Editor’s Note: This is a joint review between Adrian and Jessica. Adrian’s comments will be in black, and Jessica’s will be in blue italics
Multi-tasking seems to be one of my strong points…work 40 plus hours a week, chase around a toddler, coach high school sports, have a small business, and have family priorities that put me in and out of Dr appointments and hospitals at least once a week…so honestly what else can I add? Oh … let’s throw in mowing the lawn, maintaining the house, and helping my wife with the everyday chores (ok so I duck as many of those as possible). Oh yeah, and my wife has these two fur balls running around the house — guess who gets to clean their litter box? ME!
So let’s just say when Dani over at Brilliant Pet offered the ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter box for a review, I was well on board, as was one of our other writers Jessica. Here is our adventure.
ScoopFree® is the self-cleaning litter box you can leave alone for weeks at a time. It is the only self-cleaning litter box that uses disposable litter trays to provide hands-off convenience and unbeatable odor control.
For this review both Jessica and I were sent the ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter box which has some extra bells and whistles listed below:
- Privacy hood gives your cats the privacy they deserve while keeping the litter properly contained
- Adjustable rake delay allows you to choose if the automatic rake sweeps waste 5, 10, or 20 minutes after your cats use the litter box
- Health counter tracks the frequency of your cats’ litter box usage to help monitor their health
For some reason I have the only two cats in the world that refuse to use a litter box that has anything in it, while that’s an exaggeration they are both very picky. To add to the whole ordeal, when they don’t feel like using the litter box, they scour the house until they can find one thing that I left out…AND THEY PEE ON IT! Okay; now that I’m done venting, let me get on with the review.
Jessica: I was really excited to set up the litter box when I got it, because I have three very sweet kitties who, well…they eat a lot, let’s say, and you know what happens after that. The cats keep me and my husband very busy cleaning up after them, so the idea of an automatic litter box really appealed to me.
I was able to set the litter box up very easily thanks to the quick start instructions included with the user guide. Once I got the components of the litter box put together, I simply filled the tray with the Fresh Step crystals and installed it by fitting the litter box over it. I added a bit of their normal litter to the mix so that they wouldn’t be too freaked out by the change in boxes as well as digging material.
Adrian: Being a guy, I am never one to read instructions much, boy has that gotten me into some trouble in the past. This was not so with the Scoop Free box, it was virtually pain free…in fact it was only in a few pieces so that makes it much easier. As Jessica noted, I also added a little of their old litter that way they would have their normal scent and know it was okay to use this box. The Fresh Step Crystals that are used vary in consistency from your everyday stuff, they are larger and bit more coarse…this could also be an adjustment for cats.
They sniffed around for a while, I left the hood off from the onset, but they still would not get into the box. I let the tray with litter sit out a while before putting the automatic portion over it, I figured they could get used to a new litter before having to jump over the new box. Set up was definitely a snap, just as easy as a standard litter box.
Jessica: Once I got the box set up and plugged in, my kitties immediately started exploring it. My Siamese mix Coco was the first in the box, as usual. Whenever we set up a new box or wash and refill their current box, she likes to just get in and dig around in the litter. They normally don’t use crystal litter like the Scoop Free uses, and the boxes they use on a regular basis don’t have privacy hoods. I was a bit afraid that they’d be scared or intimidated by the new box, so I was happy that they showed interest in it from the start.
Once Coco got in the box, she triggered the sensor for the rake even though she wasn’t actually using it. I had it set to rake ten minutes after the cat exited the box, so once she dug around and jumped out, we waited. I knew that would be the moment of truth—would the cats be afraid of the rake?
The rake mechanism is actually pretty quiet, but it must have sounded like gunfire to the cats. All three of them froze where they were and hit the ground, getting as close to the floor as they possibly could while puffing up their tails in alarm. My husband and I absolutely lost it—it was the funniest thing I think I have ever seen them do. Once I wiped the tears of mirth from my eyes, I knew that we might be in for a rough adjustment period. For the rest of the night, Coco held a stare down with the box, almost like she was daring it to go off again. Needless to say, none of them went near it again that night. I continued to watch the cats over the next few days and monitor the handy LED readout on the corner of the box that told me how many times the rake had been set off.
