Cats make great pets because they don’t require a lot of attention like dogs do. Just give them a bowl of food and a pan of litter, and they can pretty much take care of themselves. The only downside to having an indoor kitty is that we humans have to clean their ‘toilet’ for them. Not fun…
Today Julie of The Gadgeteer and I are going to tell you all about the CatGenie. It’s an alternative to the traditional litter box. Will our cats love it? Will we love it? Read on to find out…
Julie’s comments are in Black and Judie’s are in Blue italics.
I’ve had cats as pets since I was a kid. Back then they were always outside pets that would only come indoors to eat and play but would go outside to use the bathroom. When I grew up and moved into my own house, I still had a cat, but we fixed a bed and litter box in the garage for them. That is until a few years ago when I was away on a business trip and came home to find that Jeanne had brought the litter box inside so that Max wouldn’t be alone. Of course, he never went back into the garage after that, and I ended up being the main cat box cleaner. Yay… not.
I’ve also had cats as pets since I was a kid, and they were always indoor – outdoor cats as well. Since mom or dad always took care of the litter box, I never thought about how much trouble it could be to keep up with one properly, until I was a young adult. That’s when I had to contend with my cat Groucho’s box, which as much as I loved her, was definitely a buzzkill. After finding out that the “summer colds” I had always suffered from were actually a massive allergic reaction to cats, I had to give her away. 🙁
Fast forward to two years ago, when I threw caution to the wind and allowed Sarah to bring home the charming . The conditions were that Sarah would give Avah weekly baths and that she would maintain the litterbox. As if! The duty soon fell to me, but since Avah had completely stolen my heart, I didn’t mind too much.
As soon as I get home every day after work, my first task is to clean the cat box. We use clumping litter, which is messy and dusty. My 15lb cat(we think he might have some Maine Coon blood in him) is a real slob. Most days there is more litter on the floor than in the cat box. So I have to also sweep up the litter with a broom and a dustpan. I suppose this chore isn’t THAT horrible, but it can be time-consuming and it’s just icky.
I had the opportunity to try the ScoopFree litter box several years ago and found it to be an improvement over traditional cat boxes. But it was still messy and required me to clean out the umm…. nuggets every few days, so it really wasn’t THAT much different from a regular box. Judie, I know you’ve tried other cat boxes too, what did you think of them?
Avah was fairly young when I was able to ditch her basic litter box and replace it with a Litter-Robot I’d been sent to review. Not only did she take to it like a fish to water, I was thrilled with the fact that I no longer had to scoop! The one caveat was that once a week I would have to pull out the drawer and remove a bag full of “doody”, but compared to daily scooping, using the Litter-Robot was nothing short of easy street.
Jenn from Pocketables was the first person to tell me about the CatGenie after I had reviewed the Litter-Robot, but there were a couple of things which kept me from really considering one. The CatGenie has to have access to a water line for cleaning and disposal purposes and to an electrical outlet, but the way my bathroom and laundry room at the San Angelo house were set up, installing one simply wasn’t feasible.
After Kevin and I had begun renovations on our new house in Eldorado, it quickly became evident that there would be extra space in the utility room. About that time, both Julie and I were offered CatGenie review units. Coincidence? I think not. 😉
CatGenie cat box and associated parts
2 Boxes of washable granules
2 SaniSolution cartridges
The CatGenie can be installed one of two ways. Either in the location where you have your washer installed or in a bathroom.
Space is a major deciding factor when setting up the CatGenie; the CatGenie is fairly large, as you can see in this diagram…
Neither of our new home’s bathroom’s were properly laid out for an unobtrusive installation, so the utility room was our only real choice. From reading information on the CatGenie site, I also knew that it would be my preferred location because utility room installation offered true automation with no human interaction. You see, when the CatGenie is installed using a washing machine’s cold water supply line and drain pipe, there is nothing to manually remove after the device has worked its magic; the waste is automatically flushed into sewage, or in our case – the septic system.
As luck would have it, Kevin’s brother Mark is a plumber. All I had to do was hand him the boxes, and when I returned the setup was complete (like magic!).
