Iam a cat hipster. I loved cats before the Internet made cats cool, and I got my own cats free-range, locally sourced from the dumpsters behind my college apartment. Granted, this meant that my cats were essentially raccoons when I first adopted them, but I just let my hipster flag fly: “Oh, your cats actually like you? That’s so mainstream…”
Over the past five years, my three formerly feral cats have each evolved from pissy wildlife to something resembling a pet. Though one of them cannot be touched without terror-peeing everywhere, and the other two would never dream of sitting on your lap or snuggling up beside you, they’re game for petting (on their terms) and playing (on their terms) and begging for pieces of your sandwich. Their little cat brains probably look like Swiss cheese, since they mostly subsisted on licking Hot Pockets wrappers and eating Q-tips for the first year of their lives. So I can’t really blame them for being developmentally askew.
I never realized how gross they were until we moved to an apartment in Manhattan, where everything was more compressed, including their feline filth. There were excrement-slush paw prints on all surfaces, and every mat of cat hair was sprinkled with the used litter that had adhered itself to their toes and bellies. Cats would jump out of the litter box and up onto the counter where we were preparing food. It was nightmarish. Something had to be done.
I forget when I first heard about the Cat Genie, but it was probably in a run of late-night infomercials during the insomnia-ridden summer I spent between grad school and moving to New York. The Cat Genie presented itself as the solution to the worst part of cat ownership — namely, that cats poop in a sandbox in your house and then sit on things that touch your face.
The Cat Genie is a toilet-like contraption that sits on the floor, but instead of water, the “bowl” of the toilet is filled with reusable litter pellets. A mechanical arm scoops poop into what’s basically a built-in garbage disposal, and little jets shoot cleaning solution that sanitizes the reusable litter. Then the Genie sends the whole mess out the wastewater line. You never have to scoop litter! Just keep the pellets replenished and change the sanitizing solution every few months, and you can snuggle your cat without getting pink eye ever again!
And it’s only $300!
That price tag didn’t seem worth it until my boyfriend got a job out of town and we sublet the spare room, which we had been calling the Cat Room. After living with a litter box in my bedroom for a few months and, on several occasions, bolting awake at three a.m. from the stench of fresh cat shit, I knew that it was time to get the Cat Genie.
When it was delivered to my apartment — and it’s at least 30 percent bigger than you think it could ever be — it was like Christmas but for weird people. I posted a picture of it on Facebook, which appeared in my newsfeed within scrolling distance of pictures of people getting married and babies people had just finished creating. I was just as proud as any of ’em. And weddings and babies cost waaay more than $300, so I was coming out unequivocally on top on this one.
The plumber who hooked up the Genie had only been gone for two minutes when Tipper, the boldest of my brood, hopped into the bowl and with that characteristic thousand-yard stare of a cat doing its business, peed. He peed! He peed like he was born to pee in this beautiful machine, and I was overwhelmed with giddiness. I took a picture of him using the Genie and texted it to the plumber, who I think responded, “wow.” Wow didn’t even begin to cover it.
Though Tipper’s early adoption was encouraging, for a time I thought my investment was going to be a waste, because he soon began peeing on my bed at least once a day. It was a protest, I imagined, and I bought a plastic bedwetting sheet, determined to wait him out. Then he started peeing blood. Turns out, after a five-hour wait and a $150 visit to the Low Cost Vet Mobile in Spanish Harlem (as bad as you’re thinking times three) Tipper was suffering from Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) and needed to be put on special food. Expensive special food.
Over a year later, all that behind us, my furry snowflakes and I are happy. They are all Genie converts, and I have to say, I am too. Lesson learned: Money can’t buy you happiness. But scooping cat shit doesn’t do much for you either.