After two or three days, our big brown tabby Crow decided that he would brave the box (my husband kept joking that they must be afraid it would steal their souls) for one of his monster poops. I swear, this cat poops like a teenage boy. I don’t think we have ever been so excited about one of our cats going to the bathroom before, but we held our breath while he got in there, did his business, and got out. Coco watched from just a foot or so away, already puffed up in support of her brother and ready to attack if necessary. Once the requisite ten minutes had passed, the cats hit the deck again when the rake started putting the box back in order again. The girls were a little braver that night, creeping up to the box and flinching back as if they were afraid the rake was going to come get them. Crow seemed entirely unfazed by the rake…now that he had used the new box once, I guess he branded it as his.
A week or so passed with Crow being the only one of the cats making use of the ScoopFree box. Coco kept creeping right up to it but would never climb in. She would sniff all around it but didn’t want to put a paw in the crystals. Knowing how much she normally likes to get in and dig around, I was a little concerned that she might never use it because she was scared of the rake mechanism. Then, for some reason, I had an epiphany—I would try taking the privacy hood off the box and see if that made a difference! Coco is a very particular girl, so I thought the hood might be throwing her off her normal game.
It turned out that I was right. Not twenty minutes after I took the privacy hood off, we saw her go into the box for the first time and make use of it. It took her a while for the rake mechanism to stop freaking her out when it would go off. Even now, when one of the cats uses it and the rake goes off, she runs into the room where the box is located and watches it with a close eye. It cracks us up every time.
Our tortoiseshell calico Caledonia hasn’t actually been caught using the box, but she’s kind of a crabby old lady. We have considered making it her only option for a while to see if she takes to it, but I’m a little afraid of having accidents happen if she gets mad about it (especially because we have a new rug). She is curious about it though, and it wouldn’t at all surprise me to know that she was using it when we aren’t home to see what she is doing. She likes her privacy! I am going to continue experimenting to see if we can encourage her to take advantage of it, because not having to scoop manually after every use is REALLY convenient.
I have been very impressed by how smooth and quiet the rake mechanism is. I have only had it stick one time (when one of the cats dug too much and heavily unbalanced the levels of the litter) and that was fixed very easily—all I had to do was smooth out the litter with a litter scoop, then reset the unit by unplugging it and plugging it back in.
Changing the disposable tray is also VERY easy. All we do is lift the litter box off the tray, put the entire tray into a trash bag, and then put the litter box back on over a new, filled tray after we wipe down the interior walls with a non-toxic, pet friendly cleaning agent. (Crow isn’t exactly, um, accurate at times.) The cost of the disposable trays are actually my only beef with the ScoopFree box—if you purchase them at a local store like Petco, they are about $21 a tray. That is pretty expensive when you have three cats and have to change the tray every couple of weeks, instead of every month as the tray advertises. There is a mail order service offered by ScoopFree that provides a slight bulk discount depending on how many you buy at a time. That is convenient, but I hate having to deal with something like that via mail, since we have a hard time receiving packages at our apartment building and I have most large shipments delivered to my office. Even though there is a discount for buying multiple trays at once, they are still pretty expensive. I hate having to be forced to buy multiples of something just to save money, since we don’t have a lot of storage in our place. I may be forced to order them soon, however, because they are very hard to find at brick and mortar pet stores. The only place I’ve had any luck at is Petco, because PetSmart has discontinued carrying the trays.
Adrian: From the beginning it looks like both Jessica and I had very similar if not identical experiences with this review. When I initially set up the ScoopFree, I left the privacy hood (funny name since a cat poops in a box, not sure they care about privacy..hehe) off, we have tried one before on our regular litter box with no success. Again my cats had similar hesitancy with the ScoopFree after it was set up, it didn’t help that when they finally got the courage to walk near it the rake went off from the initial set up….wish I would have recorded that, they knocked over a portable wardrobe trying to get away. Since Jessica covered this type of situation, I will not elaborate again.
