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A Kitty Commode?!: The CatGenie 120 Review

on November 23, 2009 9:57 am

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I will be the first to admit that I’m a crazy cat lady. Between my partner and I, we have three furry feline “kids” – Princess is around ten years old, Sumi is roughly four, and Ninja is the kitten at a year-ish. Yes, I have a kitten named Ninja. And she lives up to her moniker, let me tell you.

Anyhow, three cats means lots of…presents. Constantly. So when Julie offered to let me review the upgraded model of her CatGenie, the CatGenie 120, I jumped right on it. What could be better than a gadget that keeps me from ever, ever, ever having to scoop my kitties’ “gifts” again?

This review is going to deal with the kinda-maybe-sorta delicate topic of feline bodily functions. If that makes you squeamish, you may want to pass. Otherwise, let’s see if the CatGenie gets its money’s worth.

I remember someone telling me about the CatGenie a couple years ago. The basic gist of the device is that it takes away your need for scooping litter with the press of a button -  a fully automated cat commode that scoops and washes the box, complete with hookups directly into your home plumbing. Pretty good idea, no?

The first CatGenie had some shortcomings – specifically, the cartridges of cleaning solution. They cost $15, and like an inkjet printer cartridge, simply stop working after exactly 60 flushes. As Julie put it to me, “60. No more, no less.” The CatGenie 120 tries to remedy this problem by adding a “Cat Activated mode”, which detects when a cat is in the box and runs a shortened cycle ten minutes after the cat has left – this doubles the amount of flushes from 120 (which is already double the flush count of the original CatGenie) to 240, which isn’t too bad in my book.

CatGenie also decided to do their part in “going green” – the new cartridges are made of a biodegradable plastic that breaks down in about a year.

What’s in the box:

  • The CatGenie bowl and base
  • Computerized processor module
  • “Hopper cover”
  • Plastic scooping arm
  • One starter box of granules
  • One refill box of granules
  • One CatGenie 120 cartridge
  • Instructions
  • Self-repair kit
  • Two T-adapters for your plumbing

I like that the plumbing hardware was included, and that they included an extra box of granules for refilling the CatGenie. Of course, for the price, I think that these kinds of “extras” are kind of necessary.

There is also a “tuxedo” package available that includes add-on higher side walls, a covered dome for kitty privacy, and extra cleaning solution and granules.

Getting everything set up:

I wasn’t certain that the 10′ water supply and water drainage hoses would be long enough for the laundry configuration in my apartment – fortunately, it was enough. We have a closet with a stacking washer/dryer in our home, and connecting the CatGenie was pretty easy. The box includes t-adapters for both a toilet and a washing machine water supply, so it was simply a matter of unscrewing the washer’s supply hose and adding the t-adapter.

The drainage hose required a little more work – there’s a plastic bezel bolted to the wall behind my washer/dryer with a hole for the washer’s drainage hole. This wasn’t big enough to take the CatGenie’s hose too. However, this was a great excuse for me to whip out my Dremel and sand away a bunch of plastic. Let me tell you, the smell of burning plastic is great. However, it got the job done, and I even remembered to wear protective eyewear – my OSHA training finally paid off!

CatGenie Review 021 (500x375)

Once the hoses were connected, all we had to do was fill up the bowl with granules, snap in the cartridge, and plug it in. Fortunately, the cord uses a standard ungrounded polarized plug, so getting an extension cord for it wasn’t a problem (the outlet in our closet is strangely behind the washer/dryer and about five feet up the wall).

As instructed, we ran a test cycle when assembly and hookup was done. We turned on the water supply, and…SPLAT! Water sprayed out from the back of the CatGenie all over the wall! It turns out that the plastic nut securing the water supply hose to the back of the CatGenie had been cross-threaded. It took some muscle, but we were able to remove the nut and properly attach it.

