I’ve had cats all of my life and, sorry neighbors, none of them have had litter boxes. They were all outdoor cats, who pooped and peed outdoors.
But now I live in New York City, with two new-ish rescue cats, and - sensibly - the deal when we got them was that they’re not allowed outside. So we’re stuck in a 1,000-square-foot apartment with two food-loving young kitties, with two litter boxes, which always seemed full.
In summer, this place gets damn humid, too. So it was never ideal. Enter: The Litter Robot.
A plastic, motorized contraption which detects when your cats go to the bathroom, then clears it up. A friend called it a futuristic sieve, but that undersells the genius of the product.
A brief explanation of how it works:
It’s a big hollow globe. It’s got kitty litter in the bottom, like a regular litter tray. It senses when a cat enters and pees or poops, then, once the cat has safely exited, it goes to work. The internal globe rotates slowly, quietly and smoothly - lumps in the litter are sieved out and plopped into a lined drawer below.
The globe rotates back, putting the reserved sieved litter back in place. About once a week, the drawer needs to be pulled out and emptied. But in the meantime, you don’t have to worry about cleaning litter trays or doing anything else with it.
The newest model - which we tested - connects to the web and pings you a message when the drawer needs to be emptied, or a cycle is interrupted (usually by our curious kitten) so you can go check it out. It also tracks how many rotations the Litter Robot does, meaning you can see whether something’s up health-wise and your cats are using the robot more or less than usual.
Getting them to use it at all sounded like a scary prospect. The instructions describe a gradual process of weaning cats off of their trusted litterbox, but both of ours took to it pretty much instantly.
Well, a Litter Robot is quite big. It’s 30 inches tall and 27 inches deep. It looked gigantic when we unpacked it - like a little washing machine - but over time it’s looked less huge in our kitchen. Compared to the previous litter tray, tucked inside a miniature cabinet, it’s a lot bigger. But, if you’ve multiple cats, you do only need one, so there's a reduction in the overall footprint.
It also looks kinda cool. We went for dark grey, which goes with almost anything. Inside is a blue nightlight that kicks in when it gets dark, and when the lights are turned off it looks like a little alien pod.
The second potential downside is price. The latest, greatest version - the Litter-Robot 3 Connect - costs $499.
In terms of the long-term convenience, however, that seems a fair price. But there’s another consideration which makes the price attractive - it’s saving us a bunch of money on litter. So much would get tossed if we forgot to empty the litter tray every couple of days - but because this clears up after the cats nearly instantly, litter goes a lot further.
Some back of the envelope sees us saving at least $15 a month on litter, so it’ll almost recoup the cost in litter alone after three years.
Finally, a review cannot account for the longevity of the product - but on that front, I bring heartening news.
It was a neighbor who first recommended the Litter Robot. They live downstairs and keep their robot hidden inside a snazzy cabinet that Litter Robot also sells. They have one of the original models, and praised the ability to buy and replace parts that fail. In their experience, the motor died after three years, and they replaced it for a small fee. The rollers also eventually failed, and those were easily replaced.
This is a major selling point, for me. I hate waste, and the ability to replace individual parts without having to toss the entire thing is a huge bonus.
I was truly skeptical when I first heard about it, and reticent when I first received it. But I’ve since recommended this as a must-buy to dozens of cat-owners, and give it Indy Wishlist’s full stamp of approval.