We Review the ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter Box

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When I was a little kid, I was sure that by 2016 every household would have its own robot servant. My futuristic fantasies were heavily influenced by the 1980s Jetsons revival, featuring pet-friendly condos in the sky and metal maids.

Flash-forward 30-some years and I’m a grown-up cat lady with my feet firmly planted on the ground. The future did not bring me a robot maid, but recently the folks at PetSafe sent me something robotic — the ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter Box. Unfortunately my kitties — Ghost Cat and Specter — already have a maid (me), and it took some persuading to get them to use a litter box not scooped by human hands.

Ghost Cat seemed as excited as I was to get this thing opened.
Ghost Cat was just as excited as I was to get the box opened.

When the ScoopFree arrived, I was pretty excited about the prospect of a future without daily scooping. The self-cleaning litter box plugs into an electrical outlet, and the rake system does the work for you, moving your cat’s buried treasures into the disposable litter tray’s covered waste compartment. After a period of use (20 to 30 days for one cat, 10 to 15 days for two cats) you throw away the disposable litter tray, no sifting or scooping required.

Ghosty and Speck helped me unbox the ScoopFree system, comprised of  The system is comprised of the litter box frame, power supply, privacy hood, waste compartment,  disposable litter tray and crystal litter.
Ghosty and Speck helped me unbox the ScoopFree system, comprising the litter box frame, power supply, privacy hood, waste compartment, disposable litter tray, and crystal litter.

Unlike some robot litter boxes, the ScoopFree tracks how many times a cat (or in my case, cats) are entering the box. A digital display known as the “health counter” keeps track of how many times the rake has run across the litter. As any cat person will tell you, changes in the litter box habits usually indicate changes in a kitty’s health, so it’s nice to know how many times per day your cat is visiting the feline bathroom.

The system also comes with a privacy hood to help keep litter in the box, but I know from past litter box dramas that my kitties like to poop out in the open (preferably while making uncomfortable eye contact with a human), so I just didn’t add the privacy hood when I assembled everything.

Speck would rather use the privacy hood for a game of hide and seek.
Speck would rather use the privacy hood for a game of hide and seek.

According to the instruction booklet it’s best to place the ScoopFree next to your cat’s regular box, so I positioned the fancy new system next to our boring old containers of clay litter and added a little bit of their old litter to the fancy new stuff. Then I waited … and waited, and waited.

After 10 days the blue crystal litter was still pristine, and the health tracker showed the rake had moved just two times (including my one test). The instruction booklet had suggested not scooping the old litter while getting your cat used to the ScoopFree, the theory being that as the old litter gets dirty the cats will start using new box — but my cats didn’t care. Creatures of habit, they kept going in the dirty boxes instead of trying the new one.

Specter had jumped right in when I was setting it up. She tricked me into thinking the transition would be easy.
Specter had jumped right in when I was setting it up. She tricked me into thinking the transition would be easy.

On day 10 my husband got super grossed out by the litter standoff and suggested we take away the old litter boxes, thinking that would force the cats to use the new one. I was afraid that if we removed the preferred boxes my kitties would riot and relieve themselves on the floor or something, so I didn’t act on my husband’s suggestion.

Instead, I consulted the folks at PetSafe, who recommended that in addition to everything I’d already done (adding a bit of old litter to the new stuff, placing the boxes side by side and not scooping the old one) I could also try leaving the ScoopFree unplugged for a few days.

Both cats were super interested in the box before we put the litter in it.
Both cats were super interested in the box before we put the litter in it.

Determined to help my kitties acclimate to this cool new system, I went to go unplug the ScoopFree and found the old litter boxes were missing. I realized my husband had gone behind my back and cleaned up. At first I was concerned, but then I noticed the number on the health tracker. The rake had moved five times in just a few hours, so obviously the kitties were using the box (or were at least jumping in and out of it).

We’re now two weeks in, and Ghosty and Speck are using the ScoopFree all the time. They don’t seem to be freaked out at all. The disposable litter trays super easy to remove and replace, and the crystal litter traps the cat-pee smell as much as possible.

