Self-cleaning cat litter boxes are wondrous contraptions. So wondrous in fact that few people seem to have intimate knowledge of their workings and are willing to share it online. But no trouble, you don’t need an engineering degree in order to buy an automatic kitty litter box. You only need to be mindful of a few things in order to ensure that your precious buck doesn’t get wasted on a sub-par product.
First thing to consider is the style of litter box you want, and by style we mean the way it operates. There are two main construction systems used. One of them sits flat on the ground and uses a moving metal grate to separate the solids from the litter, and the other one is basically a rotative barrel that spins and allows the solids to pass through a grate placed along its interior surface.
Needless to say, both of them work well. That’s why they were adopted, after all. To get into a self-cleaning box comparison, the barrel system makes for an overall bigger item, that is also less stable and by Murphy’s law, easier to bump into.
The crate style actually has more moving parts than the spinner, which makes it inherently less reliable, and the metal grate it uses has to push through all that litter, which requires some torque, hence a more powerful motor that puts in more effort, getting subjected to a deal more wear and tear.
That motor is the second thing to be mindful of. Always check with user reviews before buying an electrically operated device, since present day manufacturers have a habit of engineering their products to break a couple of years after the — usually 1 year — warranty wears off.
Not all brands follow the principle of designed obsolescence, however, and some want to establish a name for themselves as reliable and trustworthy. So wait a little while before a new brand hits the market and see what the early adopters have to say about it some years on.
The stuff used for the actual litter can’t really break but it can provide some additional benefits to make your life easier and your house less smelly. Some manufacturers employ a special gel mixture that absorbs liquids, meaning the cat’s urine, while others are more traditional and simply use that sand-like composition that fills a regular kitty-litter box.
The first one is obviously more expensive while the traditional solution doesn’t really come with any additional benefits besides a lower price compared to the alternative.
You wouldn’t expect to care about overall material quality and durability for an electric litter box, since this is not exactly the type of item you go camping with, but a nice housing, made out of plastic that looks durable, is a good indication of the manufacturing standard the item was built under. In other words, if it looks nice and sturdy, it probably is.