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Archive for May, 2012

Some of you may have heard of the Cat Genie.  For those of you who haven’t, it can be found here.

I’ve been looking at this ingenious litter box for a couple years now, but because of the price, I just kept putting it off.  Finally, in January, I received a nice check from the VA, and I bit the bullet and bought the Cat Genie.

A couple things up front.  Its not cheap.  Think about it…its a toilet for cats…literally.  It has washable litter granules, the bowl fills with water and cleaning solution, it agitates it like a washing machine of sorts, and…IT BLOWS THE LITTER DRY.  Yes, the litter is nice and dry and WARM after the cycle ends (my cats fight over who gets to lie in the nice warm litter box).  The standard price of the Cat Genie, without the cover, is $269.  If you get the added attachments, its more.  I regret that I didn’t buy it with the cover (which by default includes the added higher side walls) because my cats scratch and kick litter.  Then you have to consider the cost of monthly supplies…which when you buy them outright, are pretty pricey.  For instance, a box of litter is $23.99, but is a little cheaper if you buy it in a combo pack.  I need to tell you though, the litter lasts FOREVER.  For those of you who, like me, rely on a septic tank, it is safe for it.  The litter is biodegradable and WILL dissolve in the septic tank, so no worries on that front. 

The litter is actually way cool…it seems to be made of plastic, but since its completely biodegradable, I’m not sure what its actually made of.