Scorecard

Quality: Well made, tough plastic and metal parts make up the litter box frame. The disposable trays live up to their leak-proof claims.

Style: Litter boxes aren’t really a style item, but this one does come with two colors: smokey grey and purple.

Function: A+. We’ve tried other self-cleaning litter boxes in my house but found the rakes couldn’t quite handle the output of two kitties. The ScoopFree’s metal rake does a great job and doesn’t get stuck.

Creativity: The “health tracker” is a nice touch.

Value: The ScoopFree system starts at $179.99 USD but the disposable litter trays are what will really hurt your wallet. A pack of three trays costs more than $50.00 (although you can save with a subscription). If you’re changing the tray every 10 to 15 days the cost will add up quick.

Bottom Line

Once Ghost Cat and Specter started using it, the ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter Box lived up to its claims. It’s a great system for those who value convenience over cost and sustainability — but financially and environmentally conscious cat lovers might find it hard to spend $50 every couple of months on trays destined for the landfill. PetSafe does sell a dye-free litter tray made from recycled, unbleached paper but does not offer a reusable tray for the ScoopFree. If you hate the idea of disposable trays but yearn for a life with less scooping, PetSafe has another (cheaper) system — the Simply Clean Automatic Litter Box — that one doesn’t need trays.

About the author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten, GhostBuster the Lab and her newest dog, Marshmallow, make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +.

8 thoughts on “We Review the ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter Box”

  1. Interesting to see all the various opinions on this litter box. I am kind of in the middle on this one. It had some nice attributes but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t up to par for me. I ended up switching to the ChillX Auto Egg. It has been glorious! It has a modern, sleek design that doesn’t even look like a litter box. It’s incredibly quiet and cleans very deeply. My cats took to it right away. I would highly recommend it if you are looking to switch or try an automatic litter box for the first time.

  2. Jacqueline Grein

    I love the scoop free system. You can now get a reusable tray. My two cats aren’t overly litter picky and are good about using their box. I took the old system away after two days. No smell other than the crystals. I did, since there was still quite a bit of litter left, take the poo out. I would recommend a wider tray refuse area for future upgrades. 2 scoop litter refills is only $16.

  3. They have a reusable litter tray. You don’t need to spend money on the disposable ones. Also you can pretty much use any litter you want with it. I’m currently using Pretty Litter with it. It works fine. I love my Petsafe self cleaning litter box. I do clean out the poop twice a week. This beats multiple times a day.

  4. We have one and it works great! Cats love watching the poop remover when it runs and the litter provided absorbs alot of pee. I would like a reusable tray though. This system works so well we are planning to buy more.

  5. Appreciate your review Nigel. Thankyou. I was considering this system for teenage pet carer whilst away for two weeks. Buggar.

  6. I bought the litter box thinking the odor would not be as bad as the regular litter box. I find the odor is bad. Don’t know what to do other then scoop every day. I’m disappointed in it.

    1. I agree, the smell is horrible, after just one week of use with one cat we had to change the entire litter. Poop gets stuck to the rake all the time. It never rakes it all, there are always pieces of poop in there.

  7. A total waste of money! Next to useless! We purchased this gizmo in February of this year because we thought that it would eliminate the need for our pet carer to clean the litter tray everyday while we are away. We have one cat. Wrong!! Firstly, the trays, be it the disposable or permanent type, are far too shallow to hold enough litter to absorb more than two or three days of pee. 2, the machine only works successfully if/when: the cat leaves the litter evenly distributed across the tray. If the litter is pushed to one side, then the machine has a tendency to jam. Similarly, if the cat poops “off-centre” the same thing happens. The two major problems with the machine are one, that the trays are far too shallow, and secondly, the motor for the wire grill strainer is far too weak. After using the machine for less than 3 months, we are back to the old style litter tray. Petsafe Scoopfree litter tray, not recommended!

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