Automatic litter boxes make an irresistible promise—no more scooping litter!—but can they deliver? We tested 14 different automatic litter boxes in our New York Lab, and at home with enthusiastic feline volunteers. Each was evaluated for everything from performance to odor control, using both real cat behavior in at-home environments, and wet modeling compound "poops" for controlled simulations.
Our clear winner was the Whisker Litter-Robot 4, dethroning our previous top pick, the Litter-Robot Connect 3. The new version of Whisker's Litter-Robot improves on the previous model in every way, with a multitude of useful features, an easy interface, and a quiet operation that won't scare off your cats. It's also remarkably easy to clean.
While we had a clear favorite, there are several other automatic litter boxes worth your consideration, which may offer a smaller footprint or a less eye-popping price.
Whisker Litter-Robot 4
Very easy to clean
Large, inviting opening
Thoughtful features, like the night light
Takes up a lot of space
The Whisker Litter-Robot 4 is not merely an iterative improvement on our former "Best Overall" automatic litter box, the Litter-Robot 3 Connect, but a comprehensive upgrade. In lab testing—and throughout weeks of follow-up testing with real cats in a home setting—our testers expressed repeated admiration for various features, design improvements, and their overall experience using the Litter-Robot 4.
It's hard not to boggle at the litter robot's high price, but Whisker has pulled out all the stops to justify the premium cost with a premium user experience. It begins with an incredibly easy setup since the Litter-Robot 4 arrives fully assembled in the box—all you need to do is plug it in and download the Whisker app (which is synced using a QR code on the back of the device).
But the first thing you're likely to notice about the Litter-Robot 4 is its design, which stacks a wide-open, circular entrance atop a more square base. It's a significant improvement on the previous version of the Litter-Robot, which has a narrow entryway (more than five inches narrower). The entrance to the litter box looks inviting, even intriguing, with our home tester confirming that cats are more than willing to interact with the futuristic-looking device.
"They were very curious," our tester said. "My three cats took to it very quickly after the initial fear and confusion about it seemingly coming to life on its own!"
The Litter-Robot 4 works by maintaining a supply of litter atop a heavy-duty fabric hammock. After your cat uses the bathroom, the interior sphere performs a slow barrel roll, dumping the litter through a sieve that pulls out solid waste and returns the clean litter back to its original position. The clumps of kitty litter are then dumped into a reservoir tray underneath.
Sensors in the entrance track both motion and weight, ensuring that the Litter-Robot never begins a cleaning cycle with a cat inside. This allows it to measure how much waste is sifted, and even create custom data for multiple cats, since it can differentiate them by weight. The only precaution needed is for kittens under 3 pounds, but you can disable the automatic sifter and instead use a button to manually clean until your cat is grown up enough to register.
The control panel on the Litter-Robot 4 features big, colorful buttons, though the wide variety of settings and cleaning options can make for a bit of a learning curve. In addition to a power button, there are buttons for "Cycle," "Reset," "Empty" and WiFi "Connect," with each button performing multiple functions. For example, the Cycle button initiates a cleaning, or you can hold down the button for three seconds to activate a "Sleep Mode," ensuring a cleaning cycle won't be activated for eight hours. A big, friendly light bar beneath the buttons delivers a wide range of information, indicating when a function has been paused, or even when a cat has spent too long inside the machine. It's pretty intuitive, but a little overwhelming at first—one tester mistakenly emptied all of the litter, rather than initiating a standard clean.
"There are a lot of colored lights to learn, which all signify different things, but once I got that down, I found them very helpful," the tester said.
Cleaning the Litter-Robot 4 was also a cinch. The bags used in the reservoir are tall enough that even an over-stuffed reservoir is easy to empty—simply lift up the edges of the bag and use that extra height to tie it off. There's a QR code on the bottom of the reservoir that provides a retail link for easily purchasing new bags, smell filters, and even litter (but it doesn't require proprietary litter, and worked great with our generic, store-bought litter).
