The Finicky Litter Box: A Review of the LitterMaid LME5500 Automatic Litter Box

If you’re a cat person, then in all likelihood you know the problems that go with having a litter box in your home. It’s always an issue when you have to clean it up yourself, especially with that smell. And it can be messy, particularly if your cat likes to dig or kick the cat litter. Tracking litter is another problem, too. But you don’t have to put up with these problems. One handy solution is to just get yourself the LitterMaid LME5500 Automatic Litter Box.

The LitterMaid LME5500 Automatic Litter Box has received a mixed bag of reviews online. For those who have managed to set it up properly, then it works very well, and several owners have reported that it has worked for them for 5 years without a problem. But not everyone manages to set it up properly, and this usually leads to all sorts of issues and problems.

But when it works, you’ll find that owning a cat doesn’t have to be hard work. You may reduce the amount of scooping you need to do with this self-cleaning litter box. In about 10 minutes after your cat has used the litter box, the unit automatically activates the rack to sweep the waste to the disposable waste receptacle. Your purchase includes 4 of these disposable waste receptacles, and you can buy more afterwards.

To reduce the smell, you also get 4 replaceable carbon filters that absorb the odors, along with an ionic air filter. And it comes with a free scoop as well. Other features include a sleep timer and a removable rake for easier maintenance.

Introducing Your Cat to the LME5500

It doesn’t matter if you get the best-designed automatic litter box in the world with the best features. This won’t help you at all if your cat—finicky as they are—won’t take to them. It’s always a risk to get a new litter box to replace the old one to which your cat has been accustomed to use. But there are ways to minimize that risk.

Here are some steps you can take so that you can actually use the LitterMaid for your cat:

  • Start by putting the new LitterMaid right next to your old litter box. The location should be clean and dry. You should also avoid putting the litter box exposed to direct sunlight or in a moist setting.
  • You should also start by refraining to use the automatic feature just yet. This is particularly important if you have a shy cat who doesn’t want to be startled by unfamiliar movements and noises. So make sure the on/off button is in the “off” position.
  • As cats tend to be curious little creatures, they will naturally investigate this new contraption. Don’t worry if they don’t use it just yet.
  • But you can encourage them to use the new LitterMaid just by neglecting to clean the old litter box. Over time, this dirty litter box will look very unappealing to your fastidious cat. Your new litter box, on the other hand, will look like a much better alternative. This will eventually tempt them to use the new one.
  • You should then manually activate the new litter box about 2 to 3 times a day. This acclimation period should last about 3 days.
  • When you confirm that your cat has gotten used to the new litter maid, you can now set it on automatic by pushing the on/off button to “on”. Then you can remove the old litter box altogether.

How Does the LitterMaid LME5500 Work?

It’s long been known that cats don’t like sudden movements and noises around them when they do their business. So when the cat comes in the litter box to do their business, the sensors detect their presence. The sensors will only think that your cat is using the litter box if the sensors are blocked for at least 5 seconds. That’s to prevent mistaking a momentary blockage of the sensors to activate the automatic cleaning cycle.

Once your cat leaves, the LME5500 then begins a 10 to 12-minute countdown. That’s to give your cat enough time to get farther away. Once the countdown is complete, the unit activates the rake which sweeps the waste into the disposable waste receptacle. Each of these receptacles has an attached carbon filter to minimize the odor.

The countdown timer also has enough time for another cat to get in and use the litter box, when that happens, the countdown stops and the unit waits for your other cat to finish before resuming a new 10-minute countdown.

Other Features of the LitterMaid LME5500

The main self-cleaning feature of the LitterMaid LME5500 is pretty straightforward, and it does keep you from doing the waste cleaning yourself, but what else has it got to offer?

Here are some additional features which may prove useful.

  • The LitterMaid LME5500 occupies 20 by 25.5 inches of space. And best of all, it has walls around the sides that are 8.75 inches high. What that means is that you minimize the mess around the litter box area, which can result when your cat likes to kick or dig in the litter. The walls keep the litter from flying all over the place.
  • The ramp on the LME5500 doesn’t just help your cat get in. It functions as a litter mat, so that when they get out of the litter box the litter stuck to their paws can be scraped off. That should also reduce the amount of tracking litter you have to deal with. No need to get a separate litter mat.
  • Then there’s also the sleep timer. This is a programmable feature that prevents the LitterMaid from operating during your normal sleeping hours. When the rake activates, it can result in a rather loud noise. That can be annoying when it happens while you’re sleeping. This feature delays the automatic cleaning cycle until the morning when you’re awake.
  • Of all the parts of the litter box that you need to clean, the rake will probably need to most maintenance. That’s because as it sweeps the waste into the receptacle, bits of waste can stick to it. So you’ll have to clean it, which is simple enough because the rake is detachable. You can just use a piece of toilet paper and it’s good to go. And please don’t forget to use rubber or latex gloves, as you don’t want to make contact with the cat waste stuck to the rake.

Dealing with the Waste Receptacles

To install the receptacle, first you open the compartment cover for the receptacle. Then put in the receptacle into the compartment and press down firmly. The corners of the receptacle should be all the way in, and that the receptacle is under the 5 tabs in the compartment. If you do this right, there won’t be any space between the receptacle and the litter box.

Then you attach the lid for the waste receptacle by putting in the push tabs into the round holes. Press on the indicated positions to secure it. The edges of the lid should be under the cover tabs.

When it’s time to remove the waste receptacle, it’s important to keep in mind that you should never come into contact with the cat waste. This can be dangerous to your health, and this is especially true if you’re pregnant. So go buy and then use latex or rubber gloves when you’re dealing with your waste receptacle.

