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
- 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!