Even better are the beefy components. Despite the high-tech sheen, the Litter-Robot 4 doesn't feel finicky or breakable. Instead, you can remove the entire barrel and hose the whole thing down if you want. The tray beneath is similar and can be easily removed and washed in the sink.
It's all part of a comprehensively thoughtful design, right down to the built-in night-light. It's weird to say that an automatic litter box was a joy to use, but the Litter-Robot 4 impressed us at every step.
We did note a few downsides to the Litter-Robot 4. The most noticeable is the increased potential for unpleasant smells. While the Litter-Box 4 has several features that tamp down odors, by sifting your cat's waste out of the main cylinder you're also separating it from the kitty litter that contains so much of the smell in a traditional litter box.
"Because the clumps get dumped into the bottom drawer, there is no litter covering up the waste," our tester noted, describing the result as a more "prominent" smell.
We've found this to be an issue with most automatic litter boxes, which pull waste out into a separate tray, losing your litter's scent-absorbing qualities in the process. The Litter-Robot 4 works to counter this by sealing its waste drawer in a compartment with a built-in carbon filter. You can buy additional packs of the Whisker OdorTraps, but it's always a little frustrating buying an expensive product and then having to continually buy additional, proprietary accessories.
The Litter-Robot 4 also shares with its predecessor a very large silhouette. Anyone living with cats in a small apartment should measure first, and have a good sense of whether they have enough room to accommodate the Litter-Robot.
While we think the Litter-Robot 4 is a substantial improvement over its predecessor, the Litter-Robot 3 Connect is still a high quality product. It's a little larger (more than 2 inches wider), less attractively designed, and a little louder, but the reduced price might make the previous Litter-Robot model worth your consideration. Read our comprehensive review for more details.
The Whisker Litter-Robot 4 is available in both white and black. You can opt for a slotted "handle" on the front, or an optional step for easier climbing (Whisker has also announced an accessory ramp, but it won't be available until 2023). In addition to the 1-year warranty, there's also a 90-day trial period, where you can test out the Litter-Robot 4 in your own home, risk free.
Price at time of publish: $699
Dimensions: 29.5 x 22 x 27 inches | Entry: 15.75 inches | Weight: 24 pounds | Colors: White, black
Litter-Robot 3 Connect Cat Litter Box
Price at time of publish: $699
Best Odor Control
Petkit Pura X Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box
Cool, minimalist design
App with lots of data
Fantastic odor control
Small entry hole
The PETKIT Pura X is remarkably similar to our Best Overall pick—the Litter-Robot 4—using an internal cylinder to fully rotate the litter reservoir so that it passes through a filtration screen and removes clumps of cat waste. Just like the Litter-Robot, it can be set to perform this operation manually, on a timer, or automatically after a cat is done using the device.
In testing, the Pura X performed with similar excellence. The Pura X operates quietly, is easy to clean, and has an attractive design, which sometimes makes it look like your pooping cat is flying a tiny spaceship.
The main downside our tester noted was the smaller entry hole, which was barely more than half the circumference of the wide opening on the Litter-Robot 4. This may make the Pura X a less attractive option if you have especially large cats. While the Pura X is suitable for cats up to 18 pounds, one tester, with cats of varying sizes, had trouble getting all four of their cats to consistently use it.
But there were also a few areas where the PETKIT Pura X had an edge. One of our favorite minor design differences was the chute that allows you to load new litter from the top of the machine—now you have to bend over even less to keep your litter box in good working order.
The biggest area where the Pura X impressed us, even over our Best Overall pick, was in its odor-eating abilities. Similar to the Litter-Robot, the Pura X dumps waste into a sealed tray on the bottom of the device. But rather than a carbon filter, the PETKIT litter box opts for an automated deodorant spray. The results are consistently impressive, with the Pura X containing bad smells better than any other litter box we tested.
"I kept this in my living room for testing and there was no odor from the box, which was amazing!" our tester said.
