The Rise of the Automated Litter Boxes

There's no denying that technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in the modern world. Many aspects of our lives are transformed as technology progresses. Some may even say that we've become too dependent on it. Growing technology influence can even be seen in products in the pet industry, specifically the cat litter box. Over the past years, automated version of litter boxes known as "automated cat litter box" or "self-cleaning litter box" has seen tremendous development. The market is poised to grow by almost $400 million over the next five years according to the "Global Automatic Self-cleaning Cat Litter Box Market 2021-2025" report. Long gone are the days where the use of technology to automate litter box cleaning is considered as an unnecessary luxury.

The basics of the automated litter box

Compared to traditional litter boxes which are simple in function and structure, automated litter boxes are much more diversified and contain sophisticated functions. The term "automated litter box" has not been properly defined. There are no guidelines to help determine the level of automation, functions, or structure that a litter box should contain in order to be categorized as an automated litter box. Based on our studies, most products labelled as an automated litter box or self-cleaning litter box typically feature various degrees of automation, from simple easy-to-remove mechanical function to full automation which incorporates sensor and deodorization systems. 

The main purpose of an automated litter box is obvious - to minimize direct contact with feline waste and eliminate the need to scoop the litter tray on a daily basis. Our furbabies are considered to be one of the cleanest of all domestic pets. It can be challenging to keep the cleanliness of the the litter box to their standard, especially for cat parents who are long shift workers or are required to go on business trips regularly. This is where the automated litter box comes in. 

Many experts have voiced their opinions

Some experts and product reviewers have voiced their disapproval of the automated litter box, citing that they are expensive and prone to malfunction. A research conducted at Wirecutter claims that the litter bed of most automated litter boxes are way too small and the scoop is also prone to clogging which would ultimately jam the product, especially if the wrong cat litter is used. Another major criticism is the time required to scoop feline waste. One of the model that they reviewed takes 30 minutes to complete one cleaning cycle. 

Some reviews have also indicated that not every cat will use these sophisticated gadgets. A bad first impression can also potentially seal the deal. In addition, some cats simply do not want to deal with a movable litter box that makes noise. The hard fact of life is that the automated litter box is not for every household or every cat. This give rise to the question as to whether the risk is worth the rewards.

Our opinion as a cat parent 

In our opinion, many reviews and researches published on the internet don't do the automated litter box justice. The bottom line is, automated litter boxes are expensive but they can be a time-saving investment. Whether they are functional, reliable, safe, or prone to malfunction is dependent on the model. We won't be recommending the exact brand or model. Instead, we believe that cat parents who are considering buying an automated litter box should conduct their own research to find the model that is best suitable for their cat(s) and house. We will, however, recommend that you consider these following key factors 

  1. Reliability - choose models which contain a high degree of automation, smooth and silent movement, and time-efficient cleaning process. Models with a rotating mechanism are the most effective and reliable in our opinion.
  2. Safety first - choose models which contain high-quality sensor system and if possible, choose models which prevent the cat from entering the litter box during the cleaning procedure. 
  3. Size does matter - consider the size of your cat(s) vs the size of the litter bed NOT the outer dimension of the product. 
  4. Entrance - models with high-front entry may not be suitable for some cats. Always choose models that allow for an easy entrance.
  5. Cat litter - always use the right cat litter according to the device requirements. 
  6. User-sharing - if you have more than one cat, choose the models which are capable of accommodating multiple cats.

Last but not least, it is crucial to remember that an automated litter box still requires some maintenance work. With the automated litter box there are generally more surface area which can be contaminated with bacteria. Therefore, we believe it is an absolute necessity to clean your automated litter box with wet wipes at least once a week and perform deep cleaning at least once every 2-3 weeks.

While it's true that you'll likely spend more in lifetime operating costs with the automated litter boxes compared to traditional litter boxes, we still believe that it is worth the investment. If you work long shifts, travel a lot, or are not able to stick to the daily scooping routine due to whatever reasons, you might want to consider getting an automated litter box. 

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