A Brief History Of Automatic Litter Boxes

The Journey To Tech

Gone are the days where cats have to do their business in a standard plastic litter box, only to wait on their owners to scoop out the contents. In 2021, we've come quite a long way from manual scooping thanks to the innovations in the world of pet tech. The automatic litter box sits right on the cusp of revolutionizing the pet care industry and changing the framework for how we care for cats.

But how did these high-tech units come about? If you’ve ever wondered about the history behind automatic litter boxes, read on for a brief but interesting overview of where it all began.

Let's start with the basics, when were traditional litter boxes invented? 

Cat domestication in the USA began in the 1600s when people would keep felines on their land as vermin hunters. Their owners rarely brought them inside, so cats did their business in the great outdoors. Around World War 1, cats slowly shifted into house pets for families, but it wasn’t until the early 1940s that a litter box existed and could be purchased to keep your cat indoors full time. 

The first litter box was known as a “kitty toilet” and was a paper-lined metal pan that owners would fill with dirt, sand, or newspaper. 1947 brought the invention of clay cat litter only furthering to draw to care for indoor cats. By the 1980s, this advanced to clumping clay granules to tackle common issues like odor and dust control, shaping the way we see and manufacture litter boxes to this day. 

A Timeline Of Automatic Litter Boxes

1991 - The First Self-Cleaning Litter Box

The first automatic litter box entered the market in 1991. The initial model utilized a motor-driven rake to sift the waste. However, this early raking system was nothing like the modern-day version of something like the  AutoEgg and other new units used. 

While the functionality seemed standard enough to sift clumped particles, design flaws in the litter tray and mechanism ultimately prompted an engineering shift in the marketplace.  

1999 - The First Rotating Mechanism 

The evolution of automatic litter boxes continued in 1999 with the first self-cleaning unit without a raking system. This model’s cleaning method consisted of a rotating globe that worked with gravity to sift and separate the waste from the clean litter before depositing the clumps into a separate waste drawer. 

This innovative design gave a more effective clean than the earlier models utilizing a raking mechanism. It soon became a popular design, copied by other engineers in the field before reaching the mainstream market. However, it wasn’t long before consumers experienced system malfunctioning and safety issues. 

While rotating mechanisms seemed to dominate the field for a good number of years there seemed to be flaws in the approach from an engineering standpoint. 

With efficiency in mind, most units failed to consider problematic elements to functional use in a home. These models often rattled and made loud/disruptive noises during cycles. That in addition to reports of alleged safety malfunctions with a rigorous system, the needs of the consumer shift to safer, quieter, and more reliable.

2004 - The Fusion Of Self-Cleaning And Disposable Litter Trays 

Up until now, automatic litter boxes were only compatible with clumping clay litters. In 2004, ScoopFree came into the market with a self-cleaning litter box utilizing disposable crystal litter trays. Using a raking system to meet the demands that a rotating system could not, this new variation of the raking system opted to blend the worlds of safer efficiency with the twist of a new litter bed that could better control unwanted odors. 

While this new method seemed to meet immediate demands for a quieter and safer option, the elements of long-term costs and litter bed replacements certainly caused a financial strain for owners over time.

2007 - The First Flushable Automatic Litter Box

In 2007, an alternative self-cleaning system joined the market to pivot from both raking and rotating options. Until this point, both the early raking systems and the rotating mechanisms would remove the dirty litter into a separate waste compartment for storage. The CatGenie was the first unit to flush the waste away by connecting its system to a drainage outlet.  

After the first release, these self-flushing litter boxes continued to evolve over the years, with a safer and more efficient model released as recently as 2017.  

2019 - Introduction Of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) 

In 2019, CatGenie, the self-flushing litter box makers, developed the first A.I.-managed version of their unit. This advanced technology gave users customized recommendations, reminders, and device settings depending on each user’s unique needs. It was also the first automatic litter box to come with an accompanying app, providing a more convenient and user-friendly experience. Soon after the majority of self-cleaning units followed suit to better acclimate to a tech-driven market.

Designing an A.I.-managed litter box also resulted in a unit that can monitor your cat’s bathroom behavior and health in addition to self-cleaning.

2020 - A Reinvented Raking System With The Safest Self-Cleaning To Date

As time goes on, cat product companies and engineers seemed to pick up on and solve common problems with automatic litter boxes. Looking back in our history, we could see the old style of raking systems seemed to serve well in practice but weren't without flaws. Furthermore, the upkeep of flushable and rotating self-cleaning litter boxes caused a pain point for consumers and there seemed to be a gap in the market.

Seeing what wasn’t working allowed us to design a litter box to solve the most fundamental problems for owners while keeping efficiency high and costs low. 

By reinventing the horizontal raking system with an advanced motor and a custom fit zig-zag litter tray, we built the quietest and safest self-cleaning system available. We did this by combining a 70-degree cleaning rake that moves through the litter bed at a gradual pace to maximize safety during the cleaning process. 

Additionally, the AutoEgg Cat-Stuck Prevention sensor is in place to detect any sudden movements during a cycle. If your cat re-enters the box once the cleaning has begun, the process will pause immediately and will resume once the system is sure they've left.  

With the AutoEgg, we also took monitoring your cat’s health to the next level. We created a smart tracker to log various data every time your cat uses the litter box. It stores this information to monitor your kitty’s litter box behavior throughout the day and notify you of any discrepancies that could be cause for concern.

Our Thoughts

As you can see, litter boxes have advanced dramatically in the last century, particularly in the last 20 years. We're proud to be a strong part of the history of automatic litter boxes and are excited to see all of the growth to come.

To learn more about the AutoEgg visit our homepage here.