I’m not a fan of expensive products having problems like this. The way I see it, if I’m going to shell out over $300 for a CatGenie, I expect the quality control to be better than, say, a $1.50 litter box from Wal-Mart.

CatGenie Review 004 (375x500)

One thing worth noting about the above picture: as you can see, there are granules everywhere on the carpet surrounding the CatGenie. I ended up purchasing the higher side walls you see in the photo from CatGenie for $22 shipped. I hope they help (they just arrived a couple days ago), but at the very least, shipping was very fast after I placed my order online.

The cats were pretty interested by this point, and so were we. It’s fairly straightforward:

  • The mechanical scooping arm comes down into the spinning bowl, picking up any poo that comes into its scoop.
  • The arm pulls back up into its standby position, dumping the poo into a hopper.
  • The sanitizing solution is deposited into the bowl, and the arm comes back down both to be cleaned and to mix up the litter.
  • The hopper’s pulverizer turns on, liquefying the poo (yum!) and flushing it away through the waste hose.
  • The bowl drains, and this cycle repeats two more times.
  • A heated blower comes on and dries the granules.

All in all, the full cycle takes around twenty minutes. The noise isn’t terrible – it’s about as loud as a dishwasher during the pulverization cycles, and the rinsing cycles are about as loud as a washing machine’s fill cycle. It’s nothing we can’t tolerate, even with the CatGenie practically being in our hallway.

Configuration

The CatGenie has a somewhat confusing control panel on top of the computer processing unit. Once you figure it out, it’s easy to use, but you’re going to need to read the manual in order to get everything working the way you want.

CatGenie Review 002 (500x375)

I set up “Cat Activated” mode after the cats got used to the CatGenie. It seems to do what it’s supposed to – it runs ten minutes after one of the cats gets in the box, unless the sensors on the processing unit detect another cat using the device. There’s a ten-hour sleep cycle so that it doesn’t run in the middle of the night, too, which is really nice.

The “cat acclimation period”:

CatGenie provides a handy guide on how to best convince the always-stubborn cat to adopt the CatGenie. I was a little worried about this – Sumi’s had a history of using the carpet as a litter box when she feels the real box is too full for her dainty paws, and Princess, being much older, might have a harder time adapting to such a big change in her environment.

Ninja, on the other hand, already thinks the CatGenie is the coolest thing ever. She sits there and watches the entire rinse cycle, including putting her front paws on the edge and trying to stick her head down the hopper to see what’s happening to her “presents”.

We started out by not leaving the old litter out at all. Ninja took to using the Genie for Number One (Commander Riker, anyone?) pretty easily. Sumi seemed to as well, but she decided that our office was a better location for Number Two. This was pretty easily solved – we took her poo and put it in the CatGenie, and put her in the CatGenie with it. She got the idea pretty quickly, or so we thought. In the past two weeks, she’s taken to pooing elsewhere, usually in the office or the hallway. It’s easy to clean up, but frustrating nonetheless.

Princess, on the other hand, has not been so easygoing about this change. She started using our bedroom as a litter box without telling us, which resulted in a ten-minute hunt to find the source of the suspicious poo smell. Hint: it wasn’t coming from the litter box. One very revolting load of laundry later, and we stuck Princess in the bathroom with a box of regular litter and some food and water. She used the litter overnight. The next night, we decided to try a litter box filled with granules. She used a towel left in the bathroom instead. Finally, after two nights of “holding it”, Princess used the litter box to do her business. After another four or five nights of being allowed in the house during the day but locked in the bathroom at night, Princess started using the CatGenie to do everything. There’s just one small problem – Princess is an enormous cat, and CatGenie is an abnormally small litter box. So far, there has been one instance of princess getting in the box but failing to navigate her tushie in the box as well, which ends up with her poo on the carpet instead of in the box. At least her intentions are pure!

