litter box. The difference with this one from the Omega Paw is that the filtering grate is built right into the disposal scoop. That offers the advantage of being able to return clean litter back to the box if any lands in the scoop.
An additional, if purely aesthetic, advantage of this model is that it comes in six different colors — black, green, hot pink, tan, white, and purple. It may not make a huge difference in terms of, you know, cleaning the litter box, but if you’ve got to match something in your home, this might be the way to go.
- Easy assembly
- Choice of six colors
- Simple operation
- Uses any clumping cat litter
- Not fully automatic
- Fit and finish issues
- Litter spills out unless you rotate slowly
10. Hagen CatIt SmartSift Litter Box
The design of this model is a departure from the others on this list. Similar in some ways to the cheaper sifting cat boxes, this one uses an integrated lever to activate the sifting action. The waste is deposited into a large bag-lined, slide-out receptacle below. When the tray is full, just pull it out and throw away the bag.
Compared to the two above, the operation is quite a bit easier. Reviews note that litter tracking is greatly reduced using this setup and is large enough for bigger cats. Proprietary liners and filters are available, but judging from the videos I saw, I don’t think the liners are strictly necessary.
Price: $47.99 (52 percent off MSRP)
- Easy to use
- Large capacity
- Reduced litter tracking
- Uses less litter
- Not fully automatic
- More complicated setup
- Somewhat flimsy
- Lid can be hard to remove
Didn’t find quite what you were looking for? Browse all kitty litter boxes here.