Installation isn’t that difficult, however. The only tool that you need is a pair of pliers to attach the larger T-Adapter.
The only change from the installation shown in the photos and the paperwork that accompanied my CatGenie was that you should not attach the hook to the Genie Drain Hose anymore; instead, the CatGenie’s drain hose is to placed directly inside the laundry drain, next to the washing machine’s drain hose.
After attaching the water line and the drain hoses, all that’s left of the installation process is adding the supplies (which Julie will talk about in a moment) and then plugging in the CatGenie.
Since Max’s litter box has been located in the spare bathroom and my washer / dryer was in the basement, I went with the bathroom install. I was worried that he wouldn’t adjust to going to a different location very easily.
Installation in a bathroom requires the smaller T adapter. You have to add the fitting to the water line coming into your toilet. While it’s not difficult, I didn’t want any surprises, so I had Jeanne’s brother Dusty (who is also a plumber) come over and do it for me. 🙂
Hook up requires you to turn off the water to your toilet and install the smaller T adapter. It took Dusty less than 10 minutes.
The White hose is the water supply line. It connects to the CatGenie and provides water to fill the bowl where the washable granules are located.
The Beige hose is the drain hose. You attach the flexible drain hook to the end of the drain hose and place it over the edge of the toilet. This is where the waste water from the CatGenie will drain. It’s up to you to flush the toilet.
The only steps left to set up the CatGenie are to snap in a SaniSolution cartridge and pour the washable granules into the bowl.
A scented cartridge was included with our kits, but they are also available unscented. I think the scented version smells pretty good, especially since it only gets activated when the cleaning cycle is running, but it bothered Kevin.
The cartridge and granules are the only consumables for this product. Each cartridge should last for approximately 60 flushes of the CatGenie and the granules never need changing. You just need to add some to the bowl to always keep the level at the fill line.
In the month+ that we have been using our CatGenie, I have only had to top off the granules once.
I’ve not needed to add any yet.
Unlike conventional cat litter, the granules don’t have dust that you breathe in (yuck). They look like tiny pieces of uncooked pasta. These granules are not absorbent and are cleaned during the washing process.
Allow me to digress for just a moment. That the granules are not absorbent is both good and bad: good because the granules are reusable; nothing gets wasted, poo doesn’t stick to them, and they are economical in their own way. But I also think that they are bad because they aren’t at all absorbent. This becomes especially noticeable if you have uncarpeted floors…you will see kitty paw prints leading away from the CatGenie, and that’s not mineral water allowing their creation. 😛
I’ve not had this issue yet because for some reason Max doesn’t dig in this box. He just does what he needs to do and hops out.
The cartridge easily snaps into the top of the unit. The CatGenie alerts you when there are only 10 wash cycles left. Next to the cartridge slot is the control panel. There are just two buttons that you use to set the cleaning cycles.
The idea here is to watch your cat and see when he or she is usually asleep; once you’ve decided a certain time is safe, you need to be at the CatGenie to press the Auto Setup button. When you press it, successive Daily Cycle’s numbers will light up. If you want the CatGenie to only operate once a day, you’ll hit it once; for two times a day you tap it twice, and so on. I have only Avah, so once a day has been more than enough. If you have an extremely potty-prone kitty or more than one cat, you’ll want to set the box to clean more often.
The CatGenie site says that“one CatGenie works best with 2 to 3 cats of average size.” If you have more than three cats, then you might need to get another CatGenie. This device is also “best for kittens 6 months and older,” probably because it would be a bit of a climb for a small kitten.
I should mention that since there is no clock, just a timer, the cleaning cycles will run in either 24, 12, 8 or 6-hour intervals – all based on the original time that you set during the Auto Setup.
With that said, if you ever need to run the CatGenie an additional time on any particular day, you can hit the Start Cycle button and the CatGenie will get busy.