What they don’t tell you on the box:

There’s a secret about clumping cat litter – it deodorizes. The CatGenie, on the other hand, uses plastic granules, which most definitely do not deodorize. At all. Ninja has a tendency to have pretty pungent trips to the litter box, and it’s been even worse with the CatGenie. Now, our apartment is pretty small, and the CatGenie is in an open closet (we removed the bi-fold door for easier access) directly across from both the bedroom and the office. Needless to say, we run the CatGenie immediately after Ninja’s been in it.

I’ve also noticed that some smaller poos end up slipping through the grill of the scooper, which means that they generally end up getting dissolved in the three rinse cycles of a standard (non-cat-activated) cleaning cycle. This makes for some truly disgusting water swirling around in the bowl before it drains. If any poo is left in the bowl after the rinsing is done, you’ll know it – a heated blower dries the granules, and it does a great job of accentuating any poo residue left in the bowl.

I think a big part of these problems is that we can’t put the CatGenie in a bathroom or laundry room where we can close the door and/or open a window. Our bathroom is too small to accommodate it, so the laundry closet is our only option. Fortunately, our friends at Lysol created Neutra-Air, which does a pretty good job of dealing with the odors. Burning scented candles helps a lot, too.

Ninja’s been known to exhibit some rather odd behaviors in the past – she’ll find a random spot on the carpet and start scrabbling at it wildly, spinning around on her front paws as she tries to capture some invisible monster on the floor. Unfortunately, she’s taken to doing the same thing with the CatGenie before actually doing her business – she digs around in the litter for an inordinate amount of time, and the noise is beyond annoying, especially when she does it at 5:00 in the morning. I’m not sure if she’ll chill out over time or not. At least we get plenty of warning before she contaminates the air in the hallway.

The conclusion:

I like the CatGenie. It definitely stinks more than a regular litter box, but the candles-and-Lysol method has helped minimize this. I wouldn’t recommend watching a full cycle if actual poo is involved; it might make you puke. I would definitely recommend putting the CatGenie in a room with a door if at all possible, to offset the sights, sounds, and smells.

I really like that they added a cat-activated mode. Not only do you not have to try and guess the number of flushes per day (for the programmed mode) or manually flush the box, but it’s far more economical due to the fact that this mode doubles the amount of flushes in a single cartridge.

I also like that the CatGenie is meant to be user-serviceable. It comes with some extra parts if anything needs to be replaced, and every component is user-accessible aside from the processor unit, which would have to be entirely replaced in the event of a malfunction.

I do wish that there were some options for the scoop. The arm is fully detachable from the CatGenie, and it would be nice if I could buy a scoop that has smaller holes – I’ve had to go through the cleaned granules and pick out little pieces of poo that slipped through the scoop – yuck!

I’m also unconvinced that the CatGenie’s bowl is really big enough for cats of all sizes. Princess weighs around sixteen pounds and is quite the little heifer of a cat, but I’ve encountered cats bigger than she is. I can see why she has problems keeping her business in the bowl; she practically takes up all of it with her body! It would be nice if CatGenie offered some sort of larger bowl option that works with the processing unit I already have. I’m betting that’s the most expensive part of the entire product, so I’d be willing to spend $40 or so on a bigger litter bowl.

I’ve never sat down and calculated how much I spend annually on cat litter, but I think that in no more than eighteen months the CatGenie will pay for itself. $329 seems pretty hefty, but it’s definitely better than buying cat litter every three weeks for the rest of my life.

I would recommend getting the Tuxedo Package if your cat’s a digger. The side walls look pretty handy – I ended up ordering a pair, because Ninja’s digging kicks a lot of granules onto the floor around the CatGenie.

My biggest complaint, however, is that it appears that the SaniSolution adds a tacky coating to the granules, which results in them getting everywhere – and I mean that. We end up finding granules in our bed, our shoes, on our desks, and even as far away as the kitchen and living room. I’ve read online about some different options for replacing both the SaniSolution (for the CatGenie 60 model that Julie has) and the granules (which can be done with both the 60 and 120 models). I may try some other material options for the granules, simply because the granules, at $25 a box, are going to be pretty expensive over time.

