Automatic and self cleaning cat litter boxes are becoming increasingly popular. The Litter Maid is a well known brand that has mixed reviews. There is also the Cat Genie that washes the litter. The Litter-Robot II has a unique design that reliably sifts litter via a rotating globe. After a thorough evaluation of features and trade-offs, we became convinced the Litter-Robot II is the best auto cat litter box available.
We purchased our first Litter-Robot II in June of 2007. Recently, we upgraded to the new version that has the odor control feature. This article compares the features of three top automatic cat litter box brands and discusses our experience with the new Litter Robot II odor control feature.
The Litter Maid uses a rake to comb through the litter. The rake separates clumps from litter and deposits them into a special receptacle. Receptacle refills must be purchased separately. They are not very large and cost a lot. They are sold 12 in a box for about $19.99. For just one cat, they need to be changed every 5 days. That adds up to $120.00 per year. Over a typical 15 year cat life span, the cost is $1800. Many users have reported problems with the Litter Maid rake getting clogged. It needs to be cleaned often. The Litter Maid reduces the effort of scooping, but requires maintenance of the rake and costs $1800 over the life of one cat for special receptacles.
The Cat Genie is an interesting concept. It uses special cat litter that is washable. The unit connects to plumbing in your home. After the cat completes his business, water enters the litter area, the litter is washed and solid waste is pushed through a grinder before exiting the unit to the sewer. The cat gets his own toilet, literally. Now for the down side. Just like a toilet, the Cat Genie's grinding mechanism can clog. This is very disgusting to clean out. Another down side is the special litter and sani solution for washing the litter.
The Litter-Robot II has an ingenious design. A removable globe sits atop a base having a very large removable drawer. Inside the globe is a sturdy, heavy duty filter that sifts litter from waste as the globe rotates. A trap door rotates around until it reaches the bottom. The waste reliably falls through the trap door to the waste drawer below, that is lined with any type of plastic bag. A cat sensor detects the presence of the cat. There is a timer that does not start the globe rotating until 7 minutes after the cat is gone. This also allows the clumps to solidify, enabling extremely reliable performance. The cat sensor also detects if the cat comes back while the globe is rotating. The globe stops for 15 seconds.
There are only a few negative things that can be said about the Litter-Robot. One is that the Litter-Robot II is not recommended for tiny kittens or cats less than five pounds. Tiny kittens and very small cats may not set off the cat sensor and could get hurt by the trap door. Second, it is not recommended for diabetic cats since urine clumps may be too large. Third, it is not recommended for cats larger than 15 lbs, although users having cats up to 20 lbs have reported successful Litter-Robot II adoption.
Other Litter-Robot benefits: The first is the globe itself. The shape of the globe is ideal for minimizing the amount of litter the cat can kick out. The opening is just large enough for the cat to enter. The globe is lined with a thick rubber material and the screen is coated with the same material. The rubber material prevents and reduces odor absorption by the globe.
The second benefit is easy cleaning. The globe easily lifts off the base. We have found it rarely needs to be cleaned. The screen has never clogged. Once every few months we have found it necessary to empty the remaining litter and clean the globe. Since the globe has no electronics, this is easily done with a hose or in the bathtub. You could take it to a self car wash if you live in an apartment. Similarly, the drawer is easily cleaned by a hose or in a laundry tub.
The third benefit is the Litter-Robot's sturdy construction. It is very solidly built and intended to last a long time. At $329, it may seem like it costs a lot, but if you consider that you are buying an appliance rather than a throw-away consumer product, the price is very reasonable. It's about the same cost as a dishwasher or washing machine and meant to last as long. The warranty is 18 months, 50% longer than standard 1 year appliance warranties.
The odor control features are two-fold. First there is a soft breathable ring that fills the space between the globe and the base. This traps odor inside without allowing odor to build up. Then there is a replaceable carbon filter at the front of the drawer. The drawer step has odor breathing holes to prevent odor build-up. Now the odor must travel through the carbon filter to exit the holes. The odors are effectively neutralized before exiting. The manufacturer recommends replacing carbon filters every 6-8 weeks, or when necessary. We have not changed ours in five months and still do not feel it needs to be changed.
The first Litter-Robot II we owned did not have odor control; odor was not too bad. However, we noticed a significant difference once we upgraded our Litter-Robot. Now we find the odor is not noticeable unless the cat had just used the box, even when standing next to it.
We give the Litter-Robot II a five star ***** review. In our opinion, it is the best self-cleaning cat litter box available.
Gail Jones is a staff writer and expert in home automation products. She works for Paradise Robotics, a Chicago Area company that specializes in products that make life better.