The Cat Genie itself looks a lot like a small toilet.  It has a high back which contains the processing unit and the hopper that processes waste.  The website includes detailed measurements and pictures to help you decide if you have the space for a Cat Genie or not.  One reason it took me a couple years to buy one was the space issue.  We live in a mobile home, and there’s not a lot of excess space.  My utility room, for instance, where the litter box was, is rather small.  There’s barely enough room to open the dryer door…when its fully open, there’s only 3-4 inches of space between the edge of the door and the wall.  This wasn’t an issue with the traditional litter box, as the door opens over it.  However, for this reason, I bought the “Tabby Package” Cat Genie, without sidewalls or cover, so that the dryer door would still pass over the Cat Genie bowl.  I didn’t count on the hoses not being long enough for me to put the Cat Genie where I needed to; because the room is so tiny, I didn’t think it’d be an issue.  The hoses are quite long, but would have created a tripping hazard to put the Genie across the room from the washer hookups, as it would make the hose hang loose above the ground.  So we ended up putting the Cat Genie in the kitchen, just around the corner from the washing machine.  I had my concerns about it being in my kitchen, where I prepare food and eat it, but no more.  This thing is CLEAN.  However, in hindsight, I do wish I’d purchased the Tuxedo Package, because my cats love to dig and scratch, and the litter literally ends up all over my kitchen floor.  Once its out of the box, you can’t really sweep it up and put it back in, as dirt and such from the floor WILL damage the inner workings of the Genie…its best to just toss it.  Now, given that I have to sweep and toss quite a bit of the litter granules, I still have 3/4 of a box of granules in the cupboard that I haven’t used yet…after three plus months of use.
Also on the Cat Genie website is a video that shows the cleaning cycle of the box.  Its a good guideline of what to expect, however, the video can not convey the emotions you’ll feel when you actually see this thing in action in your own home.  I mean…ITS JUST COOL!
There are two ways to purchase the Cat Genie. You can buy it outright for the reduced price on the website (I believe there is a sale going on right now, as the price was the regular price when I bought mine), or you can purchase it under the VIC (Very Important Cat) Program.  I chose the latter option, because I didn’t want to be out $300+ all at once.  When you use the VIC Program, you also get free shipping, for the initial shipment and all additional shipments…another plus for buying it this way.  Under the VIC Program, you pay $149 up front, and $33 a month for twelve months.  This pays off the remaining balance of the Cat Genie (at 0% interest), as well as covers the cost of supplies for the next year…a discounted cost of supplies I might add.  If I were to buy the supplies outright, again, it would cost more than it does under the VIC Program.  The shipment of supplies occurs every two months.  My first shipment came in April, and had the two cleaning cartridges, another box of litter granules (which I only just opened), and a very much needed Maintenance Cartridge.  I emphasize this because I’m wiser and more experienced now.  After your twelve months is up, you can choose to remain in the VIC Program (which I will) for a reduced price since you’ll no longer be paying off your Cat Genie.
When my Cat Genie arrived, my youngest cat, Tia, who was about 19 months old at the time, was intensely interested in it.  We had the parts spread all over the kitchen floor, and she stayed with us the entire time my husband was assembling it for me.  Once we poured in the litter, she jumped in and used the box before we could even run a test cycle.  Thank God we had it hooked up right LOL.  She’s such a smart girl.  Eddie, ten months older than her, resisted mightily for a couple weeks.  We discovered he’d been hiding his poop in our bathroom, so I had to start shutting doors so he’d have no choice but to go out in the open or use the Genie.  Finally, he relented and started using it.  Ahhh sweet bliss.  During his adjustment period, I’d left the traditional box down, but had stopped scooping it (as was recommended) so that he’d prefer the clean Cat Genie.  He just took a little convincing…but once he started using the Cat Genie, he continued to do so and stopped hiding to relieve himself.  Did I mention my cats are Maine Coons?  Rather large, rather hairy Maine Coons.  Well, Tia is hairy.  Eddie has the shorter coat that some Maine Coons have…but he still has a LOT of fur.  This is important, and something I didn’t really take into consideration when I read the instructions.  OK, so I didn’t actually READ the instructions…I glanced at them.  Briefly.
You’re not supposed to just set up the Cat Genie and let it go.  Oops.  If you don’t have or use a Maintenance Cartridge, you’re supposed to regularly remove the processing unit, clean the water sensor, and check for hair clogs.  If you use the Maintenance Cartridge as directed, you don’t have to do this.  Oops again.
I’d had the Genie for not quite two months when BAM…a clog happened.  Through much frustration, I managed to clear the clog and thought things were fine.  Clearing the clog was probably more a result of sheer luck than any actual skill on my part.  Three weeks later, another clog hit…and this time the Genie had been processing poop instead of just urine like the previous clog.  Can we say…eww?  The smell…oh my.  I had the back door open and it was still bad.  Oh yeah, I have a really strong gag reflex…lovely.  I also didn’t have a single plastic/rubber glove in my home at the time…and there was no WAY I was putting my hands near the working parts of the Cat Genie to clear the clog and clean up that mess.  Uh uh, not happening.  I actually used gallon ziplock storage bags over my hands.  Justin was laughing at me…but hey, my hands were relatively clean (I still scrubbed them raw in the hottest water I could stand once all was said and done).
Justin hates cats.  He really does.  Well, he hates indoor cats.  He does play with my babies, but he hates the stink of the litter box, the hair everywhere, etc.  Not to mention, he’s allergic.  The fact that he spent an hour and a half helping me clear the clog and clean the Cat Genie…says a LOT about how good it is.  I can’t express to you how disgusting the smell inside that thing was.  There was hair tangled all around some of the parts, that required us to almost completely disassemble the Genie and clean every part, in most cases having to cut away the tangled hair.  It was tedious and unpleasant.
The problem was that I didn’t read the instructions that came with it properly.  Granted, there were a LOT of instructions.  In addition to the setup flyer/booklet, there is also an orange sheet that tells you what to do when something goes wrong (an “Oh CRAP” flyer, as it were), and a complete booklet that covers setup, use, troubleshooting, etc.  THAT is what I failed to read properly.  Oops to the third power.

That booklet includes the nifty little nugget that if you don’t use a Maintenance Cartridge, you need to do X or Y will happen.  Y happened to me in a big, nasty way.  Darn that X.  In the future, when I order a second Cat Genie (which I WILL do when I get my cattery up and running in full), I’ll also go ahead and pay the extra cost of a Maintenance Cartridge, rather than wait for the one that comes in the first shipment.  I also will continue to buy extra Maintenance Cartridges, since you only get one a year.  Its suggested that you use them every 2-3 months.  One cartrige is good for four uses.  My experience now is that with the long haired cats, unless I want to get my hands dirty, I need to run the Maintenance cycle once a month.  Even though you don’t have to clean the water sensor if you use the Maintenance Cartridge, I do anyway, once a week.  It doesn’t actually need it when I do it, but I do it anyway because I never want to go through that again.  Besides, its not hard to do…you remove the processing unit (it literally just lifts off the Cat Genie bowl), pull out the sensor, and run it under hot water, scrubbing with a green pad if there’s any buildup (which there isn’t since I do it so often and use the Maintenance cartridge as well).  Takes less than three minutes.  When I ran my Maintenance Cartridge yesterday, I did remove the processing unit and look down in the hopper with the flashlight, to the spot where all the hair was tangled before…there was a tiny bit down in there, but I ran the Maintenance anyway, and checked again, so I could compare.  The hair was gone.  Problem solved.