I wish that the CatGenie had an automatic mode that would start the cleaning process 5 minutes after the cat hops out of the box. After all, it does have the sensors to know when a cat is in the bowl. It uses them so that it won’t start the cleaning process while the cat is inside. It doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult to add that feature.
It probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal to add such a timer, but I think the reason that there isn’t one is because cats will go to the bathroom several times a day, and it takes so long to do a full cleaning cycle (never mind the cost of the SaniSolution). Since Avah is an indoors only cat (she’s declawed, after all), the litter robot would be going off ten times a day, if it were touch sensitive like the Litter-Robot was.
I have not been setting the CatGenie to run at different times during the day. I press the button to start the process manually. Especially now that it’s warm weather and Max is outside most of the day. I find that he isn’t using the box all that often, so I don’t want to waste any of the SaniSolution.
Yeah, that’s partly why I am running the CatGenie only once a day; I figure that way I can get two months out of the SaniSolution cartridge. See? I can be frugal! 😉
The cleaning process takes a little less than 30 minutes from start to finish. The bowl starts spinning and the slotted scoop will extend down into the bowl to collect the cat poopies and drop them into the hopper. Liquids automatically drain into the slots in the bottom bowl.
This process is a bit startling and loud the first few times! Water will just start entering the basin, and it sounds similar to a washing machine starting. There are various stages of operation which all have their own crazy sounds…
The bowl spins both clockwise and counterclockwise.
It does this process three times and shakes the scoop to make sure that as few granules as possible are also flushed. It makes these crazy clicking sounds when the scoop is shaking itself; the first time I heard it, I thought something was broken!
During this part of the cleaning operation, there is a lot going on that isn’t immediately evident. In case you were wondering, the cat poo isn’t sent through the tube into the sewer or septic intact; it is first ground up and liquefied – hairballs and all — so that nothing harmful can clog your drain line or mess with your septic system. The entire basin is also thoroughly washed and sanitized with the SaniSolution; when the cleaning process is over, it’s like you have a new CatGenie again!
Then the bowl will fill up with water and the slotted scoop will sift the granules around to clean them in the SaniSolution. Finally, hot air will blow the granules dry as the scoop aerates them.
It’s at this time that the scent from the SaniSolution becomes really evident. It doesn’t smell bad, but it smells more like a State Prison than a field of flowers. 😉 Right!
This is another reason why I manually kick off the cleaning process… it is pretty loud. Max’s bathroom is not far from my bedroom. The cleaning cycle would definitely wake me up if it happened in the middle of the night. It’s as loud as a washer or an older dishwasher.
Exactly! This is definitely not a process that you would want running in the middle of the night; I made that mistake once, and the next day I made sure to reprogram. 😛
I was worried that it would take Max a long time to become accustomed to the CatGenie and actually use it. I know that it took him forever to finally try the ScoopFree catbox. The instructions that came with the CatGenie suggested that you should leave the original cat litter box in the same room and not clean it. That the cat would finally go to the CatGenie instead because it was cleaner. I could only tolerate that for about 2 days before I just took the old box out of the house and told Max that he either had to hold it or use the new box 😉 I caught him at one point sitting on the toilet seat looking down at the CatGenie in either confusion or annoyance. He didn’t go to the bathroom at all for 24hrs, but he finally got a clue and used it. Yay!
When I first looked at the instructions, I nearly panicked. Avah was coming from using the Litter-Robot, and there was no way I was going to set that up in addition to the CatGenie. I thought about it for a minute, and realized that when she was a kitten, all I did to potty train her was put her in the box and help her scratch at the litter; she immediately got the concept and has never had an accident. So when it came time to use the CatGennie, I didn’t even give Avah the opportunity to be finicky.
When we moved into this house, I put the Litter-Robot in storage (just in case she hated the CatGenie), put her in the CatGenie’s bowl, swished her paw in the “litter”, and walked away. She didn’t go immediately, but in a few hours Kevin nudged me so that I could catch Avah doing her business. YAY!
