Post Published on October 2, 2008.
Last Updated on April 3, 2016 by davemackey.
This is another reprint of an earlier review I made on a older blog. I’ve posted it here for records sake – and also in case anyone has not read it previously. It is a review of the LitterMaid automatic cat litter box. It has been edited slightly from its original content.
I was searching one day for litter. I was looking for some solution, I was just tired of the cats tracking the litter onto the floor, the smell, and the constant cleaning. In the sponsored results came up an ad for an automatic litterbox. I was fascinated. Using a small robotic arm the cleaner would trigger itself automatically using sensors once the cat exited the box. The litter was pushed into a small air-tight container and left you without having to do maintenance for nearly a month. Wow, quite the upgrade.
So I decided not to purchase one for the time being, but at my last day at work it was mentioned that some of the guys had an automatic litter box and they loved it. I had to pick up cat litter on the way back so I swung by PetSmart and decided just to peek and see if they had any automatic litterboxes. They did. The particular one I chose is called the LitterMaid Elite Mega and cost around $150. I made sure before I purchased it that PetSmart had a generous return policy and was assured that as long as I returned it within 30 days with the receipt they would accept it – whether I didn’t like it or my cat didn’t like it or for whatever reason. I felt confident now. If I decided it wasn’t worth $150 (something I don’t like to spend lightly) I could return it.
Installation and Acclimation:
I took it home and began setting it up. The instructions where okay and it took about 30 minutes to assemble. Before I had even completed assembling it Hermione had jumped in and utilized it. This made me feel good about the acclimation factor. In fact, I had no problems with acclimation. Within an hour of setting it up both Hermione and Barclay had shifted to it as the new restroom and were even fascinated (if a bit scared) by the robotic arm.
One of my favorite features was the Kabana covering. This comes only with the Mega model, though you can purchase it for their base model (and by the time you are done adding this onto the price you might as well buy the Mega model). This covering is reminiscent of a covered wagon canvas. It ensures that the cats enter and exit only through one way, and also prevents them from kicking litter onto the floor when they are covering up their business.
I also really liked the walk-in/out mat. There is a small ramp that is attached to the litter box. It has grooves in it and carpet padding to help the cats discard any loose litter before they reach your floor.
The robotic arm is of course “cool” as are the motion sensors. It feels high-tech, and relatively speaking $150 isn’t a bad price for all this technology. It also includes timing capabilities which allow you to tell it when you usually sleep and prevent it from running during those hours (except for a silent air freshener).
I also liked the fat that ideally you would never have to touch waste. The robotic arm would scoop it into the disposal container – which is disposable and after thirty days you would throw this container into the trash, insert a new one, and refill the litter.
Sadly, the positives on this machine are thus far far outweighed by the negatives, which are mainly two (very large) ones:
First and most concerning is the fact that the robotic arm does not appear to be have been designed correctly. It scoops the poop and pee fine for the first 90% but when it reaches the ramp that leads into the waste receptacle it lets a lot of the poop slide back into the main container and only succeeds in moving a very small portion into the actual waste container. Now I do have kittens (perhaps four months now) so there poop may be smaller than a full grown cats, but still, the robotic arm should move at an angle and always remain in contact with the bottom of the tray – which it does not.
Second is the fact that the waste receptacle does not close as I would like it. The robotic arm lifts the top off the waste receptacle to drop the waste in but when the receptacle lid closes it is simply because of gravity. This does not cause the lid to cut closely – and sometimes at all. This results in smells which would not be present if the lid was either mechanically or spring loaded.
A third and smaller issue is the litter. I found it to smell somewhat funky. Not bad, just funky. Almost like some sort of wheat. It also was not particularly non-dusty and while the unit does a good job of keeping the materials in the litter box I still would have preferred a less dusty substance.
LitterMaid while excellent in theory is flawed in execution. It has some really nice features and in a future revision is sure to be an excellent product, but as of this time I have to say that I plan on returning the unit after a little more testing. I will let you all know if any of my observations change.
If you believe I am somehow misusing the LitterMaid or have a different product recommendation, please let me know. Also, I would like to invite producers of automatic litterboxes to write me with their feedback or in order to arrange a product test. I would like to write a series of articles on these automatic litterboxes and even if I find a satisfactory solution I am still willing to use myself and my cats as guinea pigs with these pieces of equipment.
If you are considering purchasing any model of automatic litterbox you may want to visit Automatic Litterbox Central, its a generally active community of individuals who own these units with reviews and discussion of the various units.
Today I disassembled the LitterMaid Elite Mega. I’d known I was going to disassemble it since the day I wrote this review, but finally got around to it. The device started working a little better, but it still was missing anything smaller (not tiny, just smaller than large). It also filled up within a few days rather than the month I expected (or at least 15 days seeing I have two kittens).
Tomorrow I will probably stop by PetSmart and drop it off, then begin my search again for the perfect automatic litterbox. In the meantime its back to the old manual box.
I returned this device and haven’t looked back. I think it may work slightly better for full-grown cats with larger solid waste.