PetSafe self-cleaning litter field overview: The finances choice does work, however requires sudden repairs

Allegedly, the primary design for an automated litter field was patented in 1991. After all, they have not been an informal factor to have in your own home for that lengthy.

However in the event you’ve just lately seen the Loss of life Star-looking ones that usually go viral on TikTok, just like the $649, 2.5-foot tall Litter Robotic, you may be questioning: Is a sensible self-cleaning litter field an excessive amount of to ask?

PetSafe says nope. Its ScoopFree automated self-cleaning litter containers, which vary from $169.95 to $229.95, have been round for the reason that late 2010s. Their bodily design, a extra plain, common field form, does not produce the hype on-line that the futuristic ones do. However the benefit remains to be clear to any cat dad or mum who’s coping with a confined house or tighter finances.

Apart from when my cat, Sansa, was a kitten and had a toilet schedule of questionable consistency, I do not completely thoughts the precise act of scooping the litter field. However the actuality of the filth is rather more noticeable in small residences, particularly in the event you stay with somebody who’s not as used to the litter field course of — and particularly particularly if you are going to ask them to babysit once in a while.

I attempted the non-app related second era PetSafe ScoopFree litter field(opens in a brand new tab) to see if the small splurge may actually rework my cat care routine in a small house.

This ScoopFree is definitely an honest choice for restricted ground house

It is abundantly clear that residences don’t design bogs with cat house owners (who cannot put the litter field within the frequent space) in thoughts. The litter-box-in-the-bathroom association usually takes some Tetris-level arranging and sometimes rule hooded litter containers out, in addition to the large egg-shaped automated litter containers that you simply’re most likely picturing. I recognize that PetSafe saved this ScoopFree design conventional to increase automated comfort to these of us with restricted house for a litter field.

Cat on toilet watching automatic litter box

We’re intrigued — not scared — of the grate that strikes by itself.
Credit score: Leah Stodart /

This model of the ScoopFree labored fairly nicely in my lengthy, skinny toilet with under-sink cabinetry that hangs at a clumsy peak above the ground. I used to be capable of slid the ScoopFree proper between my bathroom and cupboards, making the most of the small quantity of open house for my cat to take a seat comfortably whereas she does her enterprise. (My cat does not care a few hood, however PetSafe does make a lined model of this identical litter field.)

How does the PetSafe ScoopFree work?

First, the ultra-absorbent property of the silica gel within the instructed litter (ScoopFree Premium non-clumping crystal litter) instantly begins drying your cat’s droppings to maintain stench at bay. Twenty minutes after the movement sensors discover that your cat has completed their enterprise, the grates come by and rake the size of the field, pushing any strong items into the lined compartment. The cardboard lid to that compartment opens routinely by magnets that connect it to the hood-shaped finish of the field.

The self-scooping takes lower than 30 seconds, after which the digital counter will add that cleansing to the tally. (Whenever you insert a contemporary cardboard tray, there is a spot to put in writing the date to maintain observe of how lengthy the present field has been in use.)

Swapping trays is fast and straightforward — so long as you will have room to do it. To my shock, the one everlasting piece of the litter field is the body (connected to that are the grate and magnetic waste compartment. All the backside of the litter field is disposable, and you will be altering it out for a brand new one each couple of weeks. (That seemed like a monetary and environmental pink flag, however extra on that later.)

PetSafe self-cleaning litter box on floor beside cardboard refill

Refills include a brand new cardboard tray, bagged litter, and a lid that may go on the previous field.
Credit score: Leah Stodart /

PetSafe self-cleaning litter box with new tray on floor beside bag of litter

Inserting the brand new tray takes seconds, after which the litter is able to be unfold.
Credit score: Leah Stodart /

To carry out the switcheroo, the ScoopFree body must be lifted utterly lifted off of the previous tray and, ideally, set elsewhere whilst you organize the brand new base. This was a battle in my toilet with restricted ground house, particularly once I’d overlook that I can not yank it as a result of it is plugged into the wall.

Comparable disassembly of the field and its body is required simply to offer the turd compartment a refresh earlier than it is time to formally change the entire tray. Even accessing the compartment, which is beneath a cardboard flap on the entrance finish of the field, requires lifting all the body and setting it elsewhere to unencumber each palms.

As soon as the brand new tray is settled, you ditch the previous one. Straightforward sufficient, proper? Effectively, not precisely. Logistics of get rid of it get furry in case your family’s rubbish system is not so simple as dumping smelly trash in a spacious dumpster far-off from the place you will need to odor it. It additionally feels shitty in the event you care in regards to the sustainability side of it, which I do. Extra on all of this later.

Can you utilize common litter within the ScoopFree litter field?

PetSafe says no, after all, however I attempted anyway.

Crystal litter is without doubt one of the least eco-friendly litters you need to use because of the mining course of it requires to show sand, a non-renewable useful resource, into silica litter crystals. Previous to attempting the ScoopFree, I used to be utilizing Yesterday’s Information — litter pellets made out of recycled paper. Ditching that for less-sustainable crystal litter plus utilizing a disposable field system on the whole did not really feel superior, so I attempted to assuage a number of the guilt by seeing if the ScoopFree labored with extra eco-friendly litters like ökocat(opens in a brand new tab) and sWheat(opens in a brand new tab) plant-based litter.

The choice litters labored after trial and error. Sort of.

Each clumping and dissolving litter pose vital challenges to the ScoopFree’s rake that goals to push waste into the container on the finish. Urine clumps are sometimes left out by the grate on account of being too heavy, too densely-packed, or too caught to the underside to be picked up by the rake. Litter that dissolves as soon as touched by liquid turns right into a powder so high quality that it falls proper by the grates of the rake. In each situations, most urine is simply left chilling within the field, and a cat is all however assured to throw a match about their stomping grounds being soiled. I discovered myself scooping the ScoopFree simply as typically as I used to be pre-automation.

Non-crystal litters additionally do not dry out poop and urine, which the field depends on the hold the gathering of turds within the compartment and puddles of pee comparatively stench-free for a few month at a time. Whereas most litters do management odor to some extent, their odor management principally simply covers the period of time that waste is within the field earlier than you scoop it (so, a day).

Computerized scooping is a reduction each if you’re house and away

I went to Disney World shortly after we began utilizing the ScoopFree and shortly found simply how clutch automated scooping is. My roommates are right down to care for Sansa any time I am away, however I might reasonably keep away from asking them to scrub the litter field if I can. It was a reduction to know that the ScoopFree was conserving issues to ensure that the week.

Not everybody has roommates to ask to cowl litter field duties, anyway, clearly bolstering the ScoopFree’s value for anybody who lives alone and should discover themselves going away for a couple of days infrequently. Taking trip out of the equation for a sec, it is very nice to not have to fret in regards to the litter field throughout weekend excursions, in a single day journeys, and even only a lengthy day trip of the house.


Cats have separation anxiousness, too. Here is what it’s essential know.

Probably the most sudden good thing about a self-scooping litter field? Constructed-in leisure, if just for 10 seconds. Sansa is a needy pandemic child who has by no means been nice at conserving herself busy and is explicit about what she finds amusing. However for no matter motive, the automated litter field does it for her. It has been six months and he or she by no means fails to bolt to the toilet when she hears the scooping begin. I am a sucker for a assured butt wiggle sighting.

Downsides: The self-sufficiency wears off over time

In line with PetSafe, a disposable tray ought to final for 20 to 30 days in properties with one cat. That is a little bit of a attain IMO — and the lifespan of a tray dwindles even tougher when a second or third cat are added to the combination. This overview is predicated off of my expertise with just one cat.

The primary week or so after a contemporary field swap is clean crusing. The litter is brilliant blue (or brilliant purple, or white, in the event you get the lavender or unscented model), smells high quality, and appears like a lot much less of an eyesore than a plain plastic litter field with grey clay litter. At this level, the ScoopFree is so autonomous that the litter field does not even cross my thoughts.

However round two weeks in, I usually begin to discover the ScoopFree far more. My first clue is at all times the inexperienced tint of once-blue litter combined with urine, typically with clumps of dissolved peed-on crystals that are not strong sufficient for the scooper to push into the compartment.

When it obtained thus far, I discovered myself scooping by hand virtually as typically as I used to be with a non-automated litter field. As a result of the crystals do not clump, moisture primarily disintegrates them into mud or a scrumptious mushy pile that resembles kinetic sand. Both approach, it is a consistency that is additionally exhausting to collect with a hand scoop.

To be clear, I might be completely high quality with guide repairs right here and there if the scooping classes had been as fast as they had been with my previous litter pan. However this course of is only a ache, inflicting extra frustration because the litter grows more and more soiled.

The disposable side is unsustainable on a number of fronts

The phrase “disposable” ought to be regarding on sight for anybody who cares in regards to the planet that, you understand, makes it attainable so that you can stay a life with a pet within the first place.

In a world that mindlessly depends on paper plates and plastic silverware just because we do not really feel like doing that many dishes, taking the disposable route with yet one more family product won’t ever sit proper with me. At the least the field is cardboard lined in plastic coating reasonably than totally plastic like an outsized frozen meal container. I am going to give it that. Although I perceive why the coating is critical (to stop the cardboard from absorbing moisture and getting soggy after a day), I’ve to think about how that plastic hinders the cardboard’s biodegrading course of.

Within the annoying period of time that it takes to shove the previous field by my constructing’s trash chute gap, I am alone with my ideas on whether or not the comfort is even value the additional waste I am producing in comparison with my previous, reusable setup with litter created from recycled paper.

Funding the substitute of the tray every month-ish additionally will get costly. The mathematics actually ain’t mathing for households with multiple cat.

Tray refills go for $24.95 every or $69.95 for 3. In a one-cat family, that is beneath $25 monthly. That most likely exceeds how lengthy you may stretch a less expensive bag of conventional litter, but it surely’s not an egregious month-to-month invoice. But when house owners with extra fur infants comply with PetSafe’s tips, which recommend swapping trays each 10 to fifteen days for 2 cats or each seven to 10 days for 3 cats, the recurring prices add up shortly.

Utilizing a brand new tray each 10 days may run you over $800 for the 12 months on cat litter alone. That additionally means sending 4.5 kilos of litter in a plastic-coated cardboard field that will not biodegrade shortly to the landfill every time. Neither of those numbers sound sustainable.

I attempted to stretch every tray’s life previous the beneficial month in hopes of making much less waste and saving a couple of {dollars}. However the disposable trays weren’t actually designed to final that lengthy, and having the cat litter equal of yellow snow chilling in my toilet pushed me to cave sooner than I needed to. Utilizing a tray previous its expiration date will not be so invasive in case your litter field lives someplace just like the basement. Whether or not you need to threat your cat retaliating for a less-than-fresh litter pan is on you, not me.

Your different choice can be to purchase a reusable tray (PetSafe model or not) and go for the bagged crystals as an alternative. This technique, although much less wasteful and extra value environment friendly, is allegedly simply as smelly. Many reviewers point out not with the ability to eliminate the aroma, even after totally disinfecting the pan between fills.

Is the PetSafe ScoopFree automated litter field value it?

Regardless of its quirks, the PetSafe ScoopFree(opens in a brand new tab) does work as supposed… at first. It appropriately acknowledges when your cat has made a potty run and successfully rakes strong waste, forsaking a clear, smoothed-over mattress of crystals. And, in comparison with the tripled value level and peculiar form of an alternate just like the Litter-Robotic, there is no denying that the $169.95 ScoopFree is a extra palatable selection for lots of households that also need to outsource the chore.

However that self-sufficiency begins to dwindle after every week or two. The comfort is met with recurring prices, annoying repairs, and far more trash than your conventional litter field was ever producing.

In the end, the ScoopFree is a helpful but unsustainable system that would turn into extra hassle than it is value in households with a number of cats. For single-cat properties, nonetheless, it could undoubtedly be an enormous assist for house owners who journey for work or in any other case go away for a couple of days at a time regularly. Although it requires some trial and error, it’s attainable to discover a stability of value and waste that works for you.

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