The CatGenie website and Cat Acclimation Guide both insist that it’s more than likely your cat will adopt this device after some amount of time, so giving up too easily and going back to litter is a bad idea. Now that we’ve (almost) convinced all three of our kitties to use the CatGenie, here’s hoping they’ll keep using it for years to come!

 

Product Information

Price:$329
Manufacturer:PetNovations, LTD.
Pros:
  • More economical than the CatGenie 60
  • Never scoop litter again. EVER.
  • Very easy to assemble and hook up
Cons:
  • Somewhat noisy
  • Stinks to high heaven
  • Expensive
  • Granules track easily
  • Cat acclimation period = unpredictable bathroom behavior

Comments

  1. 1
    Jay says:

    before we started our pet sitting business, we used to have
    five cats. But because our dogs and guest doggys, it got to
    be too much and we them loving homes….I never had a problem
    cleaning our three cat litter boxes….first, they never stunck because we used arm and hammer and second it was’nt a big
    deal for us to do it. I’m inclined to say that to go through
    all that trouble for this thing is not worth the money nor
    the time. But having said that, if you don’t want to go through
    the hassel of cleaning the box out three time a day, then yes
    it is well worth the time and money. We miss our cats very, very
    much, but now we have seven dogs of our own, and they are all
    paper trained. I think the catgenie will be a great product once
    they get the “phoohbugs” out of it.

  2. 2
    Brad says:

    Hiliarious review. Makes me want one and I don’t even have a cat…and as a kid, we had a cat named Ninja too.

  3. 3
    Per-Ola says:

    For dumping “clumping” cat litter:
    Run down to your favorite thrift store and pick up one of those “containers” that are normally used to contain dirty diapers. Allows for easy (and daily) cleaning of litter boxes w/o havving to be close to toilet or running with the guck to the garbage bin.

    With four cats (and two litter boxes), it takes about two weeks before I need to empty the “diaper bucket” out into the garbage bin. I have it lined with a 13 gallon plastic bag (same as for the kitchen trash) so there’s really no clean-up needed of the “diaper bucket”.

  4. 4
    binks says:

    Thanks for the great review. I personally don’t have a problem with cleaning out litter boxes and Per-Ola’s idea works great. However, I work quite a bit and go outta town for a few days at a time and coming home to an overly full litter box and “presents” isn’t an option. So this appliance sounds like a great one. I plan on buying one and keeping my reciept so that I can return if it’s not as great as it sounds. I’ve read a ton of reviews and it sounds like a vast improvement on the old litter in a box method.

    Thanks again for the great review

  5. 5
    Chrissie says:

    This is just an incredible review. The details you go into and the photos and the affects on your 3 cats are just beyond great. I am so glad I found your site !!! I have a 18lb. female cat I found at the shelter. Yes, my vet said to try to get her to lose a couple of pounds. I know more about dogs than cats. The Catgenie seems as though the bowl might be too small for my cat. I think since the scooper hand is detachable, the manufacturer could make one with slightly smaller holes, or have the granules a bit bigger. Since I am not an expert on cats, why do most manufacturers not include a grated incline for the cat to walk into the litter boxes instead of having to jump in there? The grated incline could just connect up to the cat litter box and the extra “litter” could fall inside of the incline. Then the extra litter could be dumped back into the “box”. Anyway, you did a A+ on this review. They should buy you an endless amount of sanitizing solution for all your information.

  6. 6
    butteryevil says:

    We have had our Cat Genie for about 4 months now. To be honest, I would almost RATHER go with Per-Ola’s suggestions. Minus the fact that we have 3 cats. :( My boyfriend and I hate changing cat litter. So we thought we’d give the Genie a try. I hate how it makes the house smell like heated cat poop when it decides to dry the granules. The newest issue is that the arm has been getting stuck. We have also had the issue with the bowl being completely full of poop water and NOT draining. It’s been nothing but problems and although the CatGenie people are rather helpful over the phone, I’m almost positive they will refuse us a refund or replacement. :( fml.

