I am an unapologetic fan of cats. I’m a fan of most domesticated critters no matter if they’re dogs, rabbits, turtles, birds or some sort of elongated rodents. At present, I share my house with three cats. Three cats that create what I think might be an unusually large amount of waste product by converting the money I spend on cat food into poop.
As a cat lover, I spend at least fifteen minutes a day wearing lab gloves and toting a scoop to keep my house from stinking of despair and A&E reality programs. When I first saw a commercial for the LitterMaid, I was hooked. A machine that made my lab gloves and scoop obsolete? I’m in! Unfortunately, when the LitterMaid hit the market it was prohibitively expensive, so I sighed and got back to the business of scooping. One day, I thought, while breathing through my mouth and digging through 30 pounds of soiled clay, one day I will own a LitterMaid, and all my worries will be in the past.
The price eventually went down to a range where I felt somewhat justified in purchasing my dream machine, so I ordered up the model made for large kitties. (My cats, they are not thin.) When it arrived, I put it together and filled it with new litter and waited for the miracles to start.
There were no miracles. But let’s back up a bit. The LitterMaid works by running a comb through the litter box to (theoretically) catch any clumps of foulness and neatly drop them into a plastic receptacle under a flap. The comb runs along a track on both sides of the box, the receptacle stays closed until the comb mechanism knocks it open, when the comb retreats back to the other end of the box, the lid closes. Ideally, this should keep all the nasty bits in a closed space where I never have to touch ’em. The LitterMaid also has a sensor to prevent the comb from engaging while kitty is in the box.
The problems with the LitterMaid quickly became apparent.
1. The teeth on the comb are set wide, which often breaks a litter clump instead of gently nudging it into the receptacle.
2. When clumps break, they stick to the tines of the comb.
3. When the comb becomes soiled with clumps, the machine won’t shut off and keeps sending the comb back and forth (really loudly) through the litter, making the clumps stuck to the comb bigger and more cumbersome.
4. The clumpy comb kicks dirty litter bits into all of the grooves (of which there are many) in the LitterMaid, including the comb track.
5. When the comb track gets litter in it, the comb will stall and the motor will grind and get hot quickly.
6. An average sized clump of urine from one of my cats is too large to actually fit into the receptacle, if it manages to make it that far without falling apart, so the comb ends up tossing it over the receptacle and onto the floor.
7. A cat with diarrhea has no business in the LitterMaid, as it creates unspeakably horrible situations.
I learned all of this within the first couple hours of trying the contraption. By my best guess, the LitterMaid is great if your cat pees in small amounts and you don’t mind cleaning the comb, the tracks and the entire area around the box once a day.
I tried it for a week and gave up. I was spending twice as much time dealing with cat shit than I had with my $5 plastic litter boxes from Target, and I was out $150 for a machine that made both the cats and me look like this: