I adore my two cats, and have seen them through seizures, cancer, and leg and tail amputations. (It might be more accurate to say I have a little less than one and three-quarters cats). Still, owning cats means scooping litter boxes, a drudging chore that neither I nor my wife relish. The $200 PetSafe ScoopFree Smart Self-Cleaning Litterbox may be a mouthful of a name, but it does promise one thing: You won’t have to rake or scoop your furry friend’s waste ever again.
As I discovered during this PetSafe ScoopFree Smart Self-Cleaning Litterbox review, it makes things somewhat more convenient, but it’s a steep price for a little more convenience.
PetSafe ScoopFree Smart Self-Cleaning Litter Box: Price and availability
The PetSafe ScoopFree Smart Self-Cleaning Litterbox costs $199 for a non-covered model, and $235 for a model with a removable cover. That’s pretty pricey for a piece of plastic.
If you don’t care about monitoring your litter box from your phone, PetSafe also sells a non-smart model (PetSafe ScoopFree Automatic Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box) for $139.
PetSafe ScoopFree Smart Self-Cleaning Litter Box: Litter costs
In addition to the device, you also need to purchase tray inserts with PetSafe’s special litter. A pack of three inserts cost around $48. Each tray should last about a month per cat, and around 15 days if you have two cats using it.
Alternatively, you can purchase a reusable tray ($49.95, and comes with one pack of litter), and then purchase just the litter, which costs about $17 for a two-pack. It’s a higher upfront cost, but will be less expensive after three months.
PetSafe ScoopFree Smart Self-Cleaning Litter Box: Design
The design of the ScoopFree litter box is pretty straightforward. The box itself measures 27.6 x 19.1 x 6.2 inches, about the size of a large litter box. It’s a rectangle that’s open on both the top and the bottom, with a metal rake spanning the gap.
On one of the narrow sides is a small LCD display and some buttons and lights that tell you if the machine is connected to Wi-Fi and how many times it’s raked. Because it runs on AC power, it needs to be fairly close to an outlet; the power cord is probably about 10 feet long, though.
The machine rests atop the litter box insert, which is basically a cardboard tray. You set the litter box on top of the tray, and then fill the inside with PetSafe’s litter.
On the inside of the machine are two small sensors that detect when your cat is in the litter box. The PetSafe will wait until 20 minutes after the cat has left before it starts the raking process. The rake starts at one end, and slowly moves towards the other side, pushing the waste in front of it. When it gets to the other side, a plastic trap door opens, the rake pushes the waste inside, and then returns to its original position, and the trap door closes. It’s kind of neat to watch — if you don’t mind looking at cat poop.
PetSafe ScoopFree Smart Self-Cleaning Litter Box: Performance and maintenance
I — as well as my cats — were a bit skeptical about the automatic litter box at first. However, after a day or two, one of my cats was using it regularly to do his business.
The PetSafe litter crystals also did a good job at mitigating the smell of the cats’ waste; one of our cats isn’t the most fastidious about buying his stuff, but we didn’t detect any extra odors, even after him using it for a month.
In the PetSafe app, you can monitor how many times the litter box was used, and when your little fur babies went to the bathroom. You can also change the amount of time the litter box will wait until it starts raking, and get notifications if it’s being used a lot, which could indicate your cat has health problems. The app also lets you specify the number of cats you have, as well as the number of litter boxes they use.
Petsafe’s app says that you should expect to change the litter tray after 25 days or about 60 rakes if you have two cats using two litter boxes. With the addition of the Petsafe, we had four litter boxes, and it took just 20 rakes over a period of about 30 days for it to be filled up. I also knew it was time for the box to be emptied when the plastic trap door no longer fully closed shut.
Finally, it came time to empty the litter box, an unenviable task if there ever was one. I removed the top section of the litter box to reveal the tray; all of my cat’s waste was hidden underneath a small cardboard flap.
Emptying the tray is easiest if you can dump it into a garbage bin; less convenient is the cardboard tray, which must be folded in half if you want to fit it easily into a garbage bag. Even though the tray is made of cardboard, I didn’t feel comfortable putting it in with the recycling.
The ScoopFree isn’t totally maintenance-free, either. Several times, I found that cat excrement had become stuck in the rake, which caused the litter to get pushed back and forth. I then had to scrape off the dried poop from the rake to make sure things worked as they should.
PetSafe ScoopFree Smart Self-Cleaning Litter Box: Verdict
Can you put a price on not having to clean your cat’s poop every few days? Turns out you can. The PetSafe ScoopFree Smart Self-Cleaning Litterbox did its job and freed me from having to shovel sh-t. Mostly.
As I found out, this is not something you can simply forget about for a month, especially if your cat’s poop isn’t the most, uh, consistent. For what the litterbox costs, I’d like a bit more of a hands-free experience. If you don’t want to spend $200 on a litter box, PetSafe also makes one that’s not Internet-connected for $139. That’s still a heckuva lot more expensive than your standard $5 plastic litter box, even more if you opt for a reusable tray.
In the greater scheme of things, a self-cleaning litter box is frivolous. But if you’ve got better things to do than clean litter boxes all the time, the PetSafe ScoopFree could be worth the investment. And that’s the straight poop.
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