Pros: When it works, it's wonderful.
Cons: Unreliable and horrible to troubleshoot.
UPDATE: March 2008
Well, like others, I finally had the "pleasure" of cleaning out the unit due to a malfunction. The unit went through a cleaning cycle, and then started beeping. I called customer support and was told that there was a water sensor problem. The tech person had me disassemble the unit and locate the plastic water sensor which was enclosed in a larger plastic housing that holds the impeller. This unit was submerged in water filled with granules, urine, and feces.
The smell was unbelievably bad, but I didn't say anything to the tech person on the phone and simply followed the instructions to clear the problem. It turned out a tiny piece of fecal matter was stuck to the sensor, rendering it useless. This is definitely a design flaw. A sensor that works in what is essentially a toilet should be able to tolerate what I just described.
Well, that was all fixed, and I got off the phone, thinking all was well. Then the bowl stopped spinning correctly, neccessitating another teardown of the unit and another tech call. Fixed that...then, the unit got to the end of its cycle and did not completely drain, yet continued to dry the soupy mix of granules and water without beeping at all.
That was it for me. I spent a lot of money on this unit, so you must believe that this experience was bad enough that I never want to repeat it. It's a great idea which is flawed. Another reason I am done with this unit is that it ultimately proved to not be reliable through this whole ordeal.
As others have stated, this is a great concept, but very flawed. Since it can't be returned, the good customer support means nothing. Any product, if its makers believe in it, should be able to be returned if a customer goes through what I went through to fix it after less than 6 months of use.
I bought a Littermaid Elite the same day, threw out the Cat Genie, and am glad I made that decision. At least if this ever breaks down, it's only a plastic rake I have to deal with. I will also review the new unit after I own it for a few months.
The Cat Genie was suggested to me by a friend, and I have owned the unit since August of 2007. It's a great machine with great customer support, but like anything, it's not perfect. With that said, let me describe the machine and my experience with it so far.
The Cat Genie is essentially a self-scooping litter box that goes a step further and flushes waste down the drain instead of into a containment unit.
The litter box is the about the size of the opening to a toilet bowl, and it can be purchased with a dome cover to match. Its off white design is stylish, and the whole thing resembles a tiny igloo when the dome unit is attached.
The back of the unit consists of the computer unit which holds a sanitizing solution pack, a water inlet hose, a drain hose, and an electrical cord. The computer unit has two buttons (Start/pause and Auto Setup), and a series of lights which inform the user of how many cleaning cycles are programmed, the state of the sanitizing solution pack, and any errors that occur.
This box does not use litter like other self-cleaning litter boxes. Instead, plastic washable granules which resemble litter are used as the substrate for waste to be deposited onto.
To set up this box, you need access to a drain or toilet bowl, a water supply line, and an electrical outlet. I have mine installed in the laundry room with it draining into a cement tub, so I will focus on laundry room setup.
The package comes with two T-adapters so you can hook up the box to either your toilet's water supply line or a washing machine supply line. It only uses cold water, so my washer and the Cat Genie are both hooked up to the cold water supply in the laundry tub.
The drain hose hangs over the tub, and I have it inserted into a one-foot length of PVC pipe that simply sits on the drain hole in the tub. This keeps waste from splashing around in the tub by directing waste water directly down the drain.
Setup was fairly easy. Putting the unit together only took about 10 minutes, and hooking it up to the water supply and checking the connections took another 10 minutes. I had the help of a friend, but this can easily be done alone.
Once set up, you fill the bowl with a box of plastic granules (provided) and press the Start/Pause button to begin the first cleaning cycle. For me, there was initial disappointment because the unit would not rotate.
Let me explain: the liner that sits in the unit rotates during the cleaning cycle, allowing a rake to pass through the granules in order to scoop out solid waste. Liquid waste simply falls through the liner through slots at the bottom.
