All I wanted to do was upgrade the litterbox.
A simple project. Straightforward. Uncomplicated.
We have one of those automatic, self-raking litter boxes manufactured by Littermaid. With three kitties in our herd, we of course have the Mega-Elite-Super-Duper-Pooper-Scooper model.
My brief review of this product is, unfortunately, a sound that readers may find offensive. If you have one cat with minimum bathroom needs, the Littermaid may suit you just fine, although I still wouldn’t recommend it. The concept is solid, but somewhere between the concept department and the how-cheap-can-we-build-it department the solid concept turned into cheap plastics and cheesy mechanisms that wear out too soon and require too much day-to-day attention.
One of our three feline masters insists on the box being pristine, and if she is not satisfied, she will make her displeasure known with malodorous deposits left in inappropriate places (shoes, for example). The teeny little disposable waste container in the Littermaid (designed to sell replacement containers in copious quantities) is way too small. My three can load that thing full in a day if they’re in the mood.
With the raking mechanism jamming, poor self-cleaning and protest poops on the rise, we had to do something to improve the facilities. One serious contender made by LitterWorks is a stand designed to work with the Littermaid and expand it’s waste storage to more adequate proportions. A great idea, interesting design, and although I’ve never seen one in person, I know from contact with the manufacturer that it’s a quality item made completely from birch plywood without a single speck of particle board (a material oddly akin to what the product helps dispose). Add up the cost of the cabinet and a new Littermaid, and it’s a bit pricey. Given the experience we’ve had with our current Littermaid box, Litterworks still fell short.
Then, I found what we hope will be our solution: The Cat Genie.
This ingenious litterbox is self-washing, just like our cats. Hook it up to a cold water faucet and a suitable drain, and it cleans and sanitizes itself on the schedule you set. If it works as advertised (and I’ve yet to find a displeased Cat Genie owner), it’s downright brilliant. Pricey, for sure, but with the right combination of free shipping, package pricing, and discount codes, not out of line compared tom the other options. After careful consideration, I ordered the Cat Genie Tuxedo Package,which includes a privacy dome and extra supplies.
Since the Cat Genie needs water and sewer connections, the old cat box location wouldn’t work. I put my brilliant engineering mind to work and soon had a plan. We’d locate the Cat Genie in the downstairs bathroom/laundry room. All I’d have to do is cut down the oversize vanity cabinet to make a place for the new feline facility.
As I began planning the project, the usual array of small collateral issues arose. Rather than cut down the old cabinet, we decided to replace it with a nice, new white vanity and cultured marble top. The mirror would then be too big, so we had to replace it, too. The smaller cabinet would produce a gap in the 30+ year old dark walnut wainscoting, we hated that wainscoting anyway, so we decided to take it all down (fortunately, it wasn’t glued, just nailed.) Since we were taking down the wainscoting, the hideous wallpaper above it would have to go, and we’d paint the walls a nice color instead. Then the dark wood wall cabinet wouldn’t look right, so we had to paint that, too. The one-piece vinyl floor would have gaps both at the front and side of the new vanity, and it wouldn’t do to put a litter box on an unfinished floor, so we added a new floor to the list.
In the matter of a couple of hours planning, our simple “cut down a cabinet” job topped $1,000—plus the cost of the CatGenie. So much for that “simple project we can afford” thing. Sharon and I sat down, re-evaluated, and found an alternate location in the same room that required not a single dime’s worth of remodeling but still allowed us to use the laundry drain and water supply. Problem solved!
Then I went down to the room to measure for water and waste hoses and see if I would need more than the standard hoses that come with the unit. The wallpaper had pulled up a little behind the washing machine, next to the drain and faucet box in the wall. I smoothed the paper with my finger, a nit-picky detail-oriented sort of reaction.
My finger went through the Sheetrock.
I pulled the vinyl walpaper back a little and was greeted by ugly black mold and wet, mushy Sheetrock. After moving the washer and dryer out of the way, I discovered that the drain had been overflowing. Not a lot, just a little bit every time the washer drained. Not enough to spill on the floor, just enough to run down the inside of the wall under the laundrybox trim. I began removing the wet Sheetrock. Two hours later, the lower half of that wall–just under thirty square feet–lay bare, exposing black mold under the wainscoting, black mold under the vinyl wall paper, and black mold on the wall studs.
As mold infestations go, this was a fairly minor incident requiring no outside remediation. After ripping out the wet Sheetrock, wood paneling and insulation, I scrubbed the moldy studs with household cleaner mixed with Twenty Mule Team Borax, an old-fashioned natural product that’s become fashionable again in recent days and is quite effective at neutralizing mold (bleach removes mold stains, but is an ineffective mold killer). After thoroughly drying the wall cavity and raising the laundry box from the minimum allowable height to 42″, I applied a vapor barrier, insulation and new Sheetrock. Better than new.
Unfortunately, we lost some of the wainscoting in the process, as well as some of the hideous wallpaper between the wainscoting and ceiling. We couldn’t match either even if we wanted too, and the room would look even worse with one nice, painted wall and three hideous walls that triggered flashbacks from the ’70’s, so we surrendered to good taste and stripped the other walls as well. The baseboard and quarter-round had to come up to remove the wainscoting, and wouldn’t give up without a fight that turned it into dumpster bait. We wanted the trim work to be white, so to keep everything matching, we painted the wall cabinet and vanity. The majority of the laundry list of upgrades and repairs I thought I’d escaped had to be done anyway. The only expenses we were able to avoid were the new vanity, mirror, and flooring. Fortunately, those were the most expensive items on the original list. The insulation, Sheetrock, and other wall repair materials cost a lot less.
A week later, the room is put back together, lacking only cabinet doors (still to be painted) and a new mini-blind for the old mini-window. The Cat Genie is still in the box, but not for long.
After all this, that Cat Genie had better be the best thing since clumping litter.