I made a new friend — I’ll call her … Angela — in the rest area in Orick, California, what I consider to be among the sketchiest towns on the whole Left Coast. I was there to pick up chickens. Angela? Don’t ask.

She and I bonded over a long discussion about automatic cat litter boxes.

If you’re going to talk about automatic cat litter boxes, there are fewer better places to do it than in a rest area in Orick.

It’s an eerie place, the town of Orick.

No one is ever on the streets. Cobwebs blow gently in the breeze from where they hang on telephone wires. Dust bunnies flitter across the highway. Eerie music wafts through dark side streets.

I try to avoid the place, because each time I’ve been stuck there has been an “interesting” experience, filled with “local color.”

Of course, I don’t know how we got on this subject, but suffice to say, Angela is enamored with her new cat box. She has four cats and now has only one box.

(If any of my faithful readers are reading this and eating breakfast? You might want to put breakfast aside. Or the newspaper. The two are about to not go well together.)

One box is all she needs, Angela said, with a smug, self-assured smile. It “acts like a cat box! Cleans like an appliance! Flushes like a toilet!” the ad reads. Oh. My.

Oh, no, I said, slowly, shaking my head. I have a pet-sitting business, and I’ve seen how these boxes work. Cat goes in, does its dooty — I mean, duty — which triggers the rake in the cat box to drag itself from one end to the other and deposit the dooty in a container on the side. Yick. I’ve actually seen the rake mechanism start up when the cat wasn’t done! You try stuffing a full-grown cat into a little container on the side of a litter box! The rake does a good job of trying!

Well, the old ones work fine and dandy — I WARNED YOU, you breakfast-eating people! — unless the kitty dooty isn’t … “firm,” in which case, the little rake spreads it all over the place. Guess who cleans the rake? Not the cat box!

Smells good, too.

Oh, no, Angela says, smiling. This is different. This is the CatGenie self-washing, self-flushing cat box. It’s magic, she said.

Self-washing? Flushing? Magic? No way.

First, and of utmost importance to your pipes, you only use a special litter granule.

Here goes! This appliance features a bowl that slowly spins while a spoon picks up whatever comes its way and throws it down what I can only describe as a toilet hole.

Unlike models from the Stone Age, this device is hooked up to water and your toilet, so the detritus is mixed with water and flushed away. Twice. Just to make sure. Then a HEATER dries the granules to “leave them warm for the next use.”

And you can upgrade, Angela said, to what can only be defined as a “grinder” to ensure all those dooty bits are gone.

My jaw hit the pavement of the parking lot.

Oh, the grinder is only as loud as a typical dishwasher, Angela informed me.

And you can still use the toilet — if you don’t mind sitting on the hose that goes into the bowl.

Some reviewers said this thing was the best thing they’d ever purchased. Ever.

But others? Not so much: “The box scoops the litter out … into the grinder where it grinds it to mush, releasing the odor and spreading it throughout the entire house.”

Mush. “Releasing” the odor. I warned you, breakfast-eaters.

Apparently, the self-cleaning is no faster than if you did it yourself — with a Q-tip. Thirty minutes, it takes. You can come home to a second cat waiting its turn outside the box, legs crossed … or worse.

“This is like an onion — each new layer bringing forth its own unique new kind of hell,” one reviewer wrote. “It certainly looks fun, but (soon) everything quickly goes down the drain, except when it doesn’t go down the drain.”

“This is a high-tech box of regret.”

My favorite review? “Hell hath no fury like the scent of baking cat poo brownies.” Oh, right. The heater! “Once you smell a poo brownie bake, your life will never be the same.”

This is the kind of thing you would only hear in Orick. It’s a special place, I tell you.

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