The LitterMaid is an automatic, electronic, self-cleaning cat litter box. Cat owners have been awaiting this invention for decades; especially those not lucky enough to have a cat who uses the toilet like a civilised being. After all, even the most devoted cat owner is unlikely to truly enjoy the daily grind of bending over, scooping up the cat poop and tossing it in the trash. It's not unheard of for the age-old question of 'Whose turn is it to clean the litter box?' to quickly degenerate into rather a heated household argument. With all the amazing gadgets in the world today, it's not surprising that someone finally came up with a practical solution to the litter box.
Originally, the LitterMaid was one of those suspicious gadgets that are only sold via television commercials and infomercials. A vestige of this history can still be seen on the product's box, where it less than proudly bears the red 'As Seen on TV' label. Apparently, this initial marketing push was at least somewhat successful, as the LitterMaid can now be found in pet supply stores and discount chains across the United States. LitterMaid was first introduced in 1997 under the Windmere brand name, but has been sold under the LitterMaid brand name since the beginning of 2001. Along with the new brand name, the company also introduced a slogan for the LitterMaid - Caring for you and your cat.
How it Works
The LitterMaid can be plugged into a wall outlet or can run on batteries. The disposable waste receptacle is snapped into one end and the litter pan is filled up with about two inches of cat litter. There is a handy little line on the LitterMaid to show you how high to fill the litter. If the litter is filled too high, the LitterMaid will not be able to run. The cat steps into the pan and does his or her thing. Once the sensor has detected the cat, a ten-minute countdown is initiated. If the sensor detects any movement in the pan during the ten minutes, the countdown is re-initiated. At the end of the ten minutes, a raking device that spans the width of the litter pan rakes down the pan, scooping up any clumps and dumping them into the waste receptacle at the end of the pan. When the receptacle is full, it can be snapped out and either emptied or disposed of.
Pros and Cons
The obvious benefits of using the LitterMaid include:
The litter box odour is greatly reduced. As the cat waste is shuffled into the sealed receptacle within minutes of defecation, the odour is kept to a minimum.
In a house with one cat, the waste receptacle only needs to be emptied or replaced once every five to seven days, relieving the owner of a distasteful daily chore.
For those squeamish about seeing or smelling cat waste, an added benefit is that the sealed receptacle allows the waste to be removed without the owner having to see or smell it.
The litter box is almost always clean. Not only does this make for happier cats, it also has potential health benefits for both the cats and the owners.
Potential problems of the LitterMaid include:
It's theoretically possible that cat toys or even your cat's discarded collar could be caught by the automatic rake. However, such mishaps are unlikely to actually harm the LitterMaid, and the motion detector will prevent anything alive (such as a cat or small child) from being caught in the device.
The waste receptacles are a little flimsy. While this does not affect the LitterMaid in action, the receptacle can be difficult to remove if a neglectful cat owner has waited until it is overflowing.
The LitterMaid is only effective with the 'high quality' kinds of cat litter - the stuff that looks like sand rather than the cheaper stuff that looks like tiny pebbles.
The cost is not inconsequential. The LitterMaid itself generally costs between $75 - 200 in the US (at time of writing), depending on the store and the model purchased. The waste receptacles cost a little more than a dollar apiece.
The sound made when the automatic pooper-scooper is in action is rather loud. The noise may scare the cats away from the device at first1, and has also been reported to awaken those unfortunate enough to have placed the device near the bedroom.
If using the LitterMaid still hasn't solved your litter odour problem, consider the following:
Higher quality cat food quite often results in fewer and less smelly cat poops.
Several litter box deodorisers are on the market, most often in the form of powders which can be sprinkled into the litter box.