There are also several areas where the Pura X takes a different design approach than the Litter-Robot 4, making selecting between them partially a matter of taste. This is most noticeable when it comes to the interface on the device itself. Whereas the Litter-Robot 4 opts for big, bright indicators that allow you to access most features directly, the Pura X has a more minimalist interface, with only two buttons used to navigate a small OLED display embedded in the front of the litter box. Our tester found it usable, but a little too limiting.
"It would be nice of the menu icons showed text with the icons," our tester noted. "It's a little hard to remember if not using them often or without the manual."
Similarly, we preferred the Whisker app to its PETKIT alternative, though the Pura X app does offer a lot of useful data—tracking your cat's weight, toilet times, and other info.
Price at time of publish: $799
Dimensions: 25.4 x 21 x 19.9 inches | Entry: 8.6 inches | Weight: 33 pounds | Colors: White
Pet Zone Smart Scoop Automatic Litter Box
Odor absorbing filter
Good, if barebones, features
Much more affordable than many automatic boxes
No place to store included scoop
Bags could fit waste reservoir better
Very small pieces of waste sometimes slip through rake
The Pet Zone Smart Scoop Automatic Litter Box senses when your cat has used the litter box, then cleans it 30 minutes later. It operates using a rake, which scrapes across the box, then scoops whatever clumps it catches into a reservoir.
One tester summed it up, noting that the Pet Zone Smart Scoop Automatic Litter Box "doesn't dazzle with bells and whistles, but absolutely does the trick."
The Pet Zone is also surprisingly quiet, raking across the box in a slow cycle that does a good job of catching most waste. The machine comes with six plastic bags to get you started. It also includes a carbon zeolite filter, which fits into a bracket on the underside of the waste reservoir lid.
While our at-home tester wasn't impressed with the overall build quality, noting its mediocre plastic construction, she was impressed with its overall performance. "It doesn't have the fanciest design, but it's good for what it is and what you pay for."
She also lamented the lack of a place to store extra bags and the included scoop. But those features included with the Pet Zone Smart Scoop Automatic Litter Box worked well, right down to the odor filter. Our tester didn't notice any smells throughout weeks of use.
Price at time of publish: $166
Dimensions: 26.5 x 16.88 x 7.63 inches | Weight: 9.3 pounds | Colors: Gray & green
Best Crystal Litter
PetSafe ScoopFree Smart Covered Self-Cleaning Litter Box
Fantastic at deodorizing
App enables remote control and tracks usage
Doesn't take up much more space than a standard litter box
Not all cats like crystal litter
Replacing tray or emptying reservoir is an unwieldy task
We reviewed an older version of the PetSafe ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter Box in 2020, and much of what we had to say then still holds true. The main determination you'll need to make is whether or not your cats are ready for crystal kitty litter, which uses non-clumping silica beads that absorb liquids, rather than hardening. Crystal litter has several advantages, including strong odor-absorbing capabilities and a lack of dust or grit. However, not every cat likes crystal litter, so there may be an adjustment period. Plus, crystal litter tends to be more expensive.
But if you know your cat is ready for crystal litter, then the PetSafe Scoop-Free Smart Covered Self-Cleaning Litter Box is one of the best ways to take full advantage. The automated box rakes through the litter 20 minutes after your cat is done using it, moving solid waste to a separate compartment. Meanwhile, the silica crystals absorb urine and other smells. Once a month (for a single-cat household), you simply slide out the entire tray, put a lid on it, and throw it away. The automatic cleaning is remarkably quiet and the comb slowly passes through the litter to weed out solid waste. You never have to touch—and you barely even have a chance to spot—the waste your cat leaves behind.
Of course, this means buying a whole new tray of crystal litter every month, or even more often. So while the PetSafe ScoopFree is much more affordable than our Best Overall automatic littler box, the cost of using the same expensive litter each month will add up fast. While it's possible to dump out the waste reservoir without completely replacing the litter tray, our tester found this to be an unwieldy task, requiring lifting away the entire upper assembly of the device.