Well, my liner was warped and would not rotate without me pushing on it every few seconds. I called customer service and was issued a new liner free of charge. In the meantime, I did not run the unit and kept my cats out of the room.
When the new liner arrived, it was also warped and would not rotate. Another call to customer service and some troubleshooting by way of "reforming the liner" corrected the problem. Essentially, the unit was run through a cycle without granules, and the heating action of the dryer reformed the liner so it would rotate. Problem solved.
Once it was up and running, I set up the Auto Clean cycle. You can set the unit to run anywhere between 1 to 6 washes a day. There is no clock, so you have to set it to run at the time you want it to start each day. For example, I set mine up at 4:00 p.m., so now it runs at 4 p.m. and 4 a.m. every day, every 12 hours. It would be far better to have an actual digital display which allows you to set the time rather than having to set it up at the exact time you want it to run.
Once set up to run, the cleaning is automatic in that it starts at the preprogrammed time each day. When Cat Genie cleans, it first uses a rake and the rotation of the liner to remove solid waste and temporarily place it into a holding bin.
The unit then fills with water and sanitizing solution while rotating. This is what scrubs the granules clean. Then the unit drains. During draining, an impeller is activated which grinds up the solid waste which was previously stored. The solid waste, ground up and mixed with water and sanitizer, is then flushed out of the unit and down the drain or into the toilet, depending on your setup.
The bowl then refills, washes, and drains two more times. After the final drain cycle, a dryer unit is activated.
The liner continues to rotate with the rake sifting through the granules for about 15 minutes until everything is dried. During the dry cycle, the smell of sanitizing solution is very noticeable, and it resembles the smell of a freshly cleaned public bathroom.
THINGS TO NOTE:
The sanitizing solution packs last for 60 washes and cost about $15 each unless you buy them in bulk. You can get them as low as $12 each if you buy a year supply. This cost can add up quickly if you run the wash cycle more than once or twice a day.
The unit beeps when the cleaning solution is almost out. This can be very annoying for me at 4 a.m. because I have to get out of bed and push the Start/Pause button to get it to stop. Once the solution is totally empty, the unit will not run until a new cleaning pack is installed.
The granules cost about $22 a box, and for me a box lasts about three months. Again, you have to have extra granules on hand, and this can get expensive if your cats kick out a lot of granules when they go in the unit.
Not all cats will like the box. One of my three cats still will poop outside the box a few times a week. I have tried many suggestions from customer service to avert this behavior, but she still won't always go in the box. At least she won't urinate on the floor. Regardless, this can be very annoying after spending $300-plus on a cat box. Be warned...not every cat will like the granules even though they are pretty similar in consistency to litter.
Odor is not controlled except during the cleaning cycle. The granules are plastic and have no scent of their own. When a cat deposits solid waste, it essentially sits on a layer of plastic granules until cleaning, so there will be odor just like with any other cat box...maybe a little more because cat litter is at least scented, while the granules are not.
Overall, I would recommend this box because it does what it's supposed to, the customer service is great, and it eliminates the need to scoop. With that said, it's not perfect. Odor can still be an issue, and if you have a resistant cat like I do, be prepared to pick poop (or worse, urine) off the floor until they get used to the machine.
I haven't had any problems with the unit itself since the liner issue was corrected, but I imagine a clog would be horrible to deal with. This is another consideration when buying this unit. If it works, it's great...but a breakdown could be a small disaster, especially when water, urine, and solid waste are involved.
I don't mean to sound negative about the unit. I love it overall, but I wanted to give you all an honest description of what it's like to own it. Let's face it, we don't buy automatic cat boxes to save money; it's the convenience factor.
Even with the price of granules and cleaning packs, if your cats use the box, it's a wonderful piece of equipment. Having great customer support is also a perk. So if you want the absolute state of the art automatic cat box, this is the one to buy. You won't regret it if you have reasonable expectations and a little bit of patience in getting your cats used to it. Hey, never having to scoop again pretty much overrides any negatives for me.