CatGenie – Automatic Litterbox?

Post Published on September 4, 2008.
Last Updated on March 17, 2016 by davemackey.

UPDATE: Gave up on it. 😛

UPDATE: I’m fairly satisfied with my CatGenie now and can recommend it. Nora from CatGenie contacted me and sent out a new hopper and a new robotic arm. Another CSR sent me a replacement processing unit. With these new items in place, and after having corrected the issue that my plumber had hooked up the CatGenie to hot water instead of cold, and after switching to non-scented cleaning solution – everything is working amazingly. I spend around two minutes a day paying attention to the CatGenie – just enough to press the start cycle button.

Here are my revised requests for a future CatGenie:

  • Larger – Small/Medium cats have no problems…My “gentle giant” Barclay finds her behind sometimes hanging over the edge…Resulting in a mini-mess to cleanup.
  • Automatic Cycles – After a cat uses the bathroom it would be nice if it ran through at least a minimal clean cycle. Perhaps just scoop and flush the poor and rinse/dry with water.
  • Different Litter – Not sure what can be done about this but my cats track this litter all over. It seems to stick to their little paws.

Charity and I have three cats (Hermione, Barclay, and Piper) – and they are very precious to us. Unfortunately, they do not know how to use proper waste facilities (e.g. our bathrooms) and so we have the litter box issue. We’d love to let them go outside, but our house is surrounded by busy streets – so not such a great idea.

We started with traditional litter boxes – and that was okay. The poop scooping isn’t bad, the problem is the pee – eventually it saturates the litter and you have to change the entire box. Uck. We tried one of those automatic litterboxes that uses a robotic arm to move the poop into a small waste can – but this still didn’t solve the main issue – the urine!

Finally, it was time to pull out the big guns. We purchased a CatGenie from PetNovations. With taglines like, “Never touch, smell, or buy cat litter again” and “The only automatic cat box that flushes away waste and, like a cat, washes itself.” Wow. Now, I should note that I’m really the sucker for these automated toys – I was the one who bought the automatic shower cleaner (which didn’t work) and wants a Roomba (even though people tell me they are far from perfect) and who dreams of self-driving automobiles. Charity is not so easily drawn in – so the blame mainly rests on me for these new-fangled purchass.

Anyways, the CatGenie is a nifty idea. It hooks into your water and into your waste. You can have it dump directly into your toilet or into a laundry drain. We initially started with the toilet – but when we had our bathroom remodeled (it was a very cramped half bath, we expanded into a master bath) I had the designs include a small cubby hole with separate water and drainage that we could place the CatGenie into. Woohoo!

The CatGenie has a bowl and you fill it with these washable, litter-like granules. Your cat jumps into the bowl and does her business. Any urine moves down through the bowl (which has holes in it) into a holding tank (essentially a septic tank) while poop remains on the top. Occasionally you run the device and a robotic arm pops up, scooping out the poop and liquidating it with some heavy duty cleaner they have. It also sucks all the urine into the drain as well. It uses water to rinse the litter and basin so that there is no residual smell. Wow, amazing!

It is a great concept – and we’ve actually chucked our old litter boxes, but that isn’t to say it doesn’t have some major problems. Namely:

  • Size – The bowl is smaller than most single cat litter boxes. While Hermione and Piper have no difficulties, Barclay who is our “gentle giant” finds it a bit more difficult to utilize. The litter area could use about twice its current size.
  • Robotic Arm – The robotic arm is supposed to grab all the poop and scoop it up and then dump it down this shoot where the poop is liquidized. Unfortunately, it has this violent shaking process it utilizes to ensure the reusable litter doesn’t get disposed of as well and generally looks 25-50% of the poop it scoops.
  • Smell – And thus begins the smell issue.
  • Smell #1 – You essentially create a small sewer in the bottom of your CatGenie. This does not smell friendly – so don’t forget to run it regularly!
  • Smell #2 – I don’t know about you, but the heavy-duty cleaning agent they utilize drives me out of the entire upstairs of the house[1. I just ordered unscented cleaning agents.]
  • Smell #3 – Oohh…Poop stew. This is what you get when the robotic arm fails to grab all the poop and the CatGenie then begins washing the granules (and all the poop that was missed). The smell is not pleasant!
  • Smell #4 – Stir up poop! This is essentially what happens in the wash cycle…and the smell can be absolutely horrid!

In spite of its seemingly magical self-cleaning state (I was hoping for something like a human toilet’s self-maintenance) it has a tendency to clog (if you have long haired cats) and my processing unit just died, so until Monday or Tuesday it is back to the manual processes.

That said, it hasn’t gone onto the trash heap like the automatic shower cleaner. Instead, we’ll be getting a new processing unit (here’s hoping they’ve improved their routine a bit for cleaning), and I’ll probably start scooping the poop and dumping it down the toilet rather than letting it run through (the horrid smell you get is pooh, not urine generally). Finally, we use some Baking Soda-esque powder to occasionally dump onto the waste in-between cycles. It replaces the wretched smells with something rosy and beautiful.

