Image via iStock.com/Louno_M
By Kate Hughes
One of the most unpleasant tasks associated with cat ownership is keeping the cat litter box clean. Experts often recommend that boxes be cleaned as often as cats use them, or at least twice per a day.
But if you’re looking for some help with this chore, that’s where an automatic litter box comes in. If you choose this route, make sure that you get the right litter and that you’re prepared to maintain an automatic litter box.
Automatic Litter Boxes 101
There are several automatic litter boxes on the market. Generally speaking, these litter boxes for cats work by either raking or sifting waste into a separate, sealed compartment. This must be emptied on a regular basis to keep the automatic litter box functioning how it should.
Another factor that new owners of automatic litter boxes should keep in mind is that certain types of cat litter work better than others when it comes to keeping the box functioning the way that it should.
The Best Cat Litter for Automatic Litter Boxes
While every automatic litter box is different, there are some qualities that make certain cat litters better suited for automatic boxes than others.
Overall, clumping cat litters are the best option for automatic litter boxes. “Without clumping, automatic boxes are going to have a difficult time removing waste and especially urine,” says Megan Phillips, BS, ADBC. Phillips is a cofounder of Train With Trust, a Colorado Springs-based company that offers personalized behavior solutions for owners of all types of animals.
Clumping litters are available in a number of varieties, from natural litter made from grass—like Frisco grass clumping cat litter—to clay-based litters, like Arm & Hammer Multi-Cat litter and Fresh Step Multi-Cat litter with Febreze.
Dr. Elsey's Ultra clumping cat litter is made using a special formulation of heavy, non-tracking granules with a medium-grain clay that makes it a great option for automatic litter boxes.
Phillips says that for her automatic litter box, she was partial to the World’s Best brand of cat litter.
Proprietary Litters and Solutions
While clumping may be essential for some automatic litter boxes, others go a step beyond that and require the use of a special cat litter, like the ScoopFree Original automatic cat litter box. This cat litter box uses ScoopFree crystal cat litter tray refills that contain a specially formulated crystal litter.
Another automatic litter box that has its own special litter is the CatGenie self-flushing cat box. This cat litter box flushes the cat litter out of the home, and the specialized litter will ensure that your pipes won’t clog. For this litter box to function properly, it requires the use of the CatGenie SaniSolution 120 SmartCartridge and CatGenie washable granules, in addition to plumbing and electricity hookups.
Non-clumping litters are simply not recommended for most automatic litter boxes. Because this type of cat litter doesn’t clump, it’s difficult for an automatic box’s scooping mechanism to catch all the waste, and wet litter can cause a mess in the machine’s inner workings.
Find What Your Cat Likes Best
While automatic litter boxes can be great to have, it is worth noting that cats are particular creatures that may be picky about the types of cat litter that they use. Keep this in mind as you pick out an automatic litter box system.
Introducing Your Cat to the Automatic Litter Box
Phillips notes that when introducing your cat to an automatic litter box, cat owners should take things slow and ease cats into the switch. These devices can make noises that a cat is not used to.
“It may cause some really big issues if your cat is afraid of it and decides he never wants to use it again. Then you have a situation where the cat is urinating or defecating outside of the litter box,” says Phillips.