Last updated: September 5, 2021

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A litter box is an absolute necessity when you have a cat. It disposes of your pet's waste in an appropriate and sanitary manner. But a litter box needs to be emptied at least once a day, and it can give off some very unpleasant odors. There are different cat litter products that can mitigate the downside of having a kitty. You can buy a covered litter box, scented litter or even a self-cleaning, or "automatic" litter box.

Automatic litter boxes are more expensive than traditional litter boxes, since they have mechanisms that automatically, or semi-automatically, dispose of the cat's feces and urine, and some even store these waste materials in a bag for later disposal. But many cat owners do not mind paying this extra expense, since these advanced litter boxes keep homes free of strong odors, minimize human contact with pet waste, and keep cats happy by providing a cleaner litter box.

Key Facts

  • Self-cleaning cat litter boxes usually have one of three types of cleaning mechanisms. There are the semi-automatic boxes, which work with some human intervention, activating a rake or lever of some type. Another type is fully-automated litter boxes that use powered electricity or batteries to perform the cleaning functions without your intervention.
  • A self-cleaning litter box, along with some quality litter, and sometimes binder and fragrance, will help you avoid the unpleasant smells that a cat can produce.
  • A new type of automatic cat box has recently arrived on the market, which connects to the home's plumbing and actually washes a special type of litter, recycling it again and again, saving time and eliminating the need to dispose of dirty cat litter into the landfill.
  • Cats are very clean animals and they do not like to get dirty. An automatic litter box of this style will not only benefit you, but your cat will be much more comfortable and happy, too.

Our Selection: The Best Automatic Litter Boxes

Litter boxes are an essential accessory for house cats. These animals love to have a clean litter box ready to use whenever they need it. And, although a litter box is a very useful product, it can produce a lot of germs and bacteria. Self-cleaning litter boxes are a great way to keep your home odor-free and minimize these unhealthy substances. To help choose the product that best suits you and your cat, have a look at the list below:

Shopping Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Automatic Litter Boxes

Cats are great company, and they require much less attention than dogs, because they do not need to be walked or even to go outdoors at all. A home that is well-equipped for a cat will have, among other things, a clean litter box where it can deposit its waste several times a day.

Where does the dirty litter from a self-cleaning cat litter box go?

Normally, automatic or semi-automatic litter boxes push, pull or rake solid waste from the tray in which your cat performs its duties to another container, which will then be covered automatically to prevent odors from escaping. The cat owner can empty the container later, when they get home from work, for example. Some automatic litter boxes flush the waste down the toilet and  then wash the litter and dry it for the next use.

If I have a self-cleaning cat litter box, do I still have to clean it occasionally?

Yes. With the types of automatic litter boxes where cat waste is deposited in a tray and the litter itself remains in the tray after raking the clumps, tiny bits of waste can be left behind in the tray--along with germs and bacteria. Therefore, once in a while the litter should be fully changed and the entire tray washed with hot water and a disinfectant soap that is not harmful to the cat. It is also a good idea to use a solution of bleach and water while you rinse the box.

It is also very important that the automatic litter box you choose is the appropriate size for your cat.

Will it bother my cat to use a litter box that is always clean?

Given that cats are very fastidious animals who like to have everything around them clean, it may take the cat some getting used to the new box, or a box that is always clean. At first the cat may not want to use it, but with patience, encouragement and forgiveness for some initial "accidents," they should start using the box regularly in a short period of time.

You may need to educate your cat about the new litter box by showing them the litter and scratching in it.

It is quite possible that your cat will be highly entertained by watching the litter box parts moving and dragging the litter for cleaning, as many cat owners have reported. In general, cats usually come to accept their automatic litter boxes.

How do I teach my cat to use an automatic litter box?

Cats are intuitive and intelligent animals that have little trouble learning new things. As kittens, most cats instinctively find and use the litter box from the moment they are able to climb over the side and into it.

If you notice that your cat is not using their new litter box, or seems afraid of the self-cleaning system, give him some time until he gets used to it. These animals love routine and any change can be disruptive or off-putting to them. It is very unlikely that you will need to go back to using your cat's old litter box if you have provided him with patience and time, along with the new system.

Sleepy pensive little tabby kitten

It is recommended that you clean the litter box tray from time to time, regardless of whether it is automatic or not.(Source: Ysbrand Cosijn: 40002674/

Shopping Criteria

When you shop for a self-cleaning litter box, you should consider not only your own preferences, but also those of your cat. Below are some important features that you should look at when you buy one of these products so that your cat will be just as happy as you are with your purchase.

Cleaning System

Self-cleaning litter boxes use a variety of systems to clean the waste. Litter boxes with automatic systems which are connected to electricity and/or plumbing are more complex and require less human interaction those that have semi-automatic systems and must be operated manually. In the following table we describe the ways both types of systems clean the boxes, according to their characteristics.

Automatic Semiautomatic
Advantages Programmed to clean independently, therefore they are less work.

You only need to empty a bag occasionally and clean the tray from time to time, but on a day-to- day basis, you are free from the litter box.

If you go on a trip for a few days, the box cleans itself

These types do not use electricity, so they are arguably "greener."

They require a minimum of daily attention from humans.

Disadvantages More costly: either in electricity or batteries.

Usually more expensive: Because they offer better cleaning systems, they come with a higher initial price tag.

They do less work than the automatic litter boxes. And, to remove the waste requires human intervention.

If you go on a brief trip and leave the cat at home with an automatic feeder, waterer and litter box, you may still need someone to stop by your home to keep the litter box clean. Even if it is only to activate the lever so that the litter tray does not retain the solid waste and urine clumps.


The self-cleaning litter box you choose should be based on the size of your cat. Experts recommend that the tray is 1.5 times the length of the animal. The cat not needs to fit in its tray, it also must be able to turn around while in the tray to bury its waste comfortably.


A cat is an animal that requires very little work as a pet. He doesn't need you to wash him, since he grooms himself daily, preventing bad smells. They are also very independent and carry out their activities without needing a human to guide them.

Automatic litter boxes make your life as a pet owner much easier. They save you from having to clean the cat litter box every time your pet uses it. There are some litter boxes that work automatically and require almost no participation on your part and some that require you to operate a lever or other device. Your biggest job will be to retrieve the bag or container where the waste is stored. Do yourself (and your cat) a favor and join those who have embraced the automatic litter box revolution.

We hope we have answered all of your questions about automatic cat litter boxes. If you liked this article, please share it on social media. If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below.

(Source of Featured Image: Bonzami Emmanuelle: 48155033/