Nearly five years ago, we purchased the Cat Genie self cleaning litter box for Groomingdale’s resident felines, Princess Caroline and Princess Stefani. The Cat Genie is perhaps the greatest advancement for cat guardians in our lifetime. Gone is the smell associated with traditional litter boxes and the negative environmental impact of traditional litter. Until guests actually see the Princesses, they don’t even know we have resident felines. The box can be set to self clean a short time after the cat has used the box or it can be set to run up to four times per day at set intervals or it can be run manually. Gone is the need to scoop anything; the Cat Genie flushes the refuse either into the toilet bowl or down the drain line of the washing machine. The Cat Genie then washes the litter thoroughly and dries it. We are thoroughly impressed with the Cat Genie as a whole. It is a truly remarkable appliance that should be in every cat household in America and in every cat rescue facility.
That’s not to say that there aren’t drawbacks. Unlike traditional litter, the “fake” litter granules (which are biodegradable) seems to get tracked through the residence no matter how hard you try to contain it. Both the Princesses seem to get it stuck in their paws only to be discarded elsewhere. We have attempted various mats and rugs and even Cat Genie’s own pad, but to no avail. Be cautioned where you place the Cat Genie and be ready to find litter everywhere. It necessitates a bit more sweeping, but it is a small price to pay for the convenience of the self-cleaning box. We do not feel that this is a reason to avoid buying the product, and we only offer this observation for informational purposes.
While Cat Genie recommends disassembling the machine twice per year for a full, deep cleaning, we do this more often. It is relatively easy to disassemble and clean, though it may not be the most pleasant job. We like to clean it thoroughly with warm water with a bit of bleach. When you are cleaning the Cat Genie, pay particular attention to the impeller and make sure you get all the loose hair and loose granules out. We get a can of the air used for cleaning the keyboard of your computer and shoot that into the drain hose; you might be surprised what comes out! We’ve also found that using a bit of WD40 on the base, the impeller, and the wheel that turns the bowl helps keep it running smoothly.
The one problem we have had has been a recurring problem, although this didn’t start until about three years into our ownership. The Cat Genie filled with water, went through a cycle, filled with water again but then didn’t drain. The unit would actually go through the drying phase but the bowl would still be filled with water. This didn’t happen every time and there didn’t seem to be any pattern to the timing or the frequency. You could just run the litter box while it was clean and it would fault. It could be after one of the Princesses urinated. It could be after one or the other pooped. There was no apparent rhyme or reason. If you caught it during the cycle, you could hand turn the impeller and it would seem to rectify the situation before it went to the drying cycle.
We tried a number of solutions including running the maintenance cartridge, disassembling and cleaning, purchasing a new impeller, etc. Numerous conversations with Cat Genie support left everyone confused until the only conclusion was that we needed a new box. However, my inquisitive nature wasn’t satisfied with that. Since the problem hadn’t started until the unit was about three years old and since it didn’t happen every time we ran the box, some critical thinking and analysis led me to believe that this may not be a failure of the Cat Genie itself. So, we began a lengthy, albeit non-scientific, study to see if we could find another cause for the failure to drain.
KEEP IN MIND THE FOLLOWING: WE’RE NOT ENGINEERS. WE’RE NOT SCIENTISTS. WE’RE NOT VETERINARIANS. WE’RE NORMAL, EVERYDAY CAT GUARDIANS TRYING TO SOLVE A PROBLEM. OUR CONCLUSIONS MAY NOT BE THE CAUSE OF ANY PROBLEMS YOU MAY HAVE WITH THE MACHINE.
We quickly learned that cleaning the machine didn’t change the timing or the frequency of the failure to drain (we’ll call this the fault from now on). The new impeller didn’t change the timing or frequency of the fault. We were convinced that the issue must be with the drain hose getting clogged or the access to the drain hose getting clogged. When we took the unit apart for cleaning, we didn’t notice any abnormal level of granules or refuse that could be preventing the water from entering the drain hose. We then considered if air could be getting into the unit from the water line and in some way contributing to the fault. We initially changed the water line fixture and changed the water pressure. This had no impact on the timing or frequency of the fault. As a final effort, we used WD40 on the drain hose and the access point to the drain hose, the theory being that this may help with any air bubbles that could be contributing to the fault and help the refuse flow more smoothly. We noticed only small changes in the frequency of the fault.
From time to time, we noticed that some of the poop was still in the impeller and hadn’t been dissolved or ground up. Though the fault would occur from time to time when there was no refuse in the box, we wondered if there could be an issue with the Princesses’ poop that could be contributing to the issue. We started to watch and test the box. Sometimes we would run the box immediately after the Princess had gone. Sometime we would let the cat sensor auto run to clean the box. Sometimes we would let it wait for several hours then manually run the box. It seemed that the fault occurred less frequently when the poop was fresher. Could it be that the consistency of the poop and the firmness of it was the cause of the fault?
We tracked the activities of the Princesses as best as we could. The frequency of the fault didn’t seem to be associated with one of the Princesses or the other, but there did seem to be more occurrences the longer the poop sat. Why would this suddenly start causing a fault after three years of flawless operation? What had changed in their lifestyles that may have contributed to the fault? The answer was simple: their food. We began an examination into the food they were consuming. The Princesses have always had high quality food products that are made in the USA and that are supposed to be human consumable. They have a combination of dry food and wet food. After several weeks of watching and recording, we decided it may be best to switch from the dry food to a high protein dry food. Once the Princesses adjusted to the higher protein dry food (Instinct), the fault did not reoccur. Three months later, it has yet to reoccur.
As we mentioned earlier, we are not engineers or scientists or veterinarians. Our conclusions are based on our observations. Individual results may vary. Not only has the Cat Genie issue seemed to be resolved but the Princesses seem to have shinier, softer coats. We believe all cat guardians should feed their cats the highest quality foods available and only foods that are made in the USA and that are human consumable. If it isn’t good for humans how can it be good for cats? Just because the food we were feeding the Princesses may have caused the Cat Genie faults does not mean that that food is not a good quality. It only means that the effects on our Princesses resulted in adverse effects on the Cat Genie. This is not a criticism of the makers of the food we were feeding the Princesses at the time of the fault. We believe each cat guardian should assess the foods products provided to their cats and watch for any effects on the Cat Genie.
We stand by the Cat Genie. We have known other owners to have problems, and we are attempting to ascertain if there may be a link between the food they are feeding their cats and the faults with their Cat Genie. We recommend that owners of Cat Genie first contact Cat Genie support and consider a variety of options to address potential problems with the products. We also recommend that cat guardians provide their cats with the highest quality food that is available to you. Your cats will thank you for it and you will be rewarded with healthier cats.*
*As always, Groomingdales’ reviews are based on actual purchases and use of products. None of our reviews have been based on products given to us for testing and review.