Cat Litter, Litter Boxes and Tools Reviews and Recommendations
The Litter Box
Such a delightful subject! Okay, so smelling and cleaning the litter box are the least fun things about having a ragdoll kitten. Litter boxes are certainly a necessity however.
Let’s look at it from a different angle: No matter which kind of cat you have, you must have a litter box. Therefore, since you must have a litter box, the best case is to have a beautiful fluffy ragdoll instead of any other cat!
Here is one more angle on this topic: Let us help you get the best litter, litter box and cleaning tools to minimize the unpleasantness of this necessity. Please note that this page contains affiliate links, and we may be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links.
Choosing the right cat litter is essential to minimizing the unpleasentness of this topic. There are so many types and brands of cat litter, it is truly amazing that a product like this get’s so much attention.
We have certainly not tried all of them, but we quickly realized that there are significant benefits to premium clumping litter. This is especially important if you use an automatic litter box (see below). Seriously, premium clumping litter is essential. There are many manufacturers of premium clumping litter, and most are probably reasonably good products.
We use exclusively the Dr. Elsey’s line of cat litter products, and we recommend that you do so also, at least to get started. Here are the groovy details:
- We start kittens with Dr. Elsey’s Kitten Attract product. It is small-grained which is better for them in case they accidentally ingest it when cleaning their cute little mitted paws. Their “special formula” makes the kittens feel the urge to pee when they can smell the litter. You probably won’t need this one because your kitten will have outgrown it by the time she goes home with you, but we have linked it here anyway just in case you want to try it.
- The kittens then transition to the Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract product which has an irresistable scented formula that results in highly successful litter box training. This is what your new kitten will have been using when you bring him home, and he will be accustomed to this scent.
- Our adult cats use Dr. Elsey’s Clean Tracks. They transition well to it after Cat Attract, it works great, and it costs less than Cat Attract.
When you bring your new ragdoll home we strongly recommend that you start with Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract first. It is very important to help your new kitty get settled with her new litter box environment immediately so that she doesn’t establish alternative pee spots elsewhere. The Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract will be very helpful in aligning your furbaby’s interests with your interests – making the litter box more preferable than any other location in your home. Click here for other suggestions about establishing successful litter box behavior when you bring your kitten home.
After your new cat has become very well established you can transition to the Clean Tracks product. You can certainly continue using Cat Attract indefinitely, however, Clean Tracks is more economical for the long term. If your cat “makes a mistake” you can certainly return to Cat Attract to re-establish good litter box behavior.
If you choose later to use a different litter, try mixing some of the new litter into the established litter, and over time gradually increase the new litter in the mix until you no longer use the previous litter.
Litter box solutions for two or more cats
This can be a challenge, where a cat might be picky and not want to use a litter box that smells like a different cat. Keeping the litter box clean will help, but it isn’t always a guaranteed solution. See the automatic litter boxes below for more information about solutions for multiple cats.
For what it is worth, all of our cats and kittens learn to share a litter box with other cats. Each mother and her kittens all share the same litter box. So when you adopt your new furball and introduce her to her new playmates, she should be cooperative with the idea of sharing a litter box.
The simplest solution to the problem is to get a second litter box. That is usually all it takes to satisfy the pickiest of cats.
At the core of the issue, the happier a cat is with its litter box situation, the less likely you will get to deal with the consequences of “extra-curricular” activities.
Traditional Litter Box
There are a gazillion litter boxes out there. All different shapes, sizes, high side walls, lids, fancy, simple, you name it. Measure the space where you plan to put the litter box and be sure that you have approximately 12″ in front of the box entrance for a paw-cleaning mat to catch litter that might be stuck to the paws when your kitty finishes taking care of business. We will talk about the mats further down.
After years of trial and error, we have settled on using simple, high-wall litter boxes for our cats. When we are start litter box training our very young kittens we use a smaller box that they can climb into more easily. But before long the Nature’s Miracle High-Sided Litter Box is well within their ability to access, and when you receive your new fur baby he will be well accustomed to this great litter box. It is very ruggedly constructed and the high walls substantially reduces the amount of litter that gets flicked out when your ragdoll is concealing his handiwork. This litter box is the gold standard for us. It is nice and large, measuring 23″ by 18.5″ with 11″ high side walls.
Here is another high wall litter box that is a little bit smaller in case the one above is too large. The Arm & Hammer Rimmed Wave Cat Litter Pan measures 18.7″ x 15.5″ with 10.6″ high side walls, so you get side walls that are almost as high as the Nature’s Miracle box above in a smaller footprint.