If I didn’t have a CatGenie, would I buy one? Nahh…But since I have one I’m gonna use it. It’s good enough to use, but not good enough to buy.

18 thoughts on “CatGenie – Automatic Litterbox?”

  1. Hi,

    I am sorry to hear that you had these issues they are clearly not in the norm. . Read below and call customer Service and I think we can get you on track.

    1. The CatGenie clearly states you must clean the cat box at least 1x per day per cat. So saying it smells if you do not clean is not fair.

    2. If your CatGenie arm is shaking too much it is not correct. That should not happen. Please call customer service and they can fix that for you.

    Does your unit clog? Is so, it should not and again, please call customer service and I have faith that these issues will be resolved for you.



  2. Don’t be discouraged with your Catgenie. And don’t worry about the jerk picking on it and it’s. Your article reads just fine.
    Robotic Arm – When it retracts, the leading edge of the scoop must not be in a downward setting, or the waste will roll out, especially during the ‘shaker’ retraction. If you look carefully, you will see the scoop swivels on a pin AND snaps onto the silver arm. Two positions. At the end of each cycle, the Catgenie will unsnap the scoop, ready for the next cycle. AFTER is scoops, the arm pressed down and the scoop connector snaps to the arm, hence it will not swivel on only the pin. If it doesn’t snap and lift the leading edge, the scoop points down too much and you will lose waste. I suggest you discuss this with Catgenie customer service. They will help you every time.

  3. Steven
    1. I do run the CatGenie once per day – but it still smells bad. I think due to the fact that some sewage doesn’t get cleaned out during the cycle. Especially b/c of the way the hopper is dropping feces back in.
    2. Thanks. One of your customer reps. actually contacted me proactively (which I appreciated) and is sending me a hopper based on my description of the issue.
    Finally, I’d just like to note that I have called CatGenie customer service about the smell but was told this was somewhat normal. :-/ Guess I got the wrong rep.
    Really appreciated all your feedback. It seems they have a newer hopper available than my units that corrects this problem. They are sending me one of the new ones.

  4. I have this device, and I have to say it was the stupidest purchase I have ever made. Never touch cat litter again? Ha! I still have to use a regular litter box along with it. Seems my older cat is not intersted in using this gadget. Then the kitten that was using it, decided the ol’reliable regular cat litter box is her favorite too. The cleaning cycles take forever to finish. I have a cartridge in now, that has used up to 15 washes, and it now registering empty. I should have at least 45 washes left-it is not empty. The cartridges are way too expensive, and the litter pellets are evrywhere throughout my home.

  5. I don’t think it’s fair to pick on Steven for his advice. He clearly stated “once a day PER CAT”; ergo, three times a day for three of your cats.

    Hey, give us an update! When you get the new parts/upgrades, let us know if you see an improvement. I still want one for my cats, I figure I’ve got 90 days to send it back if my cats don’t like it.

    And I -really- hate being a nazi, but on your Litterbox Central forum post you said you hate leaving spelling and grammatical errors, so here are the ones I caught:

    1. It’s “purchase”, not “purchass”,

    2. On your smell tirade, you stated “and generally looks 25-50% of the poop it scoops”. Did you mean to say that it LOSES 25-50% I was a little confused by this sentence.

    Hehe I’m done, sorry….I know, everyone hates an English major. I knew I shoulda stuck with biochem. 🙂

  6. Ah the smell of cooked poo. A little bit left from the scoop process will create a baked poo smell. (Hint: DO NOT run the cycle just before dinner guest arrive. The odor of fresh baked poo could complete with that of the fresh baked bread.)

    I have found that Febreeze spritzed during the drying cycle combats this problem. You get a cooked Febreeze scent for about 5 minutes and then all is well.

  7. Hi,

    Catgenie just came out with a new scoop which is supposed to clean the granules & bowl better AND they came out with a “scrubber kit” which are brushes that you attach to the underside of the bowl which then cleans the basis during each wash cycle. Hopefully these two improvements will take care of that horrid Poo Stew issue.

    I wish that they would definately add an “after each use” feature that would scoop only. Then they need a clock which can be set to wash at specified times. And I think they should allow for up to 6 cleanings per day. It would just be more revenue for them if I choose to clean the kitty toliet more frequently.

    Also they should fix the nasty hopper issue. The hopper needs to rinse somehow since poop is being flinged against it constantly.

    FYI there are devices available on ebay which will allow you to reset & refill the sanisolution cartridges. Just fill them with simplegreen or similer consentrate and you’re good to go. For about $0.25 cents each refill!

  8. I love my Cat Genie, in fact I am going to purchase a reset device, once I find one that I can order without PayPal – I have more complaints about them than the Cat Genie!

    We have three Lovely Kitties, Mommy, BIG Daddy, and their 18 mo baby. They all do fairly well with the change to the Cat Genie, but how in the world do you not have them track the pellets all over the house!!!

