Are Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Boxes Worth the Cost?

| Jennifer Phillips April

Are self-cleaning cat litter boxes worth it? Learn how they work, their costs, required maintenance, and answers to other common questions for cat owners.


Before getting a cat, you probably imagined days spent curled up on the couch cuddling with a new furry friend. Unfortunately, cat ownership isn’t always that glamorous, especially when it comes to cleaning out a litter box.

Cutting back on litter cleaning duty would certainly making cat ownership a bit more fun, especially if you have multiple cats. That’s one reason pet owners are thinking about transitioning to a self-cleaning litter box.

However, is the switch really worth it? We explain how self-cleaning litter boxes work, how much maintenance they require, their cost, and answer other common questions.

How Do Self-Cleaning Cat Boxes Work?

Self-cleaning litter boxes have sensors that detect when your kitty enters and leaves. Most wait for a few minutes after your cat exits, eventually using a motorized rake to pull any clumps into a separate container. The container holds the clumped litter until you’re ready to dump it, which helps reduce odor and keeps the area around the box cleaner.

Automatic litter boxes are either battery-operated, electric, or both.

Do You Need Special Litter for Motorized Litter Boxes?

No, but you do need a clumping litter. Without the clumps, the self-cleaning function won’t work as well – if at all.

The type of litter box you choose will likely provide a litter recommendation.

Do Auto Litter Boxes Help Keep Your Cat Happy and Healthy?

Cats spend 30%-50% of the day grooming themselves. Their fastidiousness extends to their litter box. A soiled litter box is just as upsetting to your cat as a clogged toilet is to a human.

When the litter box stays clean, your kitty stays happy. Plus, it reduces the chance they lick waste off their paws or track it around the house.

How Often Do You Have to Clean an Automatic Cleaning Litter Box?

It comes down to two things:

  • The number of cats you have

  • The type of automatic litter box you choose

Most self-cleaning litter box brands recommend once a week for one cat or every few days for multiple cats. It also depends on your preference. While automatic litter boxes reduce the smell, they may not get rid of it entirely. Additionally, you’ll have to consider how difficult it is to clean the waste container.

Then again, some of these boxes require a complete scrub-down, so read up on them before you buy. You don’t want to have to take a box apart to clean it.

How To Choose a Self-Cleaning Litter Box

There’s no shortage of self-cleaning litterboxes, and you can compare brands for days. Differences range from size of the box to cleaning methods and more.


With any litterbox, motorized or not, you want it to be big enough for your cat(s) not to feel cramped. If you watch your kitty step into a litter box, you’ll see that they’ll sniff around and usually turn around before raking the litter with their paw and conducting their business. Then, they’ll sniff again and rake some litter over their bathroom duties.

Most litter boxes can accommodate cats between 5-20 pounds.

Litter Cleaning

Generally, the appeal of the self-cleaning litter box is that it stays cleaner longer. Most models scrape the litter and push the clumps into a container which you then empty. Depending on the size of the waste container and the number of kitties using the box, you may only need to clean it out every few weeks.

There is one brand of automatic litter box that flushes the mess away. The Cat Genie hooks up to your toilet or washing machine line to truly take the automatic cleaning to the next level.

Warranties and Guarantees

You’ll also want to consider the warranties and guarantees of these boxes. With the additional moving parts, things can go wrong. Motors can break, litter can clog up an opening, and the scooping function can stop scooping. Prepare yourself by knowing what options you have for fixing any potential problems. It’s probably a good idea to maintain a backup litter box should something happen.

How To Transition Your Kitty to a Self-Cleaning Box

As you know, kitties are particular and don’t like change. If you’re switching from a traditional litter box to an automatic one, you’ll want to keep your current box for a while and let your cat adjust to the new one.

In conclusion, battery-operated or electric litter boxes for cats are a good idea, but they’re not for everyone. Parts can break down, your cat may not like it, and you may find that it’s not much of a time-saver. Besides reading the reviews, you may want to choose one with a generous guarantee in case of breakage.

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Jennifer Phillips April

A connoisseur of fluffy pups, Jen Phillips April started writing about dog health back in 2005 with a dog treat recipe site. Now she writes for multiple pet brands, veterinarians, and pet tech.


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