As a cat influencer, I get pitches from brands frequently. Sometimes I will accept but a lot of times I turn them down. The ones I always turn down are automatic litter boxes and automatic feeders. Mostly because I don’t have a use for them in my life, but also because I believe that, except in special circumstances, they shouldn’t be used by most people with cats. And I have very specific reasons for that.
First, I’ll tell you why I don’t like them. Then I’ll tell you when I think they’re appropriate.
Automatic Litter Boxes Hide Secrets About Your Cat’s Health
As someone who is a cat caretaker, it’s important to keep track of the quality of your cat’s output. If you are scooping regularly, you see what is going on all the time, and you are aware right away of any changes. Anything from the amount of urine to a change in stool smell. If an automatic litter box is scooping away your cat’s waste material before you have a chance to see or smell it, it inhibits your ability to know what’s going on down there.
There are ways of conveniently disposing of your cat’s waste without having to take a long trip to a trash can or dumpster. You can use a Litter Genie or a pail to collect the waste. My human uses doggie bags for mine, and our trash is just a few feet outside the kitchen door, so our solution is super convenient.
Automatic Litter Boxes Involve a Learning Curve For Your Cat
Ideally, you should make using the facilities as easy and stress free as possible for your cat. Imagine if you had to jump through all sorts of hoops and face weird contraptions when you needed to go! That’s kind of what a cat is looking at when you bring home an automatic litter box. You know and I know that these types of litter boxes were created purely for human convenience. The fact that cats use them shows how adaptable and tolerant we actually are.
Automatic Feeders Cater to the Least Healthy Type of Cat Food
Ninety-five percent of automatic feeders out there are created for kibble. And while it’s the most convenient form of food for your cat, it’s also the worst for their health. It’s processed, full of additives, and the cheaper it is, the more likely it is to be loaded with empty calories and the type of carbs that may even be bad for your cat’s health in the longterm.
My human is always telling people how important a quality diet is for cats. Invest in it now, she says, and you’ll spend less money at the vet later on.
There are some automatic feeders now that work with wet food and other food that doesn’t fit into regular kibble feeders, and that’s good. But there are still good reasons to avoid using them.
Automatic Feeders Are Terrible for Multicat Families
Let’s face it, there is always one pig who will eat more than their fair share, leaving less for the other cats. This isn’t good for any of them.
Automatic Feeders Get in the Way of a Bonding Time With Your Cat
Mealtimes should be family times. This goes for people, and it goes for cats. When you let an automatic feeder spit out the food, where’s the love? The ritual? How would you like to spend your life eating at the automat every day? (And if you don’t know what that is, you can see here.)
All these are reasons why we don’t have automatic litterboxes and feeders here. My human actually feels closer to me taking care of my personal needs, and feels like she is more on top of my wellbeing. However, there are occasions where these can come in handy.
- You have a lot of cats with a lot of output
My human has never had more than three cats at once, and has never dealt with more than three litter boxes. (I know, I know, it’s supposed to be one litter box for each cat plus one extra, but she never could figure out a good place for a fourth.) In that case, it can get really hard to stay on top of the litter box situation. Especially if you have older cats that are developing kidney issues. And with a big cat family, unless you catch one in middle of doing their business, you don’t know who’s doing what anyway. So automatic litter boxes can be pretty helpful in these situations.
- If you are pregnant or have a medical condition that requires you to keep a distance from your cat’s litter
In these cases, automatic litter boxes, with their handy receptacles, can come in handy. But keep in mind, someone should still regularly be doing a full clean and rinse on the litter box too, automatic or not.
- If you are going to be away for long periods of time and can’t afford a pet sitter to stop by to take care of your cat.
Yes, you should never leave your cat alone for long periods of time. But sometimes that’s not possible. You have an overnight emergency, or your job has you onsite until late in the evening. That’s when automation comes in handy, if you don’t have a friend to help out and you can’t afford a pet sitter. But this should be the exception, not the rule. And having an actual human come in, if possible, should always come first.
If you work all day and want your cat to have something to eat between breakfast and dinner, the best thing would be to use a treat puzzle, so they can get some mental stimulation along with their food. And you should make sure your cat has different ways to entertain themselves while you’re gone. But that’s for another post.
- Automatic feeders with microchips can be helpful in controlling a cat’s access to food.
The one time an automatic feeder came in handy here was when Binga got old and ate more slowly. Boodie was always quick to go after her food (and so was I, sometimes!). Having a feeder that read her microchip and only opened for her was great! At least for a while. Eventually Boodie figured that she could shove her head past Binga’s while she was eating, and we had to find another solution.
By the way, I may turn down posting about automated feeders and litter boxes, but I have had paid modeling gigs to pose with them! If you’ve seen this in an ad, in a brochure, or on a website, that is me.
Do you use automatic feeders or litter boxes? And if so, why? Let’s discuss!
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Completely agree, Summer.
Catherine Lingg says
Spot on. Check my comment on your Facebook post. Your human went into greater detail but both those things are bad. You need to see what comes out of kitty. There could be urinary or bowel issues. Any change needs to be seen. Kibble is garbage. A lot of people feed dry only. It’s no good. That’s my opinion on those items
When TW cat sat for Livesey next door, she was told not to worry cos he had an automatic feeder, water thing and litter box. TW couldn’t believe how, er, chonky he is. The peeps keep a poo diary for me so they know everything. Also I demand they stand by me the entire time I’m eating. Automation would never do. I never liked those automatic toys either like the Bolt laser or that mouse tail that went round.
mary mcneil says
Gosh – it is kind of hard to believe you and Boodie could bully Binga away from her food !
We have never had an automatic litter box because our huMom always felt the noise it made would spook us away from EVER using such a thing. We don’t have Litter Genies but we have 5 gallon buckets with lids that work pretty well (our human says) – no scented bags either – she figures if they annoy her they would be really offensive to kitty noses.
We’ve never had an automated litter box for exactly that reason, Summer.
Excellent points! We’ve never used either.
Thomas Tjarnberg says
Great article, everything was very informative except for the Automat part. There is a really good documentary on HBO Max called “The Automat” that shows what a groundbreaking thing they were. Unlike kibble you got quality food served in a fabulous restaurant that served everyone of every race and that everyone could afford. It is well worth your time to watch and I wish we had them today, I would definitely eat there.
We do not use either. I had an automatic one we reviewed years ago, but only used it briefly. It was very noisy and I dislike silica litter for cats. I never leave my cats alone long enough to need an automatic feeder.
Nice article about the use of these automatic items. When my girls were younger and I had to be away, I did use an autofeeder for kibble and that was with a pet sitter coming by. I wanted to know that there was something for them to eat just in case an emergency happened. One of my cats was very disturbed by the noise the feeder made when it was dispensing so that wasn’t great either.
I’ve never used one of the auto litter boxes. My remaining Siamese is super nervous about noises so she would have hated it anyway. I agree completely with your comment about being able to keep an eye on things going on there.
From Toffee Cat: My old woman says thank you for a very informative article. We’ve never had an automatic feeder and won’t get one now.
Good arguments we never thought of here.
Eastside Cats Blog says
The Hubby and I must police Da Boyz at meal times, because CB gobbles his food, while Manny eats delicately.
CB will push Manny off his unfinished food, so we make sure that doesn’t happen anymore.
And we only feed them gushy foods.
I agree with you, Summer. Especially about the automatic litter boxes. They have been known to scare some cats.
Mum likes to keep things simple and do things for herself. She also does this
for the same reason as your human. She wants to see output as it tells her how I am doing 🙂