In a home setting, we found the PetSafe ScoopFree to be effective at both self-cleaning and odor control. Plus, unlike the Litter-Robot 4, the PetSafe won't take up a ton of space in your home so it's a great option for apartment dwellers.
Price at time of publish: $230
Dimensions: 27.6 x 19.1 x 15.7 inches | Weight: 19.3 pounds | Entry: 8.7 x 9.3 inches | Colors: Gray
Best Smart Home Ready
Smarty Pear Leo's Loo Too
Alexa and Google voice control compatible
Large waste reservoir
Multiple color options: Avocado Green, Baby Blue, Leo Gray, and Pretty Pink
A little harder to clean than our favorites
The Smarty Pear Leo's Loo Too is the most affordable of the premium "cylinder" design automatic litter boxes we recommend, but we found it to be nearly as impressive as the Litter-Robot 4 and Pura X.
Since it doesn't have the wide open entryway of the Litter-Robot 4, the Leo's Loo Too is more comparable to the Pura X in its operation and was comparably quiet when running a cleaning cycle. Otherwise, it follows the classic design of automatic litter boxes with a rotating barrel passing through a grate, leaving behind solid clumps, which are dumped into a lower reservoir.
The app is less fun to use than the slick Whisker app, but what makes the Smarty Pear automatic litter box stand out is its wide smart home compatibility. Capable of syncing with both Amazon Alexa and Google Home, the Leo's Loo Too is the best option for anyone looking to activate their litter box using voice controls.
It's also an excellent pick for anyone concerned about microbes, since the Smarty Pear utilizes UV sterilization, blasting its waste drawer with light rays that kill most bacteria and viruses. Frankly, this seems like overkill since waste is contained in plastic bags, but it's likely to be an appealing feature for some.
Odor control was also excellent with the Smarty Pear, even with the large waste drawer, which enables you to go a week or more without emptying. In a tester home with a single cat, the reservoir bag could remain in place for up to a month without any noticeable odors—but the bag was cumbersome to remove. In homes with multiple kitties sharing the Smarty Pear, we recommend changing the reservoir weekly and taking advantage of the additional spin cycle feature that ensures waste is filtered out.
The Smarty Pair Leo's Loo Too is available in four colors—Avocado Green, Baby Blue, Leo Gray, and Pretty Pink—and comes with a 90-day free trial.
Price at time of publish: $650
Dimensions: 24 x 22 x 27.5 inches | Weight: 27.5 pounds | Entry: 8.5 inches | Colors: Avocado green, baby blue, leo gray, pretty pink
If you're looking to take the hassle out of cleaning litter, our favorite overall automatic litter box is the Whisker Litter-Robot 4. It's a major improvement on the previous Litter-Robot model, with a useful interface and quiet operation. If you're looking for a similar automatic litter box that you can use with your Smart Home devices, like Amazon Alex and Google Home, check out the Smarty Pear Leo's Loo Too.
What to Consider When Shopping for an Automatic Litter Box
Most of the automatic litter boxes we recommend are compatible with a variety of litter, though there are substantial exceptions. For example, most automatic litter boxes struggle with wood-based pellets, or other litter that gets soft. In general, automatic litter boxes work by filtering hard clumps from a uniform litter, which makes clay, clumping litter an excellent option. Unless testing a litter box that employs non-standard litter, we used Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat Ultra Unscented, which is an affordable clay-based litter that clumps very easily.
We also recommend a litter box that uses silica crystals. This can be an excellent option if you dislike clay dust. It also absorbs smells well. However, you may want to acclimate your cat to crystal litter before springing an automatic litter box on them, since not all cats adjust well to the silica crystals.
Automatic litter boxes tend to have a large footprint. Our favorite overall, the Litter-Robot 4, takes up a lot of space. Measuring your intended space in advance is key, but even a space that will technically fit may look cramped or crowded. Automatic litter boxes tend to come in two basic forms: rotating cylinders and rakes. Cylinder-shaped litter boxes are necessarily tall, and can look quite imposing in a small space. Litter boxes that use electric rakes to clear the box of clumps often have a lower profile.