    I got the smell thing down – every other day, I add about 1 Cup bleach, yes bleach, to the last wash cycle (so as not to have it mix with the urine), and then add HOT water the entire time it is in the drain cycle close to 2 gallons I figure. It kills the smell, and poof! No baked poop smell or burned Cat Pee smell!

    Now to just rid myself of the pellets all over! I am so cheap I sweep them off the laundry room floor directly around the Genie, and put them back in during the wash cycle!

    Oh how we all love our cats or we wouldn’t go to this trouble! Still beats the heck out of scooping!! Never again!

  9. Karen

    As far as the pellets getting everywhere have you tried the sidewalls or the dome? I’ve read a lot of reviews saying that this can help cut down scatter. CatGenie also makes these mats called “GeniePaws” which help catch whatever your cat kicks out.

  10. I’m having odor issues with my catgenie 120 which I’ve had for several months. I’ve cleaned it in every way I know how with no luck. (It runs on cat activation.) I was curious as to how yours is working now. I noticed one person who commented puts bleach in hers, but I was worried about combining bleach with the quaternary ammonium compound in the sanisolution. Is that safe?

    1. Melissa – I’m sorry you are having issues with the CatGenie 120. I still have the older model and it still has odor issues on occasion as well. I’m afraid I don’t know whether mixing bleach with the ammonium solution would be safe. Is the smell a baked poop smell or…?

  11. Sometimes I get the baked poop smell when the scoop misses a piece or two. (Interesting that never happened during the first month or two after getting the new model.) It happens occasionally now, but mostly the smell is coming from the insides which never seem to be completely clean no matter what I do.

    1. Melissa – Ahh, yes, I’ve seen this issue as well. One unfortunate way to fix this is to dissassemble the entire unit and clean it out manually with a nice strong bleach, etc. cleaner. This, unfortunately, is much worse than changing a regular cat litter box and defeats (imho) the purpose of the CatGenie – prepare to hold your nose and keep the toilet lid open in case the sight makes you barf…But if you clean it out it may remove the smell. :-/

  12. Been there, done that! It took me 2-3 hours each time, and I had to take a shower to clean me off when I was finished – after cleaning the tub and the bathroom. Smell came back within days. The idea of the 120 was that we wouldn’t have to do that any more. Oh well, dream on…. the main advantage I see with the cat genie is that the problem of goopy litter saturated in urine is solved. I had a cat with kidney problems that flooded the box, and the genie worked well for him. He’s gone now, so the large amounts of urine are less of a problem than before. Scooping poop is not so bad, but changing soggy litter is a pain. I guess I’ll have to go back to scooping poop like I did with the original cat genie.

  13. I feel a little late to the game here but I too am having the cooked poo smell (I think). I have had the CatGenie for about 3 weeks now and am trying to replace a LitterMaid and an Omni Roll-Top box. We have 2 cats and so far only one has taken to the CatGenie. My wife and I were very impressed with the whole mechanical process and cleaning cycle (me more than her) and all seemed well. However, yesterday she noted a smell from the basement but by the time I got home I didn’t notice it. Well, today we were making dinner and I caught a whiff of something from the basement that initially smelled like one of the cats did poop. Then things got MUCH worse. We were literally overcome by the smell of cooking cat poop. I should mention that I have had the CatGenie 120 set to cat activation from the start and use the unscented cleaning solution. I went down to investigate and found the unit in the drying process and the stench was unbearable. We opened any window we could and lit candles all over the house. The litter itself had a few small “pea-size” remnants of cat poop which I scooped out after the cycle was completed. I have since just run the manual cycle two times back to back and things are a little better but not much. I’m somewhat disappointed since I am a gadget guy and love technology and really wanted this to work (I have had 3 Roombas, 2 LitterMaids, and any other gadget you can think of). I have had a LitterMaid for 7 years and, although that has serious shortcomings, at least I can control the smell by emptying the litter or the bin. I haven’t tried taking the unit apart to clean it yet since tonight was literally the first time the “sh*t hit the heater” but I did place a somewhat frantic call to customer service and left a message (haven’t heard back yet). Since then I have found many reviews complaining of this smell and am mad at myself since I thought my wife & I did fairly thorough research. We bought the tuxedo package and have the dome covering. If this thing really is that painful to clean and I’m going to have to do it every 3 weeks then I’m not sure it is worth the cost. I’m starting to think the best “self-cleaning” litterbox is the Omni Roll-Top box.
    Anyway, thanks for letting a disappointed tech-geek vent.
    P.S., for anyone wondering how bad this smell is, I am a physician and have had the pleasure of smelling some of the most vile stenches I could immagine… until tonight.
    To quote Anchorman:
    “My God, what is that smell? Oh!”
    “That’s the smell of desire, my lady.”
    “God no, it smells like, like a used diaper, filled with Indian food! Oh, excuse me.”
    “You know, desire smells like that to some people.”
    “What is that? Smells like a turd covered in burnt hair.”

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