I tested 3 popular self-cleaning litter boxes. This is the only one both my cats and I love.

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My cats hated the first self-cleaninglitter boxwe tried, the WiFi-enabled, slickly designed Litter Robot. They refused to even enter the thing, let alone do their business in it.

I didn't like the second self-cleaning automatic litter box we tested, the Littermaid 3rd Edition Multi-Cat. This one my cats were willing to use, but it did a poor job of self-cleaning, leaving lots of work for me still to do.

But we all loved the Petsafe Scoop Free Original Self-Cleaning Litter Box. My cats used it willingly and it actually worked, removing solid waste after every visit. If you're considering switching from a standard litter box to a self-cleaning one, the Petsafe Scoop Free is an easy transition for your cats that almost completely eliminates the work you do to keep a standard box clean.

How the Petsafe Scoop Free Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box works

The Petsafe Scoop Free resembles a standard litter box, and that's one of the primary reasons my cats were comfortable with it. It comprises two pieces: A 27.5-by-19-inch rim with a built-in safety sensor and rake, and a litter tray, which comes in either disposable or reusable form. The box is simple to set up. Just place the rim on top of the tray and plug it in.

The rim's sensor registers when a cat enters the litter box to do their business. Twenty minutes after they've exited, it automatically rakes solids across the tray and into the covered waste disposal compartment. A health counter in the rim keeps track of how often your pet uses the box.

I tested 3 popular self-cleaning litter boxes. This is the only one both my cats and I love.

Only one type of litter is compatible with the Petsafe Scoop Free, a proprietary blend of crystalcat litter. The litter is absorbent, produces almost no dust, and provides good odor control, but it's not cheap. A single disposable tray costs almost $20 and must be replaced every two to four weeks, depending on the number of cats in the home. Buying the trays in bulk makes them more affordable.

What makes it stand out

The Petsafe Scoop Free was the only self-cleaning litter box we tested that met the needs of both my cats and myself. While the Litter Robot is beautifully designed and seemed to function well, I was not able to directly test it with mycats. They were too intimidated by the peculiar shape and size of the litter box to use it.

My cats were willing to use the Littermaid 3rd Edition Multi-Cat, which more closely resembles a standard litter box than the Litter Robot, but the box played fast and loose with the concept of "self-cleaning." It left behind as many urine-soaked clumps as it filtered and half of those that made it out of the box got stuck to the rake or side, never actually landing in the waste disposal compartment. I did at least as much work cleaning this box as I did with a standard box.

Similar to the Littermaid, the Petsafe Scoop Free resembles a typical litter pan, but unlike that inferior box, its rake removed solids consistently and deposited them into the covered waste compartment every time. My cats used the Petsafe automatic litter box as frequently as they used their old litter pan and I never had to do any additional cleaning. When the litter needed changing, it was simple to lift off the rim, cover the disposable litter pan, and throw it away.

The cons

I found this litter box to be so reliable that I no longer had to do any of the daily tasks around cleaning it — and that's not necessarily a good thing. In exchange for convenience, you're giving up the ability to keep track of a primary indicator of how your cat is feeling on any given day: their poop. Because the rake removes it from the litter and dumps it in the covered waste compartment, it may be days before you notice that your pet is experiencing diarrhea or constipation. If these are symptoms of a larger problem, the delay in getting your pet to the vet could impact their health.

I also have some qualms with the waste this box generates over time. Even if you use a reusable tray, the 4.5 pounds of litter the Petsafe Scoop Free requires must be replaced every two to four weeks, and only one type of litter, Petsafe's own crystal formula, can be used with the device. Crystal litter is among the least environmentally friendly litters because it is a byproduct of sand that has been mined from the earth. That means using, then throwing out, up to 9 pounds of litter monthly.

The bottom line

Whereas the Litter Robot was too scary for my cats and Littermaid's self-cleaning box was too messy and unreliable for me, Petsafe's Scoop Free Original Self-Cleaning Litter Box was a good fit for us all. With its simple design and reliable waste removal, this box almost completely eliminated my daily litter box duties and my cats were never the wiser.