Uses crystal litter only
Needs one-time-use trays
Supplies are costly
We purchased the PetSafe ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter Box so our writer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.
As much as I love my cat, I have to admit that cleaning his litter box is high on my list of least favorite chores. Luckily for me, newfangled litter boxes like the PetSafe ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter Box promise to make this chore a thing of the past, automatically pulling out the waste so you can skip the scooper.
It sounds great, but these gadgets are far from perfect. Automatic litter boxes have a reputation for being spotty, including some horror stories about flooded bathrooms and poop-clogged gears. So we wanted to test the PetSafe ScoopFree Litter Box to see if it's actually a worthwhile purchase. Here’s what we discovered.
Size: A little bigger than your standard litter box
The PetSafe ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter Box comes in a few different models: Original, Ultra, and the Top-Entry Ultra. The Ultra has a hood, and the Top-Entry Ultra has a hood that makes your cat go in from the top. We tested the Original, which resembles a standard litter box with low sides.
This model isn’t all that much bigger than an average litter box—it measures 19 inches wide, and almost 28 inches long, and its walls are just over 6 inches tall. The walls are fairly thick, and the poop container takes up some space, so the actual litter area is a bit smaller at 14 x 15 1/2 inches. For comparison, my old litter box is 15 inches by 19 inches with 8-inch walls. If you opt for one of the Ultra models, the footprint will remain the same, but you’ll have to accommodate the large dome on top, which brings the height to 16 inches.
Design: Simple yet effective
The PetSafe ScoopFree Litter Box is nothing fabulous to behold. It has tan-ish gray walls and a purple hood at one end, and there’s a singular button that manually deploys the rake. The purple hood hides the “waste trap,” a.k.a. where solid waste gets stored between cleanings, and it has a little handle in the front that allows you to lift the unit’s frame. This litter box is made for cats older than 6 months and under 15 pounds.
The concept behind the PetSafe ScoopFree Litter Box is fairly simple. It has a stainless steel rake that sits at one end of the box, and there are motion-detection sensors embedded in the inner walls of the litter area. When my cat, Nugget, hopped in to do his business, the litter box would wait 20 minutes then activated the rake.
The rake moves slowly down the length of the box, catching solid waste in its tines. It operates at a low hum that I couldn't hear at all with ambient noise, like the TV or dishwasher running. At the end of the box, the rake lifts the waste trap, deposits its contents, then reverses its course and returns to its starting position.
The motion was slow and subtle enough that it didn’t scare Nugget (and he’s a scaredy-cat), and I was impressed at how quickly he took to the new litter box. He had no trouble making the switch from our old litter box, and I think it is because the design was so similar.
Overall, this automatic litter box did its job well. During the weeks we tested it, the box captured all the solid waste in the trap, only leaving behind a few small flecks of solid matter. The only issue we had was when Nugget piled up too much litter on one side of the box, blocking the sensor. When this happened, I had to use a litter scooper to even out the litter level and pressed the button to run a manual rake cycle to get things back on track.
Litter Options: Crystal litter only
You may have noticed I didn’t mention anything about liquid waste, and that’s because the PetSafe ScoopFree box solely uses crystal litter. If you’re not familiar with this type of litter, it’s made from silica gel beads known for being super absorbent. Essentially, this litter absorbs cat urine and neutralizes the smell, so there are no clumps. It’s also supposed to “dehydrate” solid waste.
The appeal of crystal litter is twofold: First, you only have to scoop out solid waste since urine is absorbed into the beads. Second, you can leave it for up to a month without changing the litter if you have one cat (shorter, if you have multiple cats). Additionally, it’s much lighter than traditional litter and doesn't stick to Nugget’s feet as much, reducing the amount of litter he tracked around the floor.
It sounds great, but I’ve used this litter before, and I’m not fond of it at all. You have to mix it regularly to ensure the beads are absorbing liquid evenly, and over time, it turns a gross yellow color. My main qualm with crystal litter is the smell. Some people can’t smell it, but I can't help but smell it. I’ve always been sensitive to synthetic smells, and every time the cat uses the litter box, a nauseating wave of chemical odor overcomes me. To make it worse, the scent lingers on the cat, so he smells like chemicals when he sits in my lap.
It’s worth mentioning that crystal litter is completely safe and non-toxic, so while I think it smells like chemicals, it is totally safe. However, it tends to be more expensive than regular clumping litter, retailing for around $15 for 9 pounds of litter, which is good for about two months.
Again, some people can’t smell crystal litter at all, in which case, this litter box might be great for you. However, I couldn’t stand using it in the long run because of the unpleasant odor.
Ease of Cleaning: Easy but wasteful
PetSafe recommends cleaning the litter box every 20 to 30 days if you have a single cat or every 10 to 15 days if you have two kitties. There’s a spot on the litter tray to write the day you changed it, which helps forgetful people like me.
To clean the litter box, I lifted the top plastic frame off, revealing the laminated cardboard tray underneath. The tray sits inside its own cover, so I put the cover over the tray and threw the whole thing away. It is super easy with no scooping, sifting, or shaking. However, it is wasteful. Essentially, we need a new tray every month, and I don’t love adding to the landfill if I don't have to. Plus, this also means I have to buy new trays from PetSafe. A three-pack of prefilled trays of Petsafe crystal litter costs about $50.
Odor Prevention: Surprisingly effective
I fully expected the PetSafe ScoopFree Litter Box to begin smelling within a few days. I was surprised that even after three weeks of use, I couldn’t smell any waste, even though a pile of poop was hiding under the cover. This is likely due to the crystal litter’s ability to dehydrate solid waste. I suspect that it would start to smell if you didn’t change the litter on time.
Price: Not bad, but they get you with the refills
You can find the PetSafe ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter Box on sale online for about $145, which is about average for an automatic litter box. I don't mind paying this for the product since it works well, but I do take issue with upkeep costs. A 6-pack of ScoopFree Premium Blue Crystal Litter Trays retails for around $100, which means you’re going to be spending around $200 a year on supplies for this litter box—and that’s if you only have one cat. Personally, we usually use regular litter and spend less than $100 a year. To double that expense seems a bit much.
PetSafe ScoopFree Original vs. Litter Robot 3 Connect
One of the main competitors in the automatic litter space is the Litter Robot 3 Connect, a large, futuristic-looking device. While the ScoopFree Original is relatively affordable and compact, the Litter Robot is cumbersome and really expensive. However, the Litter Robot does allow you to use regular clumping litter, which is cheaper, and it can be controlled remotely via your smartphone.
Despite minor flaws, it's a solid product.
While we didn’t love the one-time-use trays of this litter box and the fact that it can only use crystal litter, we have to admit we were impressed by its straightforward yet effective performance. It did everything it claimed with only minor hiccups, and it wasn’t so intimidating that the cat was afraid to go near it. Overall, we’d recommend this product to people who like crystal litter and don’t mind spending extra money on monthly supplies.
- Product Name ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter Box
- Product Brand PetSafe
- MPN PAL00-14242
- Price $149.99
- Weight 4.5 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 27.6 x 6.4 x 19.2 in.
- Color Purple and taupe
- Warranty Limited 1-year