Hooded Litter Boxes
You might like hooded litter boxes. They help reduce the airflow around the litter box which improves the smell in the immediate vicinity. Some of them have swinging door flaps to further trap the smell.
We have not used any of these, but there are some excellent options available like these two:
The Amazon product info includes some good videos for both of these hooded litter boxes.
Automatic Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes
The world is becoming more automated every day. Litter boxes are no exception. There are so many great things about automated litter boxes:
- No need to scoop the poop every day.
- Even better than that, the machine can dispose of the waste within a few minutes of it being deposited. For people who are not home during the day, this is a big help.
- Smells are dramatically reduced.
- Cats are happier with a clean litter box.
- If you need to go out of town over night, an automated litter box makes a big difference. This was a major benefit for us.
Actually, it isn’t really a recent innovation. We started using the LitterMaid Multi-Cat Self-Cleaning Litter Box more than 15 years ago and we loved it. However, there are a few downsides:
- For us personally, automated litter boxes don’t work for us anymore because they are not compatible with raising kittens. This doesn’t affect most people, but it is specifically why we don’t use any automated litter boxes today. (“We-would-if-we-could-but-we-can’t.”)
- Periodically it will be necessary to do a deeper cleaning on the machine. This can be challenging if you are not inclined toward disassembly and reassembly. A traditional litter box is the epitome of simple, and some automated litter boxes are not simple.
- As with all mechanical things, they can malfunction and break.
- Automated litter boxes are more expensive than simple plastic boxes.
- Sometimes cats can’t figure out how to deal with an autonomous machine. They can cause rake-style machines to get stuck. They can climb inside the rotating drum machines while they are in motion. And, they can need to use a litter box while it is cleaning itself which can be an issue with the 20 minute cleaning cycle of the Cat Genie machine.
All of that being said, if the detriments of the downsides for you are much less than the benefits of the great things, then you will be delighted with an automated litter box. We loved having them, and would still be using them today were it not for the kittens. For what it is worth, we have a silent robot lawnmower (the Worx Landroid) and are so happy with it we can’t imagine life without it.
Let’s explore the self-cleaning litter boxes we have used:
LitterMaid Multi-Cat Self-Cleaning Litter Box
This is the first robot litter box that we used and we purchased multiple boxes since we had a few cats at the time. They worked great, mostly. Sometimes a cat would sit in the box and stay there when the rake started. As the rake traveled across the litter, it would then gently make contact with the cat and stop without harm. Unfortunately, this would then leave the box in a stalled-out state and would not return to normal operation without a manual button press. The box would occasionally (yearly?) require a disassembly cleaning.
The LitterMaid Multi-Cat Self-Cleaning Litter Box uses disposable waste bins. We found that we could use plastic bags inside the waste bins so that the bins could be used many times, only throwing away bags of waste.
Compared with the other two automated litter boxes, this one is much less expensive and much smaller. It also has the shortest cleaning cycle time of approximately 30 seconds.
Recommendation: Get the Multi-Cat version of the litter box rather than the single cat version.
Litter Robot Self-Cleaning Litter Box
The Litter Robot is a rotating drum style self-cleaning litter box. This device does a great job containing smells inside the drum and clearing waste by rotating and dumping it into a drawer below the drum. Apart from the occasional event where a cat climbed into the drum while it was rotating, we didn’t have any issues with the Litter Robot. It simply worked great with a cleaning cycle lasting approximately 60-90 seconds.
The Litter Robot Self-Cleaning Litter Box uses disposable plastic bags inside the waste drawer.
Compared with the other two automated litter boxes, this one is the largest and the most expensive (first cost), but it is the easiest to install and maintain with the least consumables cost.
Cat Genie Litter Box
The Cat Genie is the most unique of all litter boxes: it doesn’t use litter. Instead, it uses plastic pellets that are approximately the size of litter granuals. The Cat Genie uses water to fill the pellet bowl to wash the litter, and a grinder cuts up solid waste, then filters out the pellets and “flushes” the waste like a toilet. A cartridge dispenses a measured amount of detergent to sanitize the plastic pellets. The Cat Genie then rakes the pellets while blowing air through them to dry them. When the process is completed, a clean, sanitized litter box is ready and waiting for use.
It is a remarkable solution with some amazing benefits:
- There is no litter to purchase and carry home.
- There is no waste to carry out to the trash.
- There is no litter dust dust.
- The cleanliness of this litter box is unsurpassed.