Besides not having to deal with cleaning litter clumps out of a box, the other great benefit that I’ve noticed is that there isn’t a ton of cat litter on the floor after he’s used this box. The granules do not stick to his feet as much as the other litter. I only find a few of them on the floor and they are easily swept up with a dustpan every day or two. Now we don’t feel disgusted when we need to use that spare bathroom because it feels so much cleaner without the old litter box in it. The initial cost for some folks might be a bit high, but for me, it’s totally worth it! Max likes it and I like it.
My experience with granules on the floor was a little bit different from Julie’s. I don’t know if Avah was just used to the dome on her Litter-Robot or what, but when she would get into the CatGenie she would swish granules everywhere! I am not sure if it’s because she is declawed and her pads are grabbing granules – or what, but every time she would exit, she brought a bunch of granules along with her. I was getting a bit frustrated because I absolutely loved the obvious benefits of the device, but my house was getting littered with litter!
Max doesn’t dig at all, so if he starts, I might end up with that same problem.
I solved that problem by buying the optional
and (I only needed two of them). Now, once again, Avah has a completely covered and contained litter box. An added benefit is that I do not have to see her exposed poo in the hours before or after a cleaning cycle. Any litter that gets trapped in the GeniePaws gets dumped right back into the CatGenie, and it seems like it might also be helping to wipe her paws a bit…although I still see the occasional cat paw print on our bamboo floors. 😛
There’s no way to get around the fact that the CatGenie is pricey. Let’s break it down for a moment: You have the initial cost of the CatGenie itself ($297 for the ), you’ll have to buy supplies ( ) throughout the year as needed, and for many people that be enough. But as mentioned, I decided that Avah needed the ($34.99) and the ($24.99).
One thing worth mentioning is that the GenieDome is actually a combination of two products – the dome and the
. The SideWalls are the extra gray plastic shown above the bowl, and the separate dome pieces are white. I honestly think that the SideWalls would have been sufficient to keep the litter in the box on their own, but during installation I decided that covering the box with the dome would make the whole thing look much better; as I mentioned, we wouldn’t be able to see the poo laying there in between cleanings anymore.
So far I’m using mine as it came. I’m afraid that Max won’t fit in the box with the top on it 😉 And knowing how finicky he is, he might not even try to go in.
One of the big concerns that I had was whether or not the CatGenie would work properly and safely with our brand new septic. The last thing I wanted was to foul it up or back it up somehow, but I needn’t have worried. Because the granules aren’t absorbent, even if some of them do wind up passing through to the septic, they won’t harm anything.
FYI: Mark mentioned that the three things which can really harm the septic are egg shells – because they never break down, and potato skins or rice – because they swell up, take up space, and take forever to break down.
I was worried about the septic issue as well. The first time I ran the CatGenie after Max had gone #2, I thought I’d see a disgusting slurry in the toilet waiting to be flushed. Surprisingly, it was mainly just soapy looking water. The CatGenie really does a good job of breaking down the poo.
I didn’t think that it was possible, but I have found the CatGenie to be even more convenient than the Litter-Robot was, simply because there is absolutely nothing for me to do other than keep the supplies replenished. Julie has to flush her toilet after the CatGenie runs, but other than that? There is nothing else to do.
I’ll take flushing the toilet over stooping, scooping, dumping and sweeping any day! 😉
The only caveat that I can immediately pinpoint, other than its price, is that extra thought that has to be put into where the CatGenie can be placed. There are just some homes where it will not work, and in a home like that, I would recommend the Litter-Robot without hesitation – simply because it only needs an electrical plug to run. But if you have a good spot to place one, the CatGenie takes litter box cleaning and convenience to a whole new level.
The CatGenie Self-Flushing Self-Washing Cat Box is available directly from the manufacturer.
MSRP: $297 (plus supplies as needed, and accessories if needed)
What I Like: Extremely convenient; self-cleaning – nothing to throw away; No more scooping and dumping of litter; Easy hookup
What Needs Improvement: It’s pricey; Needs more timer functions; Noisy; Cleaning process takes about 30 minutes; You have to manually flush the toilet
Update: If you are interested in the CatGenie, you should also read this.