PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Litter Box Review: Wishful Thinking
If you’re a cat owner, chances are you’ve read reviews about automatic litter boxes like the ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter Box from PetSafe, daydreaming about the possibilities. You’ve probably found yourself hunched over your manual litter box recently, filled with all that ugly clay and ruin, and thought, “We sent somebody to the moon 50 years ago, and we’re still doing it like this?” Agreed.
With very high hopes, we set the PetSafe box out for our three tester cats (Pinky, Oliver, and Rose) to try out for three weeks, and we were pretty surprised by the results. Read on for our insights.
Setup Process: Not too bad
The litter box consists of three parts: a bottomless self-cleaning litter box frame, a disposable tray to place under the box to hold litter, and a privacy hood to set on top. The box must be plugged in to work, so it needs to be set up near a standard power outlet.
This litter box only works when used with PetSafe’s crystal litter and trays.
To set ours up, we plugged the self-cleaning litter box in, placed the litter tray and its lid underneath the self-cleaning unit, and then poured the crystal litter in. The privacy lid snaps into place on top with pegs. The included instructions and diagrams are very thorough, and the assembly process took about 10 minutes.
Cat-Friendliness: Not for all cats
PetSafe offers tips to get your cat to use this new contraption in the included instructions (i.e. letting your other litter boxes get dirty), but if your cats are as fickle as ours, then you might be in for an adjustment period.
After three weeks of testing, our three cats only used this litter box four or five times, and that was all during the last half of the final review week. Up until then, the cats would stand at the entrance with their head inside, scope out the interior, and then wander off. Sometimes they would put a paw in. One jumped in for a thorough investigation once, but that was as far as it got.
After three weeks of testing, our three cats only used this litter box four or five times.
We think that this may have been because our three cats had never used silica litter before (the litter that looks like little round crystals)—and, unfortunately, that’s the only litter type that the box was designed to work with. Although different cats will react differently to this litter box, even the chance they won’t use it might be a deterrent.
Odor Prevention: Effective
While we didn’t have a lot to go on, we will say that after it was used a handful of times, there were no odors at all. The crystal litter seems to absorb urine odors well, and the waste receptacle literally keeps the solid waste sealed off under a lid.
Design: Manufactured to take your money
PetSafe’s self-cleaning litter box product line includes three versions: Original, which is uncovered, the Ultra, which is the covered version with a side-entry, and the Ultra Top-Entry. We reviewed the side-entry Ultra, which has the bone structure of a regular side-entry litter box, but with a big lip to climb over at the entrance, a broad metal rake that rests at the back interior of the box, and a user interface keypad around the back of the box that controls and counts the self-cleaning runs. The physical design is bulky because of all the moving parts but is otherwise pretty standard.
An automatic sensor inside the box detects when your cat enters, and the cleaning rake runs 20 minutes after. If they reenter during that 20 minutes, the timer resets. Twenty minutes is the default run delay, but the sensor can be set to run five or 10 minutes after a cat exits, or you can just push a button and make it do a run.
You never have to touch—or even see—any waste.
When the box is activated, it slowly and quietly combs the solid waste into the front of the litter box, under the lip of the entryway. You never have to touch—or even see—any waste. When the cardboard tray is pulled out, there’s a cardboard lip over the waste receptacle, guaranteeing minimal waste interaction. You cover the tray with the lid it’s sitting in, and then throw it all into the garbage. (PetSafe also sells a reusable pan for the box.)
An important thing to note is that this litter box only works when used with the brand’s crystal litter and trays. While larger pet stores tend to carry these trays, if you normally shop at a small grocery store or bodega, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find them there.
Ease of Cleanup: Simple but wasteful
This litter box comes with one coated cardboard tray that fits into the bottom of the frame and a packet of the brand’s proprietary crystal cat litter. PetSafe suggests that you can use the box for weeks at a time without having to think about scooping or changing it, but for three full-time felines, the company suggests changing it every seven to 10 days. Although the process of actually changing the trays was easy, it generates an awful lot of trash.
Price: It adds up!
The Ultra litter box costs between $130 and $180, depending on where you shop. That isn’t exactly cheap, but a self-cleaning litter box is a premium product, and that justifies a higher price tag (if it works). Where the real expense comes in, however, is having to buy the PetSafe-brand trays and litter frequently. Each tray and litter set is between $15 and $20. If you’ve bought the reusable pan (which is around $50), even the brand’s crystal litter is about $10 per single-use bag. A three-cat household (like ours) will end up spending $30 to $60 on cat litter a month.
PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter Box vs. Van Ness High-Sided Cat Litter Pan
You know what works better than a litter box that your cat refuses to use? Almost everything. We also tested the Van Ness High-Sided Cat Litter Pan (view on Chewy), which is absolutely zero-frills and sells for a fraction of the price of the PetSafe litter box. However, our cats began using it immediately and never looked back. The lesson here is this: When shopping for a litter box, instead of just thinking about its various features, consider your cat’s personality and what type of litter box they’re most likely to actually use.
Need some help finding what you’re looking for? Check out our list of the best cat litter boxes.
Not worth the money if your cats don’t like it.
Boy, did we wish this one would work out. Although the PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box is smart in theory, our cats barely used it. You might have better luck (and be able to reap the benefits of automatic cleanup and odor prevention), but we at least recommend acquainting your kitties with PetSafe’s crystal litter before purchasing this product to make sure they use it.