This post is a bit of a break from my usual gadget-fest, but the object in question isn’t that far off: It requires electricity, costs more than average humans can justify, and simplifies a task we’ve all been doing fine up until now. No, I’m not talking about the Apple iPad, Roomba, or TiVo; I’m talking about the Litter Robot! That’s right: An overly-expensive electric cat litter box. Predictably, I love it.
Warning! This post is laden with euphemisms for cat poop! I also used Radiohead album titles for no particular reason.
I’m a cat person, but I don’t like cleaning up after them. I hate the stink, the mess, and the wastefulness of dumping out good litter with the (ahem) bad. Our cats privy is relegated to the basement – I even added a cat door through the wall so they can reach it. When I heard that my friends Danny and Laurel had their cat box in the kitchen, I had to know what their trick was.
I’ve seen electrical litter boxes advertised and in the “As Seen On TV!” section of discount stores. But they always looked ridiculously chintzy – something you spend $100 on and later regret it. This is another thing entirely. The Litter Robot is built like children’s playground equipment – solid and rugged. And the “refuse area” is large enough to handle more than a day’s worth of “waste”.
It’s expensive, though. A new Litter Robot II with the expanded bubble (for over-fed American cats) is $350. You can cut that down to $270 by buying a reconditioned skinny-cat Original model, but I’m not sure I want to see a “previously experienced” cat box. At least shipping is free.
Hail to the Thief
After six months of robotic clay sifting, I can say that The Litter Robot works. It keeps the litter clean, which the cats apparently like, and doesn’t waste much. It’s not in my kitchen, but at least my basement smells like damp dusty concrete instead of “cat box”.
It works like this: The cat climbs aboard and does his business. On the way out, he trips a sensor in the step, starting a 7-minute timer to trigger the action. The entire barrel-shaped “action station” rolls counter-clockwise, sifting the litter and depositing the clumps in a bag in the base. It then rolls back, over-shooting just enough to level out the pebbles and leave a nice, clean surface for kitty. Don’t worry if your cat is a “repeat offender” or overly-curious, though. The Litter Robot has sensors to stop the action if he jumps back inside or gets his paw pinched in the dual sliding waste doors.
One of the biggest surprises was the difficulty of convincing the cats to use it. We have three: One is old and mean, another is young and clever, and a third is, well, a pussy. The middle one started using the ‘Robot immediately. Even old meanie took to it after a day or two to get used to it. But wuss-master Mike still won’t venture inside so he’s still using the old “hand-cleaned” box.
I do have a few issues, however. The opening is higher than your average furry friend is tall, so it’s a big climb to paradise. Even so, the refuse receptacle in the base is fairly shallow and larger “masses” sometimes won’t fit. Clever and agile kitties also learn to leap, no doubt with unseen grace and style, from the box to the floor. This fails to trip the sensor and start the cleaning action, allowing debris to accumulate inside. Finally, the Litter Robot takes bags that are just a bit wider than your standard plastic grocery bag, so you have to buy 8- or 13-gallon trash bags. We used to reuse the plastic shopping bags for litter, but we had to pick up some new ones instead. We chose vanilla-scented bags, but they’re not tempting in the least when filled.
All in all, the Litter Robot is a winner, if you meet the following qualifications:
- You must have one or more cats. The cat-free will get very little satisfaction from the Litter Robot.
- The afore-mentioned felines must be neither too ancient to climb aboard nor too skittish to try new things.
- You must have enough spare cash to justify $350 to partially avoid a few minutes of odoriferous labor every few days.
There you have it. Live in the future! Attach your cat box to the electrical mains today!
Note: Attaching cats to the electrical mains results in unpleasant odor and mess as well as possible legal entanglement.