My words can’t convey to you what a clogged Cat Genie will smell like…so please, if you get one, heed my advice.  Seriously.  Your nose will thank you later.
All that said, I’m extremely grateful for my Cat Genie.  Its the best cat-related purchase (aside from my lovely cat babies) that I’ve ever made.  I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, and as previously mentioned, a strong gag reflex.  When a cat goes poopie in the litter box, I’ve literally woken up in the middle of the night to go scoop it because of the smell.  That’s no longer an issue.  It does make noise, but its quieter than my washing machine, and about the same volume of my dishwasher…i.e. it isn’t annoying at all.  In fact, even though I’m a really light sleeper and the Cat Genie is only about ten feet from my bedroom door (which I leave open), it only took me one night to get used to the sound of the Genie cleaning itself.  Its a purchase I HIGHLY recommend…as long as you follow the instructions!  Also, take into account your number of cats and their fur type.  At the time, I had two cats…with really long fur.  Lesson learned.
If you’re wondering about rising water and electric costs, don’t.  We’ve had it four months now…three bills have come in, and we haven’t seen any difference in our bills.  The amount of water used in each cleaning cycle is about what you’d use by flushing your toilet, and its impossible to tell on the power bill.
How long do the cleaning cartridges last?  Well, if you use it on Manual Activation, which I do when new cats are getting used to it, as a box with a little bit of waste in it will let them know that’s where they’re supposed to go, you get 120 uses.  If you put it on Cat Activation, which is what mine is on now that the cats are used to it, you double that.  IF you have an overly curious cat that loves to watch it clean itself while in a precarious position (Perry, five months old), and the cat falls into the bowl, the Genie will stop its cycle instantly, and not resume for the designated amount of time you have it set for on Cat Activation mode (either 10 or 30 minutes) or until you press the button to resume the cycle if you have it on Manual Activation mode.
I’ve also noticed that my younger cats (Tia and Perry) took right to it as soon as they saw it.  Gilda is older than Perry, at 13 months, but younger than Tia was when she first saw it, and she was more reluctant to try it.  Of course, she’s Eddie’s half-sister…and Perry is Tia’s nephew…so maybe its genetics LOL.
One last thing about the Cat Genie…even if your cats are reluctant to use it at first, they will absolutely LOVE watching it clean.  Its free cat entertainment.  Four months later, my cats are still amused by it.  As mentioned earlier, they love to lie in it while the litter is still warm after being blown dry.  If you’re still not entirely sure…let me add this.  Three weeks after we got it, we took a week-long trip to Disney World.  I had people come in every couple days to check food and water for the cats, but they didn’t touch the litter box.  When we came home, we walked into a house that did NOT smell like cats.  At all.  No litter box smell, no mess to clean up.  It paid for itself in that moment 🙂

By the way, due to some feedback I’ve received on this post, I need to add a caveat.  You can not force your cat to use the Cat Genie.  The materials included with the Cat Genie have a section that gives really helpful advice as to how to acclimate your cat to the unit, as well as some owner testimonials, sharing their experience in that respect.  DO read this.  Apparently some folks have tried to bring in kittens and force the box on them, scaring the kittens and making them not use any kind of box in the future.  This isn’t typical…its the result of someone not following the directions or using common sense.  I did mention that I had the traditional box down for a couple weeks before both my cats started using the Cat Genie.  Tia used it right off the bat…Eddie was stubborn.  In Eddie’s case, I had to let the traditional box get dirty and not scoop it for a couple days (as was suggested in the literature) before he decided he preferred the nice, clean Cat Genie.  Perry (five months old) came into my home a couple weeks ago and started using the Cat Genie right off the bat, whereas Gilda, who is a year old and came at the same time Perry did, is only just now starting to experiment with it.  I will continue to leave the traditional box down until Perry is older…a cleaning cycle on the Genie takes about 40 minutes all total, and some kittens, like young toddlers learning to potty train, just can’t wait that long 🙂
And a second caveat…the Cat Genie won’t be for everyone.  I’m sure there are cats out there who just will NOT use it.  It does require some minimal maintenance, and even if you do this religiously, I can see where something might fail, causing you to have to clean up a pretty nasty-smelling situation.  That’s why the company offers a 90-day, money back, no questions asked guarantee of their product.  You’ll know a lot sooner than then whether its going to work for you or not.

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