I think I saw a bumper sticker once that read “Dogs have owners; Cats have staff”. This is certainly true in our household and one of the staff functions I least like to do is clean the litter box. The folks at Scoop Free think they have the answer with their Ultra Scoop Free Self-Cleaning Litter Box. Will automation make the process smell and mess free?
The Ultra appears to be an updated version of the original Scoop Free that Julie reviewed in 2006. They’ve added a privacy hood, variable cleaning cycle adjustment and a counter that tells you how many times your cats have gone. All this extra for only $40 more.
What you get with the device is the mechanical scooping unit, a disposable litter tray with a bag of blue crystal litter, a power adapter and the privacy hood.
If you take a closer look at the litter tray you will notice that it seems to be sitting in another box. That is actually the lid you put on when you throw the litter away.
The setup was simple. I poured the litter into the tray, dropped the mechanical apparatus on top of the tray and plugged the unit in to an electrical outlet. I was all ready to go and only need two more things…..
The cats. Jessie and Jeremy were going to be my test subjects. They are both mature indoor/outdoor cats that are very familiar with a litter box. So, I removed their normal box and waited. And waited. After 3 days I was getting worried because the box hadn’t been used and the cats were looking at me with a pained expression.
I went to the Scoopfree web site to see if they had any ideas how I could convince my cats to use the new box. They did, so I took a small amount of litter from the cat’s old box and sprinkled it in the ScoopFree box. I also removed the privacy lid.
Well, that didn’t work and I was getting worried that the cats were beginning to hate me and I’d have to do a review without actually having used the product. I gave it one more shot because I left the cats no choice. We were going on a 2 day trip and the cats wouldn’t be able to go outside while we were gone.
Yes, during the 2 days they used the box 8 times as is indicated by the counter. Now that the cats have accepted their new toilet facilities, I can make some judgements about the usefulness of the product. Also notice in the photo above that there is an indicator for minutes. This is the delay time which can be set to either 5, 10 or 20 minutes for the rake that scoops the litter after an animal leaves the box. I have no idea how this would be useful.
The device does as advertised. The rake pushes the solids under a lid and eliminates the need for manual cleaning. The premium litter absorbs liquids and neutralizes any odor. After the box is full, which is 10-15 days recommended for 2 cats, it’s as simple as lifting the device up from the disposable litter box and using the cover to enclose the litter and throwing the whole thing away.
The question is; how much are you willing to pay for convenience? In my case the consumables (replacement litter boxes) are $15 each and that’s $30 per month compared to the $10 I spend buying premium litter now. Also, I’d have to add the cost of the device, at $179.99. So, my first year cost would be approximately $540. Subsequent years would be $360. While doing research for this review, I found the Ultra ScoopFree available on sale from Petco for $79.99, so I could reduce the first year cost.
I’ll be reverting back to my old method of manual litter box and daily cleanings. I cannot justify the cost, but for some people it might make sense. For example, we have a friend who had to give up her cats because she has a compromised immune system and the Doctor told her not to clean a litter box. With the ScoopFree, maybe she can get her pets back.