Not only are automatic litter boxes a larger up-front investment (prices can range from $150 to $650) than a standard litter box, but they often have recurring expenses. Wherever possible we've noted when a litter box has proprietary bags or other add-ons that will increase their expense over time. While it's often possible to use standard garbage bags or other workarounds, chances are your automatic litter box will work best with the bags designed specifically for its waste reservoir. Other potential maintenance costs can come from odor-absorbing filters or deodorant sprays.
How We Tested Automatic Litter Boxes
We tested 14 automatic litter boxes in our New York Lab and then we placed each automatic litter box in a real home with at least one cat. In addition to the evaluative metrics outlined below, at-home testers provided a separate rating for odor elimination, since they were able to get a long-term sense of how well the litter boxes did at covering up or containing the smells left behind by their cats. The scores and reviews provided throughout this roundup are a synthesis of our lab-tested ratings and at-home follow-ups.
Beginning with ease of setup, our testers timed how long it took to get an automatic litter box up and running. If directions were confusing, or an app annoying, our testers let us know. Next, it was time to put the litter boxes to the test, running them through a methodology designed to determine their ease of use. This included evaluations of each box's interface, and putting it through the paces of a manual cleaning cycle.
Using a blue modeling compound dipped in water to simulate solid waste, our testers then rated each box on its performance. Water scented with vinegar was used to test how well a box could contain or eliminate smells. Once each automatic litter box was put through multiple cleaning cycles, filtering several days' worth of waste, we emptied each box of litter and gave each one a thorough cleaning.
Finally, testers were asked to give their overall impressions, rating how they perceived the product's value, both before and after learning the retail price.
We purchased most of the automatic litter boxes ourselves, but we have also noted when review models were provided by the manufacturer.
How do you get cats to use an automatic litter box?
It's important to let your cat adjust to the presence of a new litter box before operating it, because even the quietest automatic litter boxes have moving parts that could frighten your cat. Begin with your new litter box in the same room as your existing litter box, leaving it unplugged at first. While you won't be operating the automatic features yet, go ahead and fill it with litter, encouraging your cat to check out the familiar scent.
Once your cat has adjusted to the presence of the new device, begin running a cleaning cycle two or three times a day, preferably at the same times. Let your cat begin to get used to it as part of their daily routine. Be sure to encourage your cats with praise, snacks, or play after you see them use the new, automatic litter box.
If your cat isn't using the new litter box, you can try sprinkling a little catnip inside the automatic box. There's also training litter, designed to attract reluctant cats.
Once you see your cats using the automatic litter box, wait at least a week before removing your cat's existing litter box.
How often should automatic litter boxes be cleaned?
The answer will vary depending on your specific brand of litter box, as well as the number of cats using it, but as a general rule, you should do a deep cleaning of the box and a full change of all litter at least monthly, and more often if you have three or more cats.
Do automatic litter boxes smell?
An automatic litter box can reduce odor by quickly scooping away your cat's feces, but it's unrealistic to expect that there will never be any bad smells wafting from the box. The intensity of the odor from your cat's feces can depend on its diet and overall health. Still, as long as your automatic litter box is not overburdened by more cats than it can handle, and is cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis, the smells should be transient and less pungent than with a traditional, open litter box.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
This roundup was written by Andrew Whalen, an editor for The Spruce Pets with hours of experience testing pet products in our labs. Whalen lives with two rescue cats, Church and Wally, who have wildly different litter box habits. Their input and emotional support was crucial to the automatic litter box testing process.
A previous version of this article was written by Theresa Holland, a freelance writer who has been contributing to The Spruce Pets since 2020. Her work has also appeared on MyDomaine. For this list, Holland considered each litter box's size, price, and features. In addition, product testers tried out several styles with their pets at home and provided real-world insight.