  7. 7
    butteryevil says:

    we’ve also had all the problems listed in this article. and then some.

  8. 8
    Allen says:

    Hello Claire,

    Thank you for the site and such a complete review of the Cat Genie. I purchased one about 6 months ago, after talking to my brother, and him telling me how much he loved his. I have run into most of the same issues as others, clogs here and there, smell, granules all over the house, and of course the POWER CONSUMPTION. I broke it down, and seems it increased my electric bill by about $10-$15 per month over the previous year. That with the cartridge I replaced after 4 months, I figure I break even, but I don’t have to clean the litter box anymore. So WELL worth it!

    I also had trouble getting him to switch to the new box, I think it was “too” clean, and he didn’t realize he was allowed. I used small mixture in the old litter and box, slowly adding more, until it was all Genie granules. Then I was able to show him the Genie again, and remove the old box. I think about a week or two.

    I purchased a $19 commercial entry mat from Lowes to put under/in front of the unit, and this catches most tracking.
    I think every CatGenie should come with a Dust Buster vacuum. Every few days, I just wander around the house, and collect them, putting them back into the bowl. It’s been 6 months, and I just now had to add a very small amount.

    It seems to be imperative to use the Machine Maintenance Cleaner every 4 months or so, or you will have to take it apart and wipe it down. Yuck, I will try to avoid that again. If it gets REALLY loud during the grinding mode, most likely his has granules, hard stool, hair, or something odd in there. If the noise doesn’t go away after a couple washes take a look down in there to see if you can remove it. Otherwise, get some rubber gloves, and take it apart like they say, and it will be as good as new.

    As for the smell, get a Fabreze TrueAir filtered plug-in air filter, ($15) problem solved, hands down.

    I also have a larger OLD cat (just turned 21), and I found that he had trouble getting his “tail” into the bowl or ability to “squat”, thus doing his business over the sides. The dome was out of the question for his size and lack of flexibility. I corrected this by getting the taller sidewalls $20, and here is the trick. I wrapped a small box (10w 7d 3h) in a plastic bag tightly, and placed it in front of the Genie as a step. This not only helps him to get in and out (cuz he’s old), but he is able to go into the Genie, turn around, and put his front paws outside on the plastic box. Leaving his rear placed right in the center of the bowl. I have not had a problem since!

    The other issue, which I have not been able to avoid, is the time it takes for the Genie to run. Sometimes he will use it, and then after it starts running, he needs to “go” again. I can see where he keeps checking on it to finish, and he has had to resort to the bathroom rug a couple times (poor guy). I adjusted the wake/sleep mode time a couple hours later, and it seems to have helped.

    I have had other types of automatic cleaners, and only been disappointed.
    All in all, I LOVE the Cat Genie, it is everything they say it is.
    I would definitely suggest this to anyone that has a cat, or multiples.

    Allen

  9. 9
    Lori says:

    After reading all these, I am thinking I want to stay with the cat litter.

    If you had to do it again, would you spend the money again or would you stay with the cat litter?

    L2622@yahoo.com

  10. 10
    Belynda says:

    OMG the first ladies posting had me in absolute stitches I even posted it on my face book cause anyone with cats with personalities has experienced a few of those ordeals and can easily picture the others and I was laughing so hard I cried
    I want one but finding it hard to find someone supplying to australia

    I hope the little issues are resolved soon i think maybe they need a general feedback like mesh over scoop so no bits can excape being removed etc

  11. 11
    TLB says:

    I got my catgenie about 4 months ago and the biggest problem I am having is that half the time when the scoop arm comes down it lands on top of the poop!! So it squishes it into the grooves and doesn’t dump it into the hopper!! If I am not watching it when it cleans I find a horrible baked poop mess afterwards! That and it seems like the granules really stick to the poop and get flushed out so I am having to refill very often. Has anyone else had this problem? I stil love the fact of it cleaning everything and all I have to do is hold the scoop arm up for a moment to keep it from “squishing” but that means I cant set it up to run by itself I have to push the button everytime it needs to be cleaned but I still think it is better than a regular litter box!

