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The biggest selling point to an automatic litter box is its ability to separate clumps and therefore contain odors until you’re ready to empty it. All of the ones I tried did this remarkably well, so much so that when you open the waste drawer, you are hit with a wall of intense stench. Neakasa created a unique drawer to help this a bit, as long as you use drawstring bags. When you put a new bag in, gently pull one end of the drawstring through a hook near the front of the drawer. When it’s time to empty, open it just slightly to reveal that hook and pull the string to tighten the bag before opening the drawer all the way. It doesn’t contain every bit of odor, but it reduces it a ton. One thing I could do without is the shrill beep the machine lets out when you open it.

This bag system is inventive, but it does present one issue. Your cat’s bathroom habits need to be monitored (more on that below), but actually seeing the pee and poo is helpful too. If there’s an issue you need to know: Is it runny, is there blood, are urine clumps too small? The Cat Daddy himself, Jackson Galaxy, explains that this is one reason he does not recommend automatic boxes. It’s something to keep in mind. A few seconds of odor isn’t that bad if it means your cat gets help if necessary.

Closeup of a drawer pulled out from an automatic cat litter box a blue plastic bag sticking out

Photograph: Medea Giordano

App Connection

In my reviews, I’ve stressed the importance of keeping an eye on your cat’s litter habits, because it gives you extremely important insight into their health. Cats are unfortunately prone to bladder blockages that can be fatal, which is why automatic litter boxes have not been recommended by experts in the past. Now, all the trusted brands connect their boxes to apps, which include a list view of visits and weights so you know who went when and can quickly notice if someone’s habits are off—I like the Petivity that sits under any standard box, because not only does it monitor when cats go, but it tells you if they went number one or number two.

Neakasa’s app is easy to use, but it needs work. You set up profiles for each cat with their weight, so it can automatically add their names to the records. Sometimes it knew who went and other times it didn’t, even when it was the same cat as the last time. When that happens, it reverts the weight to kilograms instead of my selected pounds.

The weight changes slightly often, too, even when the box is correctly calibrated. According to this, my cat Eely-Rue goes from 4.40 pounds to 4.84 to 5.06 in the same day and then weighs 3.74 the next morning. She’s particularly small and light, so that could be presenting an issue, but my other two cats simply didn’t use this one enough for me to track if it was happening with them too. Yep, even if you spend several hundred dollars on a box, you should still have another, basic box somewhere else—at least until you know your cat actually wants to use a fancy one.