Surprisingly the purchase price of the machine is less than the Litter Robot. However, the consumable product (detergent cardriges) is the most expensive of these three automatic litter boxes.
Probably the most limiting factor is that the Cat Genie must be installed in your laundry space, because it requires a water supply hose and a waste water drain hose.
At first we purchased one Cat Genie litter box to try it out. It was amazing how well it worked! However, we discovered a problem we hadn’t anticipated. The litter cleaning and drying cycle took approximately 20 minutes to run its course. In the mean time, if a cat needed to use the litter box during the cycle, it would not be available we had a couple of messes to clean up.
We solved it by purchasing a second Cat Genie and scheduled the clean cycles to run at different times, making at least one Cat Genie available at all times. We were very pleased with the solution.
Here are the limitations:
- The Cat Genie must be located very close to a water source and a drain (adjacent to your clothes washer). Make sure that your hoses are tightened and securely fastened to avoid water damage.
- The consumables cost is higher than the other two machines. However this is balanced with the fact that it doesn’t use bags of cat litter.
- Like a toilet, the drain in the Cat Genie can get plugged, which requires manual disassembly and cleaning. This was relatively rare, but it did happen on occasion.
Overall, the Cat Genie was the best solution because of the cleanliness of the system. But if you don’t have space near your washer, it isn’t going to work for you. An alternative solution is to place the litter box near a utility sink, but expect to wash out the sink after each cleaning cycle because you will have waste residue in the bottom of the utility sink.
Recommendation: Purchase the GenieDome accessory to contain smells and a 3-pack of cleaning solution cartridges.
Choosing a Self-Cleaning Litter Box
The Cat Genie is the overall best solution if your ultimate goal is cleanliness. But you must have space near your clothes washer for it to sit. And be prepared to purchase a second Cat Genie if you have multiple cats.
The Litter Robot is the most reliably available of the three self-cleaning litter boxes (doesn’t stall and has a short cleaning cycle time), uses the least consumables and is relatively easy to clean and maintain. However, it is taller than the other three and has the highest purchase cost.
The LitterMaid is a good solution for small spaces and smaller budgets. It has the shortest cleaning cycle time and performs well.
Litter Box Tools
Forget about those flimsy plastic scoops for cleaning the litter box. A metal scoop is the only way to go. When you are scraping the bottom of the litter box, you don’t want a plastic scoop to catch on a hard spot, then flex and then spring loose, flinging that stuff everywhere. If you haven’t experienced that, then just trust us on this – it will happen.
There are lots of different metal scoops that you might like… even one with an extension handle. Here is the one we use.
Litter Lifter Scoop
The Litter Lifter scoop is very popular. It is durable plastic – not flimsy – and has triangular tines that do a great job sifting the waste from the litter. It sifts out quickly without requiring very much shaking. You can’t go wrong with this scoop.
We have used the Litter Genie for many years. If you are familiar with a diaper genie, the Litter Genie is similar. It makes it convenient to clean the litter box and stores the litter until trash day without stinking up your garbage can. The waste goes down through a hole in the Litter Genie into a plastic sleeve. The sleeve is pinched off by a sliding tray inside, trapping the smells. When the sleeve gets full, you cut it off and tie it closed, then toss the bag in the trash. If you have a traditional litter box, this is one of those “can’t live without it” tools. Check out the product video on Amazon’s listing showing how these work.
There is an online review that was critical of the Litter Genie, claiming that it was difficult to use. The issue is that the Litter Genie is a bit top-heavy until the bag of litter starts to fill up. Good news: there is a very easy solution to this… just put some rocks or sand inside the base of the plastic bottom and it will be a lot easier to operate.
Litter Box Mats
After your fuzzy furball uses the litter box, there will usually be a small amount of cat litter that sticks to their paws. If you will place a litter mat in front of the entrance to the litter box it will significantly reduce the amount of litter that gets tracked around. Check out the wide variety of litter box mats that are available.
Recommendation: Bigger is better. Get a mat that is larger than your litter box, assuming that it will fit in the floor space you have available. It will help catch litter that might get flicked out the sides of the litter box. Plus, the more walk-off area you have the better job it will do collecting litter from your kitty’s paws.
We use a rubber mat with circular pits in it. We like this one because we can thoroughly clean it.
One type of cat litter mat has a fibrous top side to trap litter. They are good at trapping the litter… a little too good, because they can be difficult to clean.
Here is another type of Double Layer mat that looks very innovative. The top honeycomb part separates from the bottom to let trapped litter flow out. That is a really useful feature. We will give these a try when it is time to get new mats.