First press down on the 2 push tabs in the compartment cover. Lift the cover up, so you can now see the closed receptacle assembly. Secure the lid to the waste receptacle by pressing in on the 4 corners of the lid. Pull the receptacle edge from the tabs and then lift the receptacle out. With the receptacle sealed, you can easily and safely dispose of a full waste receptacle.

Advantages and Benefits of the LME5500

So what’s good about the LitterMaid LME5500 Automatic Litter Box? Here are some benefits that many owners have cited about it:

  • It’s very affordable. Its cost is much less than what other automatic litter boxes cost. With the right seller you can even get a price that’s less than half of what other units go for.
  • You don’t need special tools to assemble it. And it can take a very short time to complete the assembly.
  • The rake is removable so that every now and then you can just take it out, swipe it with toilet paper, and place it back in.
  • The high side walls do their job admirably, as you’ll find a drastic reduction in the mess around your litter box area. So your cat can be their usual kicking and digging self and you won’t be bothered by their antics.
  • There should be no trouble for your cat to adjust to the new litter box, if you’re upgrading from a non-automatic model. Unlike other new-fangled automatic litter boxes with their drastically new designs, the LME5500 looks like an old-fashioned litter box. That’s a plus, because cats prefer familiar-looking things. And they quickly realize what the LitterMaid is for.
  • The design of the molding prevents the litter from being trapped in some small corner. Previous versions of the LitterMaid had this problem.
  • You also don’t have to use as much litter for this model, compared to the litter amount you need to use for a standard litter box. That saves you litter, plus there’s less chance of a mess.
  • The unit also comes with a carbon filter for each receptacle and they do their job of minimizing the odor problem well. And so does the ionic air filter.
  • Waste disposal becomes neater and easier with the disposable waste receptacles.
  • It’s powered by an AC adaptor. And if there’s a power outage or the cord is accidentally unplugged, it also has a battery backup just in case.
  • Also just in case the rake doesn’t remove all the waste, the unit also comes with a free scoop for backup.
  • The ramp also really helps reducing the tracking litter. And fortunately, this ramp is now standard in the LME5500. Formerly it was an option which you had to get separately.
  • The sleep function is also a wonderful upgrade, because there’s no denying the fact that the rake operation is noisy. This feature really prevents the LitterMaid from disrupting your sleep, and you won’t have to press the on/off button every night. Just program it once, and every night it will keep itself from operating while you sleep.

Drawbacks with the LME5500

Alas, the LME5500 does have a lot of room for improvement. Based on the sheer volume of negative reviews it has received from customers, probably the most common problem is that it is very easy to get the assembly wrong. And like with other appliances that have been set up incorrectly, problems will arise in the LME5500 when this happens.

Here are some other issues:

  • While the cost of the unit is affordable, the cost of the disposable waste receptacle isn’t, and this will be a constant drain on your budget. It’s for that reason that some owners are resorting to using disposable trash bags instead.
  • It sure is noisy. So it’s a good thing that you can set it top operate only during the day time or when you’re at work.
  • To make sure that your unit works well, you also have to use a very good litter. Some customers recommend Fresh Step.
  • This is billed as a “single cat” litter box. So if you are the owner of more than one cat (as so many reviewers seem to be), this isn’t the ideal litter box for your needs.
  • The metal rake may be “stickier” with the waste.

Potential Problems and Solutions

In some ways, the LitterMaid LME5500 seems like the perfect example of how Murphy’s Law operates. It may seem like every other week you’ll find something wrong with it. That’s why we said that it will reduce your cleaning efforts, but it won’t eliminate them completely. This is not a plug it and leave it litter box.

So here are some common problems, as well as the solutions:

  • The rake is going through continuous cleaning cycles. Or the rake may be stuck in the middle of the tray. That means there’s something blocking the rake from completing a normal cleaning cycle. You need to get rid of this blockage, which can be a pike of waste or litter in front of or behind the rake. You may also have overfilled the litter box with litter.
  • The rake doesn’t clean the litter box completely. That usually means you’re not using the right litter. You have to use high quality clumping litter.
  • It doesn’t work when you press the on/off button. Check if the outlet is working. If it is, the AC adaptor may be faulty.
  • Waste clumps stick to the surface of the litter tray. Again, you may be using the wrong litter. The litter should also be above the MIN line. The litter tray may be dirty. You may also have more than a single cat, which means the litter may be oversaturated.
  • It’s not raking properly. Open the lid of the waste receptacle and look inside at the end of the litter tray. Can you see a white bar? If you can, then that’s a sign you’ve made a mistake setting up the LitterMaid. Try again.
  • The rake is off track. Lift the 2 latches on the side of the LitterMaid, detach the main housing from the tray, and then invert the main housing upside down. You’ll need to slide back the rake into place, and you may have to loosen the four screws to do this more easily. Once this is done, tighten the screws so the rake doesn’t get off track again.
  • The whole motor assembly is off track. That may mean you’re using too much litter, or that you’re mixing clumping litter with the non-clumping variety. The Home position switch or the emergency bar switch may be stuck in the pushed in position.

Conclusion

So is the LitterMaid LME5500 the right option for you? Here’s a checklist of the ideal LME5500 owner:

  • You can follow directions regarding the assembly.
  • You only have one cat.
  • You’re willing to buy good quality litter.
  • Your cat doesn’t have digestive problems that result in soft waste.
  • You’re not willing to troubleshoot when something goes wrong.

What’s funny about the LitterMaid LME5500 is that it has its firm believers as well as stout detractors. If the checklist describes you to a T, then you’ll like the LitterMaid LME5500 Automatic Litter Box. But if the checklist is nowhere near describing who you are, then it’s not the right litter box for you.

In the end, it’s really that simple. The LitterMaid LME5500 Automatic Litter Box works for the most part, but you need to make assemble it properly and maintain it regularly.

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