  12. 12
    ian says:

    I got the cat genie 120 because I sometimes leave home for a week or more, I previously had a very large litter box (held 40lbs of litter) for my very overweight maine coon, hes a very large 16 year old cat. The poor guy tries, he gets his fat body up and makes a trip to the cat genie, gets in it, and then sticks his butt over the side and goes all over the floor. The bowel really needs to be larger… Im in the process of trying to rig something up with duct tape and shower curtains… but im afraid this product will end up being returned…

  13. 13
    Larry says:

    I bought a CG for my 6 month old Ragdoll 2 months ago and it started using it as soon as my plumber had it installed in our utility/laundry room. I’ve never used the cat activation mode because on a number of occasions, the scooper hand landed on top of the poo and made a real mess in the bowl so the only option is to watch it while the hand is scooping and if necessary, give it some assistance! Also about 2 weeks ago, the machine had developed a very loud noise when sucking out water from the bowl then it was back to normal after a few days but unfortunately the irritating niose has now returned. Just called their technical support and waiting for a reply as to what has gone wrong. Overall I am pleased with the product but frankly not sure how long it will last.

  14. 14
    Moe says:

    Hello there, I have had two cat genies for a little over a year now. One of them has worked flawlessly but the other one has had the power unit replaced four times. When I receive the replacement it looks like it has been previously used. Most things that can fail are built into the expensive power unit. I have asked them to send me an unused CG but they didn’t. And now I have another bad one. I have to manually start it and once it fills with water it fails and beeps then I have to unplug it and plug it back in. Then it wil go through the cycles and clean. I have also experienced some of the problems mentioned in other posts. On a scale of 1-10 it would get a 5 from me. BEWARE IF YOU EVER NEED TO HAVE THE POWER UNIT REPLACED.

  15. 15
    Julie says:

    Great review. My biggest complaint about the CatGenie is the litter everywhere. We have a small house and there is cat litter EVERWHERE, EVERY DAY. Regular litter doesn’t stick to cats like this special Genie litter does. Other than that I love this thing, but we are wracking our brains trying to figure out a place to put it that won’t let the litter be everywhere.

  16. 16
    Julie says:

    @Julie I don’t think the CatGenie litter sticks more than regular litter. We use the scoopable stuff and find pieces of it all over the house.

  17. 17
    Cayley says:

    Thank you so much for this thorough review!

    I live in a small apartment, and I have been looking for a solution that would solve my littler issues. For me, the biggest pains that come along with cats is the smell, and litter granules that seem to travel anywhere little paws will take them. Based on what you have shared, I feel like the cat genie amplifies those issues in exchange for a little bit on convenience… this sounds very unappealing.

    One day, I will build a litter trapping track that cats must cross in order to reach the box. Until then, I guess I will be investing in a diaper bin!

  18. 18
    echodelta says:

    We have thought of venting it thru the soon to be vacated dryer vent for odor control. Hm…more energy waste. Longhair cat leaves big spindle of wool on the shaft. He forgot that the pump pulled out. Now I could get a smaller rubber hose down at the pump exit and suck out the line with a wet vac. It wouldn’t drain.
    Wet vac needed for regular maintenance. Free for a jug ‘o tea.
    You can make one from a stout plastic gallon jug, a piece of smallish rubber or plastic hose and a safe cutting knife. Cut hole near top, stuff hose in hole. It don’t have to seal perfect, tape can be used. Then just hold the regular hose of your dry vac to the cap-less neck. Suck any mess (yuck) and throw away the container. Arizona tea jugs work well, milk jugs no.

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