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ScoopFree® Automated Cat Litter Box Review

ScoopFree® is one of the few automatic litter boxes that use crystal litter. Beautiful blue crystals lock in the odor, similar to a baby’s diaper. It is a rake-type box, but since the crystals dissolve when the cat urinates, many of the malfunctions seen in other rake-type boxes are non-existent with the ScoopFree®.

Design – How it works
ScoopFree®’s patented design uses a stainless-steel rake and disposable cardboard crystal litter trays. Crystal litter is a silica gel that starts in solid granular form and becomes a gel when wet. The gel dissolves and congeals when the cat urinates. The cat uses the crystals like any other litter to cover its feces.

Optical light sensors detect the cat and the rake starts automatically 20 minutes after the cat leaves the box. The rake slides right through the congealed crystals, sifting the feces under a small cover in the tray. Then it flips over and rakes the crystals again to smooth them out. After a few weeks, the litter becomes saturated and starts to smell so the tray must be thrown out and replaced. The starting time can be adjusted to 5 or 10 minutes delay using the control panel.

Scoopfree Demo

Construction
The ScoopFree® automated cat litter box consists of two parts. The top part is much like a frame and it sits on top of the bottom part, the disposable crystal litter tray. The plastic is quite solid and robust. The crystal litter tray is made from cardboard that has been specially treated to repel the cat’s urine. That is, urine does not soak into the cardboard.

However, a competing company has started selling disposable crystal litter trays that fit the ScoopFree® box. These trays are called ScoopMaid®. The trays perform terribly because the cardboard is not treated the way the ScoopFree® cardboard is treated. That is, the cat’s urine may soak into the cardboard, creating odor and mess. There is a very good YouTube video that demonstrates the problem.

Many users complain about the cost of the ScoopFree® crystal litter trays. One industrious user developed a solution – a reusable tray called the Forever Litter Tray®. The Forever Litter Tray® is a non-disposable tray that users refill with crystal litter. The litter is dumped when saturated and the tray can be washed out. Alternatively, the tray can be lined with a garbage bag to reduce the cleaning effort.

Odor Control
Odor experiences are mixed. Many users are impressed by the crystal litter odor performance, however a significant number of users complain about it. I am sure the urine odor performance is great while the tray is new, but when the tray begins to saturate, then urine odor becomes a problem. The manufacturer recommends stirring the crystals periodically; perhaps the people who complained about odor did not do that.

In addition, there is no odor control for feces because the feces are scooped under the cardboard cover and sit there building up until the tray is changed. A good work-around for this problem is to scoop out the feces periodically to avoid the odor and extend the life of the tray.

If you have a cat that does not cover its feces, you will probably change the rake delay to 5 minutes to hurry-up the cleaning cycle. It’s a good thing they made the rake delay programmable!

Cleaning
No cleaning is necessary when you use the disposable trays! This is one of the major advantages of the ScoopFree® automated cat litter box. All you have to do is wipe down the plastic with a cloth and replace the tray when needed. If you decide to use the Forever Litter Tray®, cleaning will be needed once the litter saturates. Simply wash it out with a mild detergent, dry thoroughly and refill it with crystal litter, or line it with a garbage bag.

Power Consumption
Similar to all automated cat litter boxes, the ScoopFree® plugs into a standard wall outlet with a DC transformer type of plug. The power consumption is unremarkable and is nothing that will significantly increase your bill. The small transformer can be plugged into any household extension cord, if needed.

Noise
User complaints about noise are not very common, but of course you will find people who are bothered by the noise. Any product that has a motor will not be completely silent so I often wonder why manufacturers don’t use insulation to reduce/eliminate noise!

Warranty
The warranty for a ScoopFree® is the standard one year, however, it comes with a very nice 90 day money back guarantee, even if the cat has used the box and regardless where you purchase it from (i.e. a store, online or directly from the manufacturer). The reliability track record is better than many automated cat litter boxes, according to user reports.

Patent Infringement
There are ongoing patent disputes between the manufacturers of ScoopFree® and Litter Maid®. The dispute resulted in ScoopFree® losing some of its major retailer accounts, even though ScoopFree® was exonerated. The Forever Litter Tray® was unavailable for awhile due to patent infringement issues, but the issues have been resolved and the Forever Litter Tray® is now available on Amazon.com. The patent concerns do not affect anything except the availability of the ScoopFree® automated cat litter box. If it cannot be found in stores, it can always be purchased at the manufacturer’s or other online sites.

Pros
ScoopFree® Works well, many happy users
• Mixed reviews on odor control, but odor concerns can be solved
• No cleaning necessary! Just replace the trays.
• If you don’t like the cost of the trays, forego “no cleaning” and purchase the Forever Litter Tray®
• Forever Litter Tray® (by a different company) reduces cost for multi-cat households
• Good solution for large sized cats
• Optional hood available to contain litter scatter
• Nice rectangular shape and low profile increases placement options compared to larger automated cat litter boxes
• 90 day trial

Cons
• Low initial cost but high operating cost due to disposable trays.
• Silica Gel crystals do not decay in landfills
• Crystals tracked by the cat are messy to clean up if they become wet
• Crystal litter irritates some cats’ paws
• Odor control is fair due to mixed user reviews
• Feces may pile up on one spot under the cardboard; occasional redistribution solves this problem
• User reports about ScoopMaid® alternative litter trays that do not perform well
• If you decide to purchase the Forever Litter Tray®, cleaning is needed unless you line the tray with a bag

Conclusion
The ScoopFree® is the best automated cat litter box that uses crystal litter. The disposable crystal trays are convenient, but they are expensive and not very environmentally friendly. The Forever Litter Tray® is a very good alternative, if crystal litter is your preference. It’s good that a hood is available to reduce litter scatter.

The best way to decide if ScoopFree® is right for you is to research crystal litter from its real users via amazon. If you can reconcile the pros and cons of crystal litter, you might become one of the ScoopFree® automated cat litter box’s happy users!

    Posted in Automatic Litter Box Reviews