The litter box comes with great tips on how to get your cats to transition to both the new litter and box, basically gradually remove litter from the old box until they are forced to use the ScoopFree system and ultimately remove the old box. So after the first few weeks I was still distressed that they were still relying on the old litter boxes, after writing Jessica she said that was also the hard part. So, we decided to follow up with Dani, who emphasized the need to completely get rid of the old boxes. I have to admit that while I do hate cleaning litter boxes, I was still worried they would not use the new one and use the carpet if they weren’t clean. Basically they were not transitioning correctly because I was still providing them their old litter boxes.
So after another month of transition they really began to get comfortable with the ScoopFree system, my only complaint is that the crystal litter at times worked so well they appeared to almost hesitate to use the box because their scent was not there and they probably didn’t want to get yelled at. Now I know you are probably saying, well that all good but you probably watched them everyday and made sure they used the new box. Well, no not really…the true test of the ScoopFree system came just last month.
My 26 year old wife has battled cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, for the last year and a half. Around the time I first received the ScoopFree system for review her Dr’s told us she would need a stem cell transplant that would keep her in the hospital for roughly 3-4 weeks. I could only imagine what the cats would do to our carpet during that time, since I was not going to leave the hospital just to change a litter box. For all you animal lovers out there calm down, we have automatic feeders/water dishes so they would be fed. So around the time she was going into the hospital both Samar and Tyson were getting really comfortable with the new system. So the day before we checked her into the hospital I loaded up a new tray and litter…oh yeah and said a prayer in honor of my carpet and any shirts that I happen to leave laying around! Well the whole transplant went as expected and Katie was actually only in the hospital for 19 days! In that time I trusted my home to the ScoopFree system, and boy did it hold up. Now the manufacturer says with two cats the tray and litter should be changed about every 2 weeks, so I was pushing it. The LED indicator that tells you how many times the rake has cleaned the box after usage read 87 when we got home, so that tells you how often they go! After switching the box I began my search, there is no way this system was able to fully accommodate them while we were gone…was it? It was, after about a half hour of extensive searching, not one yellow stain or turd anywhere to be found! How sweet is that!
Now I didn’t have the same trouble finding refills for the ScoopFree system, there is a local pet store that carries them for about $16 apiece, its called Pet Supplies Plus. The refills come with a lid, the tray, and new litter; while this is more expensive than a traditional litter box it is well worth the convenience.
Jessica: Despite the trays being expensive and somewhat, I highly recommend the ScoopFree litter box for any cat owners. The box works smoothly and reliably, helps reduce smell of the waste it collects thanks to the Fresh Step crystals, and is quiet and pretty unobtrusive when compared to some of the other automatic litter boxes like the LitterMaid. My best friend has two LitterMaids for her two cats, and they are large in size and both broke down on her not too long after the got them. We have only had our ScoopFree for a few months, but I am very impressed with the build quality and performance. Considering how busy my husband and I are, it’s really nice to not have to worry about scooping a litter box every single day. We are considering purchasing another ScoopFree so that we can get rid of analog litter boxes altogether.
Adrian: While my experience with the ScoopFree system came during a weird time in my life, I think it was the perfect situation to show its value. It was great to not have a litter box to worry with, not like I had much to do huh? We here at Gear Diary love our gadgets, but I think I speak for all the writers when I say we really love something that ultimately makes our lives easier…hands down that is exactly what the ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter box did for me. While the initial training and transition can be a little awkward and worrisome, the end result is very much worth it.
WHAT WE LIKE: Easy to use, reliable, quiet, reduces waste smell, fits well in most spaces.
WHAT NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: Expensive litter tray refills with no other option, can intimidate some cats if they are scared of the rake mechanism.
The ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter box can be purchased from various brick & mortar pet stores throughout the US or directly from their website for around $140. Dani at Brilliant has provided this exclusive link for our readers that has a promotional price and free gift & shipping with purchase.
This deal is only valid until December 31 so don’t delay, it would make a great gift for a cat lover, especially those that are not able